The 1 ½-mile distance of the Belmont Stakes is the biggest wildcard of the American Triple Crown. These three-year-olds have never gone this far before, and most never will again.
Very few American horses are bred to go 1 ½ miles, so a horse with 1 ½-mile blood in its family could hold a significant edge. In the absence of 1 ½-mile form, look for top class 1 ¼ –mile performances.
There have been a lot of differing opinions expressed about the pedigrees in this year’s Belmont. Here is what I have found:
I’ll Have Another (Flower Alley-Arch’s Gal Edith, by Arch)
Sire: Flower Alley’s best race cames at 1 ¼ miles, the distance at which he finished a game second to Saint Liam in the 2005 Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) and (earlier that year) beat Bellamy Road and Roman Ruler in the Travers Stakes (G1). Flower Alley did not attempt any races further than 1 ¼ miles.
I’ll Have Another is a member of Flower Alley’s second crop, so Flower Alley’s progeny profile is still developing. So far they have an average winning distance of 7.25 furlongs. It looks like 1 ¼ miles is well within their scope. Flower Alleys run faster routing than sprinting, according to Thorograph.
Flower Alley’s other notable progeny include: Bouquet Booth and Lilacs and Lace.
Female side: I’ll Have Another’s dam Arch’s Edith Gal, by Arch, won her only career start at six furlongs. Arch’s Edith Gal got hurt and did not have a chance to try longer races, but she definitely had the pedigree to go long. Three of her four foals are multiple winners (at least four wins each).
I’ll Have Another’s second dam Force Five Gal, by Pleasant Tap, was a stakes placed allowance type who ran well at 1 ¼ miles and 1 ½ miles on the turf.
Conclusion: I’ll Have Another has nice stamina genes on both sides and arguably, the best Belmont pedigree in this field.
Paynter (Awesome Again-Tizso, by Cee’s Tizzy)
Sire: Awesome Again won four times going 1 ¼ miles, including the ’98 Breeders’ Cup Classic. He never tried longer but I wouldn’t be surprised if this steady mover could have handled 1 ½ miles.
At stud Awesome Again has produced a ton of quality horses, many of whom have excelled going two turns including Ghostzapper, Ginger Punch, Awesome Gem, Game on Dude, Round Pond, and many more. Awesome Again’s progeny have an average winning distance of 7.43 furlongs.
Female side: Paynter is out of Tizso, a full sister to two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Tiznow! Tiznow was best at 1 ¼ miles and is one of the better stamina sires in the U.S. In addition to Paynter, Tizso produced Tiz West (by Gone West), a Grade 3 winner going 1 1/8 miles on the turf, and Tizakitty (by Distinctive Cat), a stakes winning sprinter.
Conclusion: Paynter’s pedigree is American classic distance (1 ¼ miles on dirt) gold, and he has a decent chance to get 1 ½ miles.
Dullahan (Even the Score-Mining My Own, by Smart Strike)
Sire: Even the Score was a multiple Grade 2 winner who did his best running between 1 mile and 1 1/8 miles. He finished 3rd in a 1 3/8-mile allowance race on turf at Churchill Downs and his chart comment says “4-wide bid, empty late.” Even the Score finished third in the 1 ¼-mile Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) on dirt, where he pressed the pace and was outkicked by Total Impact and Olmodavor.
At stud, Even the Score has not had much success, but he has produced a handful of good horses, including a couple stamina types. His son Take the Points won the 1 ¼-mile Secretariat Stakes (G1) and rallied for second in the United Nations Handicap (G1) going 1 3/8 miles on the Monmouth Park turf. Even the Score also produced Sir Von, who was voted champion stayer in Jamaica last year, for whatever that is worth. Even the Score’s average winning distance at stud is just 6.68 furlongs, and Thorograph’s data shows Even the Scores run about the same speed whether sprinting or routing.
Female side: Dullahan’s unraced dam Mining My Own produced 2009 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mine That Bird, who finished third in the Belmont Stakes (G1). Mine That Bird, by Belmont winner Birdstone, made a big wide move to hit the lead turning for home in the Belmont but he got passed late by stretch-running Summer Bird and re-rallying pacesetter Dunkirk.
