Ok, before we get into the Belmont recap, let's get this out of the way first:
In the much-anticipated Belmont contest, The Blog scored eight (8) and Draynay scored fifteen (15). The Blog wins easily, which means that Draynay is not allowed back on the blog until July 7. I hope you enjoy the countdown ticker at the bottom of the page. I will have this ticker displayed on all blogs until July 7 so everyone can relish in the win.
Ironically, as lopsided as the final score appeared, had the voting gone just a little differently Draynay would have won. If you will remember, the third-place voting between Summer Bird (61) and Chocolate Candy (57) was very close. Had a few more votes come in on Chocolate Candy, we would be hearing Dray brag right about now. Nice job to all of those who voted for Summer Bird. I will allow Dray one final (short) comment today before his vacation. Can't wait to see this.
Based on the comments, it seems that the majority of you enjoyed this contest. Thanks for making it fun and maybe we'll do more things like this in the future. Nice job blog!
Now on to the Belmont.
In what turned out to be one of the oddest Triple Crown seasons in recent memory, I guess it was only fitting that a longshot from previously obscure connections won the Belmont in an unusual fashion. And he did it in only his fifth start. Don't forget, this colt didn't even make his racing debut until March 1. That is crazy.
Summer Bird, whose trainer, Tim Ice, went out on his own only one year ago, also became the first horse since 1933 to come from fourth or worse at the top of the stretch to win the Belmont. And he did it on a day when the track was playing all speed. Adding to the oddness, it was the second classic win for sire Birdstone on two different horses this season. All of it seems unbelievable.
Give 35-year-old Ice a lot of credit for adding blinkers and toe grabs, which seemed to really help. And give Kent Desormeaux credit for a patient and well-timed ride. It was also nice to see small owners who have been in the game for a while win with a homebred. Summer Bird seems like a nice horse with a bright future.
Speaking of rides, Calvin Borel must take some of the blame for a premature move on Mine That Bird. In my opinion, his lack of experience at Belmont caused him to start Mine That Bird's big run too soon and he could not sustain it all the way through the stretch. Borel is not the first one to do this and won't be the last, but he certainly left himself open to second-guessing But why he decided to go without a mount on the undercard is inexplicable to me.
With all the well-deserved accolades Borel has earned over the last six weeks, he has to be able to accept some blame too. For what it's worth, here is a quote from Borel after the race:
"I don't think he got tired. If anything, you know, maybe (I) moved him a little earlier, let him get up there earlier than I was supposed to. I wasn't going to take the race out of him, because I knew someone was going to plod on this and beat us, that's what happened."
With all this being said, Mine That Bird did not seem to have the same tremendous kick he had in the previous two races. Once he made the lead on Charitable Man and Dunkirk he did not pull away as we all thought he was about to do. Maybe his third race in six weeks caught up with him. Again, he would not be the first horse this has happened to.
Give Dunkirk a lot of credit. He set a quick pace and was game to the finish. The way he fought back on the rail showed he is a top-flight colt and hopefully he will win some big races over the next couple of years. Hard to believe that this horse is still eligible for non-winners of one.
Being that I played Charitable Man, I was a little disappointed that he did not take the lead on a day that was playing all speed. Although he was seemingly in perfect striking position at the top of the stretch, horses on the lead had a better chance at that track. No excuses, but I would have preferred that he was on the lead, or at least closer to the pace. In reality, he probably just tired in his first time going much further than he ever has before. I still think this horse is going to win a lot of big races later this year, and beyond.
On the solid Belmont undercard my favorite race was the True North, where senstional 6-year-old Fabulous Strike held off Benny the Bull in an outstanding time of 1:07 4/5 after setting suicidal fractions. I love this resilient horse. Looking forward to seeing him get his revenge in the BC Sprint later this year.
One final comment...or, I guess it's a question. How does ESPN/ABC still allow Hank Goldberg to be on live TV? Forget about his handicapping, the guy cannot put one coherent sentence together. Wow.