My first instinct is that no one can win this race. That’s what happens when the Kentucky Derby winner (BARBARO) is standing in a stall in Pennsylvania wearing a cast, the winner of a messed up Preakness Stakes (BERNARDIN) opts for a vacation and top contenders heading into the Derby like SWEETNORTHERNSAINT and BROTHER DEREK head to the sidelines after a tough Triple Crown Trail.
Obviously, someone will win the 138th running of the Belmont Stakes. Will it be a horse that ran in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness, or a fresh runner?
Let’s see if we can figure it out.
Of the Triple Crown veterans, Kentucky Derby runner-up BLUEGRASS CAT has to be considered the most likely threat in the Belmont Stakes. After two sub-par performances, BLUEGRASS CAT benefited from a perfect trip behind BARBARO but was clearly no match for the winner. Without as much early speed in the Belmont, he will have to do much of the heavy lifting himself if he is to improve on his Derby finish.
A couple of lengths behind BLUEGRASS CAT in the Derby, STEPPENWOLFER and JAZIL closed well from far back to get up for third and a dead-heat for fourth. The popular opinion is that since the Belmont Stakes is a mile and one half race, deep closers will have more time to catch the leaders in the long Belmont Park stretch. Unfortunately for STEPPENWOLFER and JAZIL, that’s not how this race is won. Both horses will have a good shot at being part of the superfecta, but the winner of the race will be racing much closer to the pace and will have the lead early in the stretch.
The eighth-place finisher in the Derby, DEPUTY GLITTERS, holds the distinction of beating BLUEGRASS CAT in the Tampa Bay Derby. [PHOTOS] Although DEPUTY GLITTERS pre-Derby running style suits this race, he will need to run back to his Tampa Bay Derby victory and take the race to BLUEGRASS CAT to have any chance. If the track comes up wet, he will have no chance and will probably scratch.
BOB AND JOHN, 17th place finisher in the Derby, also has a favorable running style for the Belmont Stakes. The winner of the Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct, over a sloppy track, BOB AND JOHN will have to duplicate that effort and run an additional three furlongs. Given how slow he finished in the Wood, the added distance may be too much.
The two horses coming out of the Preakness Stakes, HEMINGWAY’S KEY and PLATINUM COUPLE seem hopelessly overmatched and should not have an impact.
That leaves the newcomers to the Triple Crown to consider. The best of the bunch is clearly the Peter Pan (G2) winner SUNRIVER, trained by Todd Pletcher. Expect him to settle mid-pack and try to get the first shot at the leaders on the final turn.
HIGH FINANCE has only a maiden and allowance (N1X) victory to his credit, but will be the likely front runner early on and will try to steal the race on the lead.
SACRED LIGHT spent the spring chasing BROTHER DEREK and BOB AND JOHN in stakes races to no avail and lost to NOLAN’S CAT in an allowance race on Derby Day.
OH SO AWESOME spent his spring in Europe running on soggy turf courses. Although bred to handle the distance and purchased privately with this race in mind, he would need to improve dramatically on his third place finish in a minor stakes over this Belmont surface to have any impact on the superfecta.
That leaves DOUBLE GALORE who finally was able to break his maiden last time out at Hollywood Park. He should have stayed in California.
Contenders to win the Belmont Stakes
Likely to complete Triple/Super
Handicap Division – Road to the BC Classic – Dirt Routes for older males
In the only Grade 1 race of the month, INVASOR (ARG) made is his first U.S. start a winning one by captured the Pimlico Special over WANDERIN BOY and HARLINGTON.
After winning two graded sprints earlier in the year, SURF CAT stretched out to win the Grade 2 Mervyn Leroy Handicap at a mile and a sixteenth.
May 13 HOL Mervyn Leroy Handicap – G2 – 1 1/16 FT – SURF CAT
May 19 PIM Pimlico Special – G1 – 1 3/16 FT – INVASOR (ARG)
May 20 PIM William Donald Schaefer Handicap – G3 – 1 1/8 FT – MASTER COMMAND
May 27 AP Hanshin Cup Handicap – G3 – 1 mile FT – GOULDINGS GREEN
May 29 CRC Memorial Day Handicap – G3 – 1 1/16 FT – SIPHON CITY
Handicap Division – Road to the BC Distaff – Dirt Routes for older females
STAR PARADE (ARG) won her second graded stakes race of the year by taking the Grade 3 Hawthorne Handicap at Hollywood Park.
May 5 CD Louisville BC Handicap – G2 – 1 1/16 FT – OONAGH MACCOOL (IRE)
May 7 HOL Hawthorne Handicap – G3 – 1 1/16 FT – STAR PARADE (ARG)
May 19 PIM Allaire duPont BC Distaff Handicap – G3 – 1 1/16 FT – POOL LAND
May 21 BEL Shuvee Handicap – G2 – 1 mile FT – TAKE D’ TOUR
Handicap Division – Road to the BC Sprint – Dirt Sprints for older males
2005 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) champion SILVER TRAIN reaffirmed his status as one of the leaders of the sprint division by winning the prestigious Met Mile (G1) at Belmont Park.
