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2011 Belmont Stakes: On the Record

More of this?While there is no Triple Crown on the line, this is one of the more interesting renewals of my favorite Classic. It’s notable this year for having more than one horse in the field who is actually bred to go the 1 ½ mile distance; in some recent Belmonts, the race seems to have fallen to whomever could best hold on and grind it out. While I think we are still some ways away from witnessing a sea change in American breeding preferences, it’s an encouraging sign – and I think we have exciting Saratoga and Breeders’ Cup seasons to look forward to.

And it’s always good fun to see the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners face off (especially when the winning margin was so slight in the second race), so it’s great that both Animal Kingdom and Shackleford are moving forward and looking well (and hey, their brothers are barn-mates). But they are hardly the only horses running at Belmont Park on Saturday – Belmont Stakes day is often something of an early preview for Breeders’ Cup day(s), and the other major races are well worth watching:

It’s always nice to see Bobby Flay with a horse in a big race, and his filly Her Smile has very attractive morning line odds – of course, the last time I backed her she was well-beaten. Her odds are also not surprising given Turbulent Descent’s presence here; it’s tough to see her losing, but, of course, that’s why they run.

True North
The brothers Dutrow each have a horse here; Rick has D’Funnybone, while Tony has This Ones for Phil; both horses are owned by Paul Pompa. Trappe Shot looks strong here, as does Calibrachoa, but I like longshot Khan of Khans – how can you not like a horse with such a Shatnerian name?

Woody Stephens
It’s coming up a bit light this year, but we have another family set of trainers here: the great Allen Jerkins has Bold Warrior, while son Jimmy has favored Arch Traveler. Jerkins junior seems to have the edge in this race.

Woodford Reserve
This should be good fun; Gio Ponti is back Stateside, but this is no easy welcome home; Prince Will I Am is here, as is Viscount Nelson, who has, of late, finally figured out how to win. But the real story should be Gio Ponti – he’s done so much in his career, and is still in training at 6, which is something that can be said of very few stallions. He should be getting a lot of press coverage, but alas, we still can’t seem to warm to turf horses who (mostly) stick to turf in the US; I hope he comes back with a win.

And so, of course, to the big race –

PP Horse Jockey Trainer ML odds
1 Master of Hounds Garrett Gomez Aidan O’Brien 10-1
While he’s had to endure a lot of international travel, I’m glad to see him here; the distance should be ideal for him.
2 Stay Thirsty Javier Castellano Todd Pletcher 20-1
I can’t get very excited about him; perhaps I just don’t like Vitamin Water. His odds may stay attractive, though…
3 Ruler On Ice Jose Valdivia, Jr. Kelly Breen 20-1
Looks like a solid G2/G3 competitor; can’t see him wanting the distance.
4 Santiva Sean Bridgmohan Eddie Kenneally 15-1
Doesn’t have a bad pedigree for this race, but has been very inconsistent.
5 Brilliant Speed Joel Rosario Tom Albertrani 15-1
Has a turf pedigree with some stamina, and didn’t seem to mind the dirt at Churchill Downs.
6 Nehro Corey Nakatani Steve Asmussen 4-1
I like this horse very much, but suspect he doesn’t want to go quite this far. However, he seems to have a lot of heart, and I would not be surprised to see him finish second or third – he’s had a good rest since the Derby.
7 Monzon Jose Lezcano Ignacio Correas, IV 30-1
MD-bred winner of the Count Fleet is flying under the radar here, but it’s a big step up in class.
8 Prime Cut Edgar Prado Neil Howard 15-1
He seems a better fit for a mile or slightly longer race; this seems beyond him.
9 Animal Kingdom Johnny Velazquez Graham Motion 2-1
Even without his Derby win and tough Preakness second, he would have been my choice here. Factoring those in (and the fact that he doesn’t seem like a tired horse), he’s my pick. No real worries about the post position – it worked for Afleet Alex.
10 Mucho Macho Man Ramon Dominguez Kathy Ritvo 10-1
I expect his odds to drop, though I wonder about the distance for him; I don’t think we’ve seen his best yet, but we may have to wait until later in the summer for that.
11 Isn’t He Perfect Rajiv Maragh Doodnauth Shivmangal 30-1
Can’t see it happening.
12 Shackleford Jesus Castanon Dale Romans 9/2
It’s wonderful to see a potential rivalry shaping up here with Animal Kingdom. He’s got some stamina influences from his dam’s side, although his pedigree doesn’t scream ‘Belmont’ (unlike Animal Kingdom and Master of Hounds). Still, I expect a good effort, even though with his running style, the wide post affects him more than it might some of the others.

Predictions: 1) Animal Kingdom 2) Master of Hounds 3) Nehro 4) Shackleford

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