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Belmont Stakes Wrap-up

Apologies for the abrupt end of the live-blog on Saturday, but the wireless was getting increasingly temperamental – and we had some tickets that needed cashing.

All in all, this year’s Belmont was a great day out – perfect weather, a great undercard and an exciting Belmont Stakes. The fact that we left the track with considerably more money than we came in with was a nice bonus (even if it was followed with a smidgen of ‘but we had that and didn’t bet it’ here and there).

I was quite impressed by Benny The Bull’s return in the True North – I really wasn’t expecting him to be so close to his best form in his first race back after such a long layoff – but I’m also not sure he would have beaten Fabulous Strike under any circumstances. Given that the track was still only officially ‘good’ at that point, nearly equaling the record was certainly impressive all around – I’ll look forward to seeing the two hook up again later this summer. We did officially lose a bit of money, since I’d stuck with Two Step Salsa. Betting FAIL.

Our wallets bounced back with Diamondrella in the Just A Game; I had high hopes for Modern Look who made a brief run toward the end (Forever Together was boxed up for the majority of the race), but our across-the-board bet on Diamondrella more than made up for my losing Modern Look bet. I was actually surprised to see her go off at such long odds, given that she was coming off an even longer winning streak than Forever Together.

Around the Just A Game is when the MTV kids showed up and began filming; I still have no idea what that was all about or when it will air, but hey, if it’s getting 15-year-old kids to the track, why not? (Although I have to say we thought the kids in question were even younger – if, indeed, it was a dating show as rumored, I can’t think of many places beyond the track where a tween couple might go for a cheap afternoon out – but are they even old enough to bet?)

The Woody Stephens was another money-loser for us; I’d toyed with a last-minute across-the-board bet on Munnings after seeing how great he looked in the post parade, but we stuck with Hull and Everyday Heroes boxed with This Ones for Phil. Naturally, Munnings won impressively. Lesson learned – or not.

The Acorn was where we really got stung; we’d been boxing exactas all day, but did a straight one with Gabby’s Golden Gal underneath Justwhistledixie. You can look at that as having cost either $2, or something closer to $90. I think that one will bother me for a little while.

I finally made my way out to the paddock before the Manhattan – even on a relatively-lightly-attended Belmont day, getting from the seats to the paddock and back in time is no speedy matter, but I wasn’t going to miss a chance to see Better Talk Now up close (again – I may have more photos of him than of any other horse in training) – even though I didn’t hold out much hope of him doing well in the actual race. Of course, he looked wonderful in the paddock and I kept thinking how great it was that he looked so fit and ready to go at his age – but of course I left him out of my trifecta anyway. I was busy taking pictures of Wesley, whose third-place finish in the Dixie on Preakness day had rewarded me fairly handsomely, and I’d invested accordingly. I had some complicated tickets with Gio Ponti over Wesley and/or Court Vision and Cosmonaut, but none of them included either Better Talk Now or eventual second-place finisher Marsh Side (nor were any just on Gio Ponti – I’d assumed, for some reason, that he’d go off at something like 2-1 and figured it wasn’t worth the effort – whoops). But it was great to see Better Talk Now fighting on for third – clearly, he’s not done. I was disappointed with Wesley’s performance, but I’ll assume for future reference that he just doesn’t like soft turf.

Finally, it was time for the big race; after failing to find anywhere I could bet my dime superfecta (clerks couldn’t do one, which seems ludicrous, nor was there any place obvious to get a card for the betting machines), I put together a $1 version in which I threw out Chocolate Candy – I’d picked Mine That Bird, Dunkirk, Charitable Man and Summer Bird. However, we ended up deciding it would be too expensive to box and we didn’t want to bet it straight, so we nixed the idea. (Sigh.) Instead, we had an exacta box with Mine That Bird, Summer Bird and Dunkirk as well as an across-the-board bet on Summer Bird. When Charitable Man drifted up to 5-1, I also put a show bet on him – I just couldn’t get into the idea of him winning for some reason.