May 3 BEL Westchester Handicap – G3 – 1 mile FT – SIR GREELEY
May 6 CD Churchill Downs Handicap – G2 – 7 fur FT – TRICKEY TREVOR
May 13 BEL Bold Ruler Handicap – G3 – 6 fur FT – TIGER
May 13 HOL Los Angeles Times Handicap – G3 – 6 fur FT – SIREN LURE
May 20 PIM Maryland BC Sprint Handicap – G3 – 6 fur FT – FRIENDLY ISLAND
May 29 BEL Metropolitan Handicap – G1 – 1 mile FT – SILVER TRAIN
The one mile Westchester Handicap and the one mile Metropolitan Handicap (Met Mile) are included in the sprint category because they are run at Belmont Park around one turn. That, plus the fact that they really are wicked fast sprints.
Handicap Division – Road to the BC Sprint – Dirt Sprints for older females
Only one race in the category this month, but it was a good one – the Grade 1 Humana Distaff Handicap at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day. PUSSYCAT DOLL stalked odds-on favorite BEHAVING BADLY and showed a lot of grit to prevail inside the sixteenth pole.
May 6 CD Humana Distaff Handicap – G1 – 7 fur FT – PUSSYCAT DOLL
Handicap Division – Road to the BC Mile/Turf – Turf Routes for older males
This division should be a lot of fun this year. In addition to the return of many of last year’s stars, European champion GREY SWALLOW (IRE) will be competing in the U.S. this year.
May 6 CD Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes – G1 – 1 1/8 T FM – ENGLISH CHANNEL
May 13 HOL Jim Murray Memorial Handicap – G2 – 1 1/2 T FM – GREY SWALLOW (IRE)
May 20 PIM Dixie Stakes – G2 – 1 1/8 T FM – BETTER TALK NOW
May 29 HOL Shoemaker BC Mile Stakes – G1 – 1 mile T FM – ARAGORN (IRE)
May 29 CD Louisville Handicap – G3 – 1 3/8 T FM – SILVERFOOT
Handicap Division – Road to the BC Mile/F&M Turf – Turf Routes for older females
May 6 CD Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes – G3 – 1 mile T FM – MIRABILIS
May 7 GG Yerba Buena BC Handicap – G3 – 1 1/16 T FM – HALLOWED DREAM (IRE)
May 20 PIM Gallorette Handicap – G3 – 1 1/16 T FM – OZONE BERE (FR)
May 27 BEL Sheepshead Bay Handicap – G2 – 1 3/8 T FM – HONEY RYDER
May 29 HOL Gamely BC Handicap – G1 – 1 1/8 T FM – SHINING ENERGY
May 29 LS Winstar Distaff Handicap – G3 – 1 mile T YL – SWEET TALKER
Handicap Division – Road to Nowhere – Turf Sprints
Three-year-olds males – Road to the Breeders’ Cup Classic
May 6 CD Kentucky Derby – G1 – 1 1/4 FT – BARBARO
May 13 LS Walmac Lone Star Derby – G3 – 1 1/16 FT – WANNA RUNNER
May 20 PIM Hirsch Jacobs Stakes – G3 – 6 fur FT – SONGSTER
May 20 PIM Preakness Stakes – G1 – 1 3/16 FT – BERNARDINI
May 20 BEL Peter Pan Stakes – G2 – 1 1/8 FT – SUNRIVER
May 20 HOL Lazaro Barrera Memorial Handicap – G2 – 7 fur FT – NORTHERN SOLDIER
May 21 HOL Will Rogers Stakes – G3 – 1 mile T FM – STRATHAM (IRE)
May 29 LS Lone Star Park Handicap – G3 – 1 1/16 MY – MAGNUM (ARG)
May 5 CD Crown Royal American Turf Stakes – G3 – 1 1/16 T FM – STREAM CAT
Three-year-olds fillies – Road to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff
May 5 CD Kentucky Oaks – G1 – 1 1/8 FT – LEMONS FOREVER
May 6 CD La Troienne Stakes – G3 – 7 fur FT – JOINT EFFORT
May 6 HOL Senorita Stakes – G3 – 1 mile T FM – FOXYSOX (GB)
May 6 HOL Railbird Stakes – G3 – 7 fur FT – BETTARUN FAST
May 6 BEL Nassau County BC Stakes – G2 – 7 fur FT – HELLO LIBERTY
May 19 PIM Adena Stallions’ Miss Preakness – G3 – 6 fur FT – WILDCAT BETTIE B
May 19 PIM Black-Eyed Susan Stakes – G2 – 1 1/8 FT – REGAL ENGAGEMENT
Two-year-old males – Road to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
May 4 CD Kentucky BC Stakes – G3 – 5 fur FT – DATRICK
A sad addendum to DATRICK’s victory is the death of his sire, FAVORITE TRICK, and several other horses in a barn fire in New Mexico.
Two-year-olds fillies – Road to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Ten trainers won multiple graded stakes races in May: Todd Pletcher (7), Patrick Biancone (2), James Jerkens (2), Dallas Stewart (2), J. Larry Jones (2), Bob Baffert (2), Dale Romans (2), Darrell Vienna (2), Thomas Albertrani (2), H. Graham Motion (2).
Twelve jockeys won multiple graded stakes races in May: Garrett Gomez (6), Ramon Dominguez (5), Edgar Prado (4), Alex Solis (3), Eibar Coa (2), Julien Leparoux (2), Mark Guidry (2), Rafael Bejarano (2), Patrick Valenzuela (2), Victor Espinoza (2), Javier Castellano (2), Cornelio Velasquez (2).
— Thoroughbred Report Graded Stakes Awards – May 2006 —
HORSE OF THE MONTH: BARBARO
TRAINER OF THE MONTH: Todd Pletcher
JOCKEY OF THE MONTH: Garrett Gomez