Note from Kevin: This is another guest post by our horse racing expert Matt Dinerman (@3coltshandicap), who is the new track announcer at the Emerald Downs. Enjoy!
California Chrome’s loss in the Belmont Stakes was a heartbreaking one for not just the connections of the horse, but for the entire horse racing community. Luckily, we get another chance this year with American Pharoah, a horse that has shown immense brilliance since his breathtaking victory in the Del Mar Futurity as a two-year old. American Pharoah looks to become the 12th Triple Crown winner since the start of the three-race series in 1875.
Let’s take a deeper look at him as well as the seven other runners that are looking to play spoiler and “the bad guy” in the final leg of the Triple Crown, The Belmont Stakes:
#1 Mubtaahij remains in the United States for South African trainer Mike De Kock, who has decided to give this three-year-old Dubawi colt another chance at winning a North American Triple Crown race. He was a no-excuse eighth in the Kentucky Derby under Christophe Soumillon. This time around, Mubtaahij will get the services of Irad Ortiz Jr., who knows Belmont’s large surface very well. Mubtaahij’s bloodlines indicate he will be able to handle the added quarter mile. Just like in the Kentucky Derby, he will not be running on Lasix. Not throwing him out of the equation.
#2 Tale Of Verve closed well over a wet Pimlico surface to finish a good second in The Preakness. Before that run, he was a good-looking maiden winner at Keenland going a mile and three sixteenths. Whether he can compete against some of the best in here over a dry surface remains to be seen. I’ll take my chances and make him beat me again.
#3 Madefromlucky ran a solid race when defeating solid three-year-olds in the Peter Pan Stakes over this track. With the Peter Pan victory, he is the only horse in this race that has won at Belmont Park. He’ll need to improve to even hit the board against the best in here, but an in-the-money finish is certainly not out of the question.
#4 Frammento has not been competitive in his last two starts against similar competition. He removes blinkers and adds Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith. That being said, he would be a major surprise.
#5 American Pharoah is a horse that does not need a lot of commentary. We know what he can do. He finds a field with not much early zip, so it would be no surprise to see him head straight to the front out of the gate. Luckily for him, he has shown he can rate if need-be. If he can run well going a mile and a half, which I think he will, he’ll be awfully tough.
#6 Frosted ran poorly in the Fountain Of Youth at Gulfstream and had throat surgery after the dull effort. That surgery obviously helped him, as he scored an impressive victory in the Wood Memorial following the poor showing in Florida. In the Kentucky Derby, he lost a lot of ground but ran on strongly for a better-than looked fourth place finish. Look for this well-bred Tapit colt to be rolling late.
#7 Keen Ice is deep closer that got a fast pace to close into in the Kentucky Derby and was loaded by the eighth pole. However, he had to negotiate traffic and did not find a path to run until the last sixteenth of a mile, where he came with a strong run to the wire. His pedigree suggests this mile and a half distance should be no problem, but he may have difficulty closing into what will not be a fast pace in this race.
#8 Materiality is the only other horse besides American Pharoah that could set the pace in this race. He lost all chance in the Kentucky Derby when breaking poorly and having to close from well off the pace, which is not something he wants to do. Even after the trouble, he ran on strongly in the stretch and passed a lot of horses. His sire, Afleet Alex, dominated in the 2005 Belmont. Certainly one that deserves another chance.
-I believe this is the year we will see a Triple Crown winner. #5 American Pharoah has the talent, the class, the bloodlines (on the bottom side of his pedigree) and (I believe) the stamina, to get the mile and a half distance and the win. He is my top selection.
-If anybody can beat him, it might be my second choice, #8 Materiality, who can apply pressure on American Phraroah, run by ‘Pharoah if he gets tired, and hold off the other six runners. Materiality has a lot of talent and looks like a horse that has improved with age. He may be ready for a career best effort in only his fifth career start.
-#1 Mubtaahij is a (mild) longshot that could surprise people. Even though he finished in midfield in the Kentucky Derby, there are fewer horses to worry about here and he is one that will enjoy running a mile and a half. I also trust his trainer, Mike De Kock, who is one of the best horsemen in the world. If he did not think this colt had a chance to run well in this race, he would not have run him in this spot. I think Mubtaahij has a great shot to do some damage in this race.
-#6 Frosted does not fit the bill of a Belmont contender, in my opinion. I have a hard time seeing him winning this race, although an in-the-money finish is certainly within his scope.
-#3 Madefromlucky is a cut below the best in here and will need to improve to hit the board. However, it would not be a total shock to see him hit the board at a solid price.
-#7 Keen Ice got a perfect set up in the Kentucky Derby when finishing strongly down the lane. He will not be getting that perfect set up here. He was not very competitive in Derby prep races before that good Derby effort and it’s worth mentioning that historically, deep closers like himself have a rough time in the Belmont Stakes. I am playing against him here.
-#2 Tale Of Verve could run on to finish well if the track is wet, but on a dry track, I don’t trust him against this type of competition.
-#4 Frammento is outmatched and needs class relief.
Belmont Stakes Wagers
Exacta: #5 American Pharoah over #1 Mubtaahij and #8 Materiality
Win Bet: #8 Materiality
$2 Win Souvenir Bet: #5 American Pharoah
Best of luck to all!