I had very different takes on the race in person and when I watched it back on television – like many, I thought initially that Calvin Borel moved far too soon on Mine That Bird (I was a little surprised he only had one other mount on the card, given how infrequently he visits Belmont, and thought that might have been a factor). I revised my opinion somewhat after checking in at home with my TiVo – I’m not sure he had much of a choice, since the little horse was clearly eager to go. Both Mine That Bird and Dunkirk ran tough, gritty races and deserve commendation – poor Dunkirk still seemed like he didn’t quite get what this was all about but was just hanging in there with pure talent. I can’t say I love how his career has been managed thus far – I would be very curious to see how he would do in a different training situation.

Of course, Summer Bird ran a terrific race to win – I was very dubious about Kent Desormeax riding, but it made more sense in the context of trainer Tim Ice’s personal relationship with him. I’ve never been a fan of Desormeax in the Belmont, but this time he got it right on and ensured that Summer Bird had the perfect trip. I hope to see him hook up with Mine That Bird, Dunkirk and Rachel Alexandra later this summer. I imagine that Birdstone’s $10,000 stud fee will be shooting up into the stratosphere after siring 2/3 of the winners in this year’s Triple Crown series (as well as Oaks runner-up Stone Legacy, among others) – he and Medaglia d’Oro seem to be on quite a streak lately – I wonder if Darley will try to swoop in for Birdstone as well.

And I have another note about Mine That Bird in response to the idiot at the track who was loudly proclaiming that he ‘should have been taken down’ (even though Dunkirk was obviously the subject of the post-race inquiry) and that he was a ‘worthless horse who will never win another race’ – stfu, dude! This little gelding won the Derby, was a close second in the Preakness and not far off for third in the Belmont – he’s assured a place in history for that alone, and he’s clearly bursting with talent. Obviously you are still bitter you missed him in the Derby and left him out of your trifecta on Saturday – but if you’re planning to write him off and never bet him again, well, I’m happy to think I’ll get slightly better odds on him as a result. I look forward to a long and prosperous career for him – and hopefully for everyone who ran on Saturday.

I look forward to discovering who will appear in the Haskell, the Travers, etc. – and am pleased we have such a good group working toward the Breeders’ Cup this fall (especially when you consider the older horses like Einstein, Brass Hat and Better Talk Now). Perhaps I will need to think about a trip to LA…

In the meantime, feel free to browse my Belmont day pictures here.

5 comments to Belmont Stakes Wrap-up

  • Anonymous

    Mine That Bird is a little gelding, with a huge heart. He's a winner!

  • SaratogaSpa

    Calvin Borel actually had no other mounts on the day. He was listed on on the program on one undercard race but he did not actually have the mount. It bugs me he did not want to at least race once around the track before the Stakes race.

  • Rob

    The first two finishers in this years Breeders' Cup Classic ran on Saturday, at Epsom in the Derby. Sea the Stars and Rip van Winkle will take this weak crop of three years olds to the woodshed come November.

  • Superfecta

    Thanks SaratogaSpa – I saw he was listed, but wasn't sure if he'd actually run – good to know.

    Rob, I am very interested in seeing how the Euros will do on the synthetics again (and will definitely be posting more about them in the weeks to come), but I don't believe this crop is actually that weak (especially when compared with last year, which was, indeed, pretty sorry).

  • Rob

    Maybe weak is the wrong word. However, with the Cup at Santa Anita none of the leading three your olds except maybe the injured Pamplemouse have run a plus 100 BSF. Raven's Pass ran a 110 when he won the Classic last year. I have yet to see a horse run a figure like that on the poly. It is a shame that neither Raven's Pass or Henrythenavigator did not race at four here in the US. I am convinced that they could have dominated all the leading race between 8-10 furlongs on the turf and synthetic surfaces,

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