Anak Nakal: Triple Crown Spoiler?


So you are going to try to beat Big Brown huh? Me too. Short of hitting the superfecta or Pick 4, there is no way to make any significant money in this race if Big Brown wins.

With that in mind, here is one longshot to consider in the Belmont: Anak Nakal.

Anak Nakal? I know, he hasn't been better than fifth in four races this year and on paper, doesn't look like he even belongs on the same track as Big Brown. But upon further review, there are a couple angles here. Just ask trainer Nick Zito.

You may remember a little horse that Zito trained four years again named Birdstone. He limped into the Belmont off a fifth-place finish in the Blue Grass and a flat eighth-place showing in the Kentucky Derby. He then went off at 36-1 in the Belmont and disappointed racing fans all across the nation when he overtook Smarty Jones in the final sixteenth to deny a Triple Crown.

"I'm a fan of racing first and foremost," Zito said when asked what he recalled most about that day. "I have been following it on a daily basis since I was a teenager. I'm big into the history and tradition of it. So as a fan, I felt a little funny when Birdstone won. I was happy for us, but it was a little weird.

"But at the same time I had tried to win that race so many times and was second five or six times before. (Smarty Jones' trainer John Servis) made it a little easier for me because he was so classy after the race. He made me realize it was a competition and we are all trying to win."

Zito says there are similarities between Anak Nakal and Birdstone.

"They both were better as 2-year-olds. Birdstone won the Champagne and Anal Nakal won the Jockey Club. Birdstone was eighth, not 18th in the Derby. Anak Nakal was seventh, not 17th in the Derby, if you know what I mean. They are both tough, little horses that needed to improve going into the Belmont."

Anaka Nakal turned in a handy :46.68 half-mile work May 26 and Zito says he is pleased with his training since the Derby.

Perhaps the biggest omen for Anak Nakal is his sire, Victory Gallop. You may recall that it was 10 years ago that Victory Gallop denied Real Quiet's Triple Crown by coming from four lengths back at the top of the stretch to win by a nose.

"We know (Anak Nakal) will love the mile and a half," Zito said. "His daddy won this race. He will run all day and he proved that in the Derby when he kept coming."

The thought of Anak Nakal improving so much that he will beat Big Brown is a reach. Zito knows this. But he also knows another thing:

"A mile and a half is tough. It changes everything. You can't take anything for granted in this game."

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