2007 Belmont Stakes Analysis
This time the race goes through Hard Spun.
In the Kentucky Derby he battled a slew of other front-runners into submission only to have Street Sense ride a perfect trip past him in the stretch. Despite doing all of the heavy lifting early, he ran on to finish second – ahead of eighteen other horses.
In the Preakness he tried to sit off the early speed only to be forced to the lead too soon when his running position deteriorated. Once again having to contend with other early speed left him without the reserves necessary to hold off Street Sense and eventual race winner Curlin. Still, he was tenacious in the stretch for a third place finish.
In both races his natural early speed was his downfall. There was no way he was going to be able to battle multiple runners with speed early and outrun the closers late. In spite of his disadvantageous running style, he showed courage both times and finshed strongly.
This time, in the Belmont Stakes, his running style will finally be to his advantage. There are no other horses in this race with enough speed to pressure him early. Slew’s Tizzy is the only other horse with any interest in being forwardly placed but does not possess the high cruising speed of Hard Spun. The challenge will be for new jockey Garrett Gomez to get Hard Spun relaxed and happy at the front of the pack, or just off of Slew’s Tizzy, and to ease him through the first half of the race without taking too much out of him. If he succeeds, Hard Spun should be hard to catch in the stretch.
Hard, but not impossible.
Curlin was a bear coming home in the Preakness and, given that he still has only raced five times in his career, we may not have seen his best yet. I expect Curlin to sit midpack, with Rags to Riches, and to try to get an early jump on Hard Spun coming out of the far turn. After seeing him run down Street Sense three weeks ago, I can’t help but believe he’ll find a way to reel in Hard Spun by the time they reach the wire.
Sired by 1992 Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy, the Todd Pletcher trained filly Rags to Riches is certainly bred to handle the distance. The winner of three straight Grade 1 races against fillies, the last two with consumate ease, Rags to Riches will likely get a perfect stalking position on the outside. Should the top two runners take a step back after two tough races, this fresh, talented filly could be there at the end to give Pletcher his first classic victory.
Thoroughbred Report Picks:
1st: #3 Curlin
2nd: #6 Hard Spun
Final note: If the track comes up sloppy or muddy, the advantage would switch to Hard Spun.