141st Belmont Stakes

Courtesy of Rob Fundter, The Amateur Capper


Unfortunately, there will not be a Triple Crown winner for the 26th consecutive year.  MINE THAT BIRD, the 50-1 longshot winner of the Kentucky Derby, ran bravely down the Pimlico stretch but could not catch the Amazonian filly RACHEL ALEXANDRA in the Preakness Stakes three weeks ago. 

While I respect that MINE THAT BIRD made a solid showing in the second leg, I cannot change my opinion of him as a legitimate G.1 winner.  There have been many winners of Triple Crown races that succeeded because of fortunate circumstance as opposed to great skill.  In my lifetime there was GATO DEL SOL in the 1983 Kentucky Derby, LIL E. TEE in the 1991 renewal, and GIACOMO in 2005.  Until he proves me wrong, MINE THAT BIRD will be in that class that will never again win a G.1 race after their Derby upsets.

I’m going with CHARITABLE MAN, trained by KIARAN McLAUGHLIN who conditioned 2006 winner JAZIL.  Without MINE THAT BIRD, CHARITABLE MAN would have been a heavy favorite.  The $200,000 yearling purchase was a graded stakes winner at two, taking the G.2 Futurity at Belmont Park.  That day he defeated eventual Louisiana Derby winner and starting Kentucky Derby favorite FRIESAN FIRE.  Obviously injured, he was off until contesting the G.1 Blue Grass in April.  The layoff, an outside post, and a wide trip made that effort nothing more than an afternoon workout over Keeneland’s Polytrack.

Last out in the G.2 Peter Pan, CHARITABLE MAN settled nicely behind run-off HELLO BROADWAY (entered in the G.2 Woody Stephens over 7f on the undercard).  He was deftly handled by ALAN GARCIA who allowed his mount’s natural speed to put him into winning position on the wide Belmont Park far turn.  A lesser horse, in only his second start of the year, would have bid for the lead and tired.  Not so for the son of 1999 Belmont Stakes winner LEMON DROP KID.  CHARITABLE MAN persevered while tiring at a slower rate than his competition.

He owns a tactical advantage on every Belmont Stakes contender but does not need the lead to win.  The slower tempo of the 1 ½ mile test of stamina will allow CHARITABLE MAN to use his high cruising speed to be positioned on or just off the lead.  He will use the stamina from his sire to get the final ½ mile to win.

There are many horses with pedigree ties to the Belmont Stakes.  This will make the Triple Crown “name horse” MINE THAT BIRD, a son of 2004 Belmont Stakes winner BIRDSTONE, heavily played.  Clearly he’s been the best of a depleted 3y.o. crop (I WANT REVENGE was scratched the day of the Derby and QUALITY ROAD was declared during Derby week) and has every chance to pick up another minor award on Saturday.  With rain in the forecast for Friday, there is a chance there will be moisture in the track which will move MINE THAT BIRD up several lengths.  Perhaps circumstances will once again smile upon the CHIP WOOLLEY trainee and CALVIN BOREL can collect a jockey Triple Crown for 2009.

Want to take a swing against the short prices or create value under them?  Take your pick among CHOCOLATE CANDY (damsire SEATTLE SLEW), SUMMER BIRD (sire BIRDSTONE), LUV GOV (sire TEN MOST WANTED 2nd in ’03 Belmont S.), and MINER’S ESCAPE (grandsire A.P. INDY won ’92 Belmont S.) to outrun their double digit odds with the help of Belmont Stakes stamina in their genes.

Finally, I am confused that DUNKIRK is coming back so quickly after a terrible stumble in the Kentucky Derby.  He is the short price “X-factor” in this year’s race.  DUNKIRK started the Kentucky Derby as a well-supported 5-1 second choice on the strength of his fast G.1 Florida Derby second to QUALITY ROAD.   After that dismal Derby result, he can bounce back and challenge CHARITABLE MAN and MINE THAT BIRD down the stretch as easily as finish off the board.  I just don’t know if that stumble may have caused an injury that will manifest itself during a race.  Remember that stumble TODD PLETCHER-trained RAGS TO RICHES had when she upset CURLIN in the 2007 Belmont Stakes?  She raced only once more, upset by LEAR’S PRINCESS in the G.1 Gazelle, before an injury was detected.  A healthy RAGS TO RICHES would have torched that Gazelle field.

I hope they all come back safe…and CHARITABLE MAN will be posing in the winner’s circle.  Enjoy!

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