• Brian

2018 Belmont Pace and Race Shape



Let me start by saying THANK YOU to Lisa for starting this site.   For those of us who try to be students of the game, this is the place to be, and the place to learn.  Other sites are entertaining (sometimes), but rarely use deep data, and real analysis to make their selections.  Lisa has shown me the light, and I’m forever indebted to her.


Now, this is my first article on the site, and I need to preface this by saying, I am nowhere near the handicapper that Lisa is, but I do put in hours of study, and consider myself fairly knowledgeable.   Taking that knowledge and turning it into winning bets is still a labor of love, but what I will say is that even when we miss, it is by the slimmest of margins.  We generally have a very good projection of who the REAL contenders are, and just how the pace and race structure will play out.  For that reason, Lisa has asked me to contribute my thoughts on this years Belmont, so without further ado…..


Posts:

Justify in the 1 and Noble Indy in the 9 got the worst of the draw IMO.   If Justify chooses to go, then he will need to be used early, and will likely have either Noble Indy(9) or Restoring Hope(5) right on his flank the whole way.  In this scenario, if he is pressured in to anything below a 1:13 flat, then I think Justify is in trouble.


Noble Indy is already distance challenged.  He’ll be w/o blinkers in this race, but I can’t imagine he’s still not forwardly placed.  Which means, he is going to need to be used to get position so as not to get hung out wide.   It also means he either has to run early w/ Justify, which means he caves late, or he beats Justify to the turn, and Justify hounds him the whole way.   Either way Noble Indy is in bad shape already.


The one thing Justify has going for him, is that FDB drew in the 2, and will not be on the pace.  So Justify should be able to get off the rail pretty quickly and into the 2 path.   Best case scenario, Restoring Hope (5) his stable mate, makes the lead, clears to the rail, and Justify can draft in behind.   Picture the way it played for Chrome or Nyquist in the ’14 and ’16 Derby’s.   They let the speed just to their outside clear, and then they settled into the 2-3 path a length off the leader.   That’s what Justify wants.  

Hofburg (4) and Vino (8) both drew very well IMO, and should be able to settle in to stride just 3-4 lengths off the leaders.  Hofburg especially drew well as Justify and Bravazo (3) should both be forwardly placed, opening up a slot for him to move toward the rail and save all the ground o the first turn.   Ideal.


Pace:

I think the pace has to be honest.  There are 3-4 horses, Justify, Bravazo, Restoring Hope, Noble Indy, who all want to be on or near the lead.  AND in 5 career races, Justify has never run slower than a (BRIS) 98 at the 1st call, and has NEVER run less than a 102 at the 2nd call.   I’m not sure he wants to run slower, OR that Mike will be able to get him to.  I’m slightly concerned, for his sake, that we see a Smarty Jones type pace dynamic (24.1, 48.3, 1:11.3, 135.2).  If they go that fast, Goodbye Triple Crown.  When Pharoah won, he ran the first 6F in 1:13.2.  Almost 2 seconds slower than Smarty, which is why he had plenty left in the 2nd part.


My guess is this race is somewhere near a 1:12 flat for 6F, which I think favors those horses in the 2nd tier (Vino, Hofburg, and Tenfold).     


Final Thoughts:

As of now, just after the posts are drawn, I think there are two scenarios that are most likely:


Option 1:   Justify breaks sharp, Mike is able to slow him down on the backside, he’s able to dictate the pace, and has just enough to hang on for the win.  


Option 2:  The pace is a fast enough and the pressure enough to wear down Justify.   Hofburg sitting the perfect trip gets through on the turn and puts Justify away w/ a furlong to go.


At the end of the day, I think the Baffert horses determine the way this race plays out.  If Restoring Hope acts as a teammate for Justify, he has a chance.  IF RH is in it for himself, I think Justify might be in trouble.  Anybody really think Baffert allows his 2nd horse to beat up on his big gun??


Random thoughts:

Noble Indy is my one and only toss from the Super, as of today.  I’ll eliminate another, but he’s obvious to me.   I just don’t think he can attend the pace and keep going, and his pedigree does not scream stamina, in fact it’s the opposite.


Gronkowski remains a complete ??? for me.   Triads are nice, but what is his style?  No idea if he will be back of the pack early, or somewhere in 2nd flight.  He’s also never run further than a flat mile.


Free Drop Billy will get a ground saving trip.  IMO his only chance, is if he drops out early, and capitalizes on a pace meltdown.  Both unlikely…  I predict a 7th place finish.


Blended Citizen from the 10 post is going to likely be at the back of the pack early, and possibly be a few paths wide.  He’ll need them to be backing up late, but he can hit the board.


Good Luck to all!!!!


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