Dullahan’s second dam Aspenelle, by Vice Regent, only raced four times but she showed some talent and stamina, finishing second in the Canadian Oaks at Woodbine going 1 1/8 miles. That was her last race, and she did not get a chance to try longer.
Conclusion: Dullahan’s pedigree is rock solid between 1 1/8 miles and 1 ¼ miles, and he is not too big a stretch trying the Belmont distance.
Union Rags (Dixie Union –Tempo, by Gone West)
Sire: Dixie Union was a brilliant horse who won up to 1 1/8 miles. He won multiple graded stakes at ages two and three. The list of (fast) horses he beat impressed me: Caller One, Exchange Rate, High Yield, Captain Steve, Forest Camp, Anees, Swept Overboard, and Milwaukee Brew (!)
Based in Southern Cal, Dixie Union finished fourth in his only try at 1 ¼ miles when he shipped to New York for the 2000 Travers Stakes (G1). He was in tight early in that race and faded behind Unshaded, Albert the Great, and Commendable.
Dixie Union, who died in 2010, has nine crops of racing age. His progeny often develop early, and they are fast. Dixie Unions almost always peak at ages two or three. Their average winning distance is 6.91 furlongs. Dixie Unions are a little faster sprinting than routing, according to Thorograph.
Dixie Union’s notable progeny include Gone Astray, Grasshopper (who was second behind Street Sense in the Travers), Dixie Chatter, High Cotton, Nothing But Fun, Just Whistle Dixie, Hot Dixie Chick, Bold Union, Reunited, and Most Distinguished.
Female side: Union Rag’s dam Tempo, by Gone West, won her debut sprinting at Calder at age three. She went to the sidelines for two years and returned to win a sprint allowance at Gulfstream Park and then finished second going a mile in a NW2 at Aqueduct. She retired with two wins from three starts. She had speed, and she was bred to be able handle longer distances, but obviously there were soundness problems.
Union Rags’ second dam Terpsichorist was by English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky II. Terpsichorist was a Grade 3 winner going 1 ½ miles on the turf.
Union Rags’ third dam Glad Rags II was Ireland’s champion two-year-old filly of 1966, and she returned to win the English One Thousand Guineas at age three.
Conclusion: 1 ¼ miles is the projected distance ceiling for progeny of Dixie Union, and many of them are best as sprinter/milers. Union Rags will need significant help from the female side of his pedigree to get the Belmont distance, and he definitely gets some. This is a high quality, deep female family.
Street Life (Street Sense-Stone Hope, by Grindstone)
Sire: Street Sense was America’s champion two-year-old male of 2006. He won the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Travers Stakes (G1) the following year. This dynamic stretch runner never tried longer than 1 ¼ miles. Street Life is a member of Street Sense’s first crop.
Female side: There is some quality and a lot of stamina influences in the sires on Street Life’s female side, but that stamina has not expressed all that well in their race and production records.
Third dam Whirl Series, by Roberto, was a two-time winner at seven furlongs. Whirl Series produced the fast Grade 1 winner Furiously, by Danzig, who won from six furlongs to 1 1/8 miles, and a pair of G3-placed full brothers in Fiercely and Ferociously. Whirl Series also produced Scoot Yer Boots, a stakes placed sprinter by Seeking the Gold.
Street Life’s unraced second dam Fairest, by English champion miler Known Fact, produced Brilliant, a two-time graded winner going 1 1/8 miles on turf.
Street Life’s dam Stone Hope, by 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone, won only once, going 6 ½ furlongs. Stone Hope also produced Hope Chant (by War Chant), who won two claiming sprints and a starter allowance going one mile on the turf at Atlantic City.
Conclusion: As good as “Street Sense over a Grindstone mare” looks on the surface, the race records in the last three generations of Street Life’s female family do not inspire that much confidence going 1 ½ miles.
This blog entry is too long already, so I will just say I do not like the chances of Atigun, Five Sixteen, Guyana Star Dweej, Optimizer, or Ravelo’s Boy on any handicapping angles, including pedigree (though there is some black type in Optimizer’s family tree). It sounds like Unstoppable U might not run.