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Belmont Stakes: No Triple Crown Try But A Solid Field Remains

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(credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

(credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

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By: Kevin Martin

The connections of I’ll Have Another announced that they will scratch their Triple Crown candidate from Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. It was discovered after his gallop on Friday that the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes was developing tendonitis in his front leg. The colt’s owner, Paul Reddam, announced in a press conference on Friday afternoon that I’ll Have Another will be retired.

Even with the devastating news and the unconventional end of yet another Triple Crown try, an intriguing field of ten remains for the one million dollar Belmont Stakes. Of all the Triple Crown races, the Belmont has been a place to cash a big ticket if you get it right. None of the last four winners of the Belmont Stakes paid less than $25 to win on a $2 bet. The scratch of I’ll Have Another will put Dullahan in the likely role of the race favorite and will cut the odds significantly on most of the other entries. Even with the loss of the favorite, recent history suggests that a surprise is still a distinct possibility.

Considering the trend of surprises, here is a look at all of the contenders (in post position order) minus I’ll Have Another :

Street Life
Finished a fast closing third at Belmont Park in last month’s Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes but showed little in his only try against Grade 1 company in the Wood Memorial back in April. He is trained by Chad Brown, an up-and-comer on the New York circuit, who will saddle his first starter ever in a Triple Crown race. He could have the energy at the end to make a run in the stretch.
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Unstoppable U
With only two career starts and none beyond a mile, he doesn’t seem to belong among the competitors in this year’s Belmont. With his lack of experience, the only scenario for him to have a chance is if he gets away with an easy lead, lulls the field to sleep, and kicks away at the end. Such a scenario seems unlikely, but an unheralded horse named D’Tara did just that in 2008.
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Union Rags
The horse who went off as the second choice in the Kentucky Derby but finished seventh is flying under the radar a bit coming into the Belmont. He skipped the Preakness so he is fresh and he gets a new rider in John Velazquez. Velazquez worked Union Rags at the horse’s home base in Maryland and came away impressed. The defection of I’ll Have Another removed any hope that gamblers might of had to get a square price on this talented colt.
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Atigun
He won his last race over a speed-favoring Churchill Downs track from off the pace and has had three solid works over the Belmont surface since that win. His late running style and distance pedigree indicates he will still be running when others in the field begin to tire. He is one of the big longshots that is not an entirely implausible upsetter.
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Dullahan
The fast closing third place finisher in the Kentucky Derby will inherit the role of favorite after the scratch of I’ll Have Another. He skipped the Preakness so he is well rested and has looked outstanding in training over the Belmont dirt since arriving in New York last week. He will not have the fast pace that he closed into for the Derby but the added distance of the Belmont should be no problem. The price will be much shorter without the Derby and Preakness winner in the field but he looms the most likely winner.
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Ravelo’s Boy
One of the three 50-1 shots entered, he has two wins from thirteen career starts. He has never raced beyond 1 1/16 miles and has not raced in three months. If you need anymore negatives on this one, he has never raced or clocked a workout over the Belmont Park surface.
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Five Sixteen
Another of the 50-1 shots who has one win in six career starts. In his last start, in a low level allowance race, he finished fourth beaten by eleven lengths. The only bright spots are his jockey Rosie Napravnik and a pedigree for the distance. However, even if he had the most skilled jockey in history and a perfect pedigree his 50-1 morning line would still be justified.
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Guyana Star Dweej
The last of the big longshots was pointing to the Preakness but was pulled from consideration a week before the race. It took him eight tries to finally get his first win and he finished six lengths behind Belmont Stakes entry Unstoppable U in his last start. Like Five Sixteen his pedigree is for distance, but his career so far gives little indication that he can compete at this level.
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Paynter
The fourth choice on the morning line, he has the same connections as Bodemesiter who finished second in the Derby and Preakness. He has registered fast speed figures in his last two starts and will likely be on or near the lead from the start. In his second career start, he ran in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and finished fourth about four lengths from I’ll Have Another. The Belmont will be only his fifth career start but he is an intriguing entry. He stands a solid chance to win, especially if he gets away with a reasonable pace on the front end.
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Optimizer
The only other colt in the Belmont to race in all three Triple Crown races after the scratch of I’ll Have Another. He showed little in the Derby and Preakness, finishing a combined twenty seven lengths from the winner. His best races have come when he made a late run, so the added distance in the Belmont should give him a chance to make a closing move. Would be a shocking winner but not a huge surprise to see him round out the bottom of the trifecta or superfecta.
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My Adonis
A late edition to the race for the same owner and trainer that won last year’s Belmont Stakes with Ruler on Ice. He has finished in the top three in eight of his ten races but has only one career race at a 1 1/8 mile when he finished a disappointing seventh in this year’s Wood Memorial. He will break from the outside post and could be on or near the lead when they make the first turn onto the backstretch. Hard to envision trainer Kelly Breen following his surprising win last year with another shocker from My Adonis.

Picks:
1) Dullahan
2) Paynter
3) Atigun
4) Optimizer

For more information, visit Hello Race Fans Belmont Stakes page. For a quick summary for all of this year’s contenders, check out the HRF Belmont Cheat Sheet.

Kevin Martin is the founder of the thoroughbred racing history site Colin’s Ghost and a contributing editor at Hello Race Fans.

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