The Belmont Stakes will be run tomorrow for the 151st time. It is one of the most joyous, magnificent and mysterious races in the history of our Country. Joyous because it brings together a vast amount of people from all over the globe and puts a spotlight on the greatest sport and the greatest athletes ever. Magnificent because it is one of only a few races where die-hard fans from all generations can witness the endurance and stamina of the most gorgeous creatures on earth. Mysterious because the race dates back a century and a half and we cannot view those early runners and the people caring for them. We can only imagine the stands filled with people, how they dressed, how they bet and how they screamed for their favorites. The Belmont Stakes. Tradition, Magnificence and Mystery.
This race, along with the Kentucky Derby, is filled with pride and reverence. The thoroughbreds from the past who traveled that 12f to victory will always be a part of sporting history and we look to them to envision the future. They lived, they ran and they capture our imagination still.
Whirlaway, with his long tail and his odd ways, grabbed his piece of history in 1941. Count Fleet, in 1943, took his trophy and his crown too and then he saw his two sons,Counterpoint and One Count, stride to the winners circle in two consecutive years, in 1951 and 1952. There was Nashua and Needles, Sword Dancer and Damascus. There was Riva Ridge and Secretariat. Imagine those in the grandstand who witnessed them charging down the stretch and the roars and cheers from the crowds. Afleet Alex. Drosselmeyer. Empire Maker. Point Given. The Belmont Stakes is the true test of Champions.
A time in history when stamina dominated the barns and the sires and mares who bore them had the capacity to release their powerful endurance over generations. Stamina that has been pushed away in recent times in favor of speed. For the one day of the year, we can travel back to days gone by and we can see the one race that allows us to witness what a true thoroughbred was born to do.
He was born to run.
Stamina and endurance wins at 12f. That stamina does not come exclusively from the chefs. It does not come from the sire himself. It comes from the combinations and contributions of all, chefs and mares, blended together. The only way the stamina horse can cross the finish line first is if he holding the speed to get down that lane the quickest. There must be a balance for this particular race.
The number one item is having the endurance to even make it to the final turn. Past performances, beyer figures, posted wins and great workouts at 6f mean nothing. If the colt is fast enough to win a 9f or 10f race, he will pack it in way before he gets to the stretch unless he is balanced from the other side. If a colt runs a wickedly fast and eye appealing workout at 5f, he will not travel 12f in the same manner. This is why it is rare to see the same colt winning two or three races of the Triple Crown.
Every year, a completely different field, filled with completely different attributes, is entered into this race. Each year present a different puzzle. Sometimes, those who were bred with “seemingly” proper configurations are really lacking against who is standing in the gates next to them. It is not simply looking at chef’s dosage index and making a conclusion that because he falls into that group, then he automatically finds an advantage. This is incorrect and will surely cost you. I cannot stress enough that when dealing with these numbers, you must pit them against what is running on the field.
Most years, the extreme high percentages that hit the board fall into a certain category, that being 2.10 to 3.00 from their chefs. The mare’s silent contribution is crucial and more important. If we take last year as an example, Vino Rosso rounded out the superfecta against a field of ten. On the surface, Vino appeared a speed demon with his 3.57 index. His 9 points spread told a different story along with his distaste on the sloppy surface in the Derby. Those two facts, and nothing else… not his past performances, not his workouts, not his beyer figures… simply those two facts, made him an obvious addition to the super. Nothing is etched in stone with an advantaged category. You must look at every fact and detail and use common sense, which is the key to a great handicapper.
This year, we are presented with an overloaded advantaged category, but are they really as advantaged as they appear on the surface? I would offer a huge no in that department. The only colt who has an advantage with his breeding is Spinoff. That is it. The rest who fall into that category may be balanced and correct through their chefs, but they are thrown off balance with their mares. Once in a while, a colt will strictly gravitate to his chefs and claim his spot (Tapit colts as of late) but the extremely large majority of those colts who win or hit the board in the Belmont do rely on their mares to balance them out.
If ever there was a year where that advantaged category would not run that tote board, it would be this year. Since 9 out of 10 entries do not “correspond” to the norm of what hits the board and what does not hit the board, and when you pit the breeding up against each other, there are a few amazing things that jump to the surface.
First, being balanced on the top and lacking on the bottom in that advantaged category, works exactly the same now for the other categories. These guys are balanced on the bottom with stamina coming from the top. It is opposite but it is now more conducive to the 12f. That changes the dynamics of the field. I am not saying that the 2.00 category is doomed this year, but what I am saying is that they have no advantage whatsoever as they did overwhelmingly in past editions. Only one has the advantage. Spinoff. That’s it. Simply having an advantage does not mean he is a lock. Not every advantaged colt always wins his race either. That is something we are all very aware of. An advantage is not a ticket to the Winners Circle. It helps a great deal but nothing is ever sealed in stone.
This leads us to the bottom base of the spectrum. Tax and War of Will. If these guys were entered in last year’s Belmont or any other recent past Belmont for that matter, their advantage would be slim to none. With this assembled field, they now share the same exact probability as those in the upper categories. Maybe slightly more.
The top base of the spectrum - the three speed guys; Tacitus, Everfast and Joevia. The case for Tacitus is obvious. The cases for Joevia and Everfast are not as obvious. One is holding Tapit and the other two are holding a much higher degree of mare stamina underneath the speed of their chefs. Not one of the three would hold any type of advantage any other year but this year, the group assembled lacks in some necessary aspects which turns any disadvantage into an advantage.
The 2019 Belmont Stakes is as wide open for board hits as you will most likely ever see. Since the 2.00 category is blistered, this presents a wide open field underneath. A case could made to toss 9 out of 10 colts on this field for this 12f race and a case could be made to use any one of them due to the apparent lack of proper balance. That being, the stamina found in the speed guys, Tapit found in the speed category, stamina found in War of Will and Tax coupled with balanced speed. You see, the board is open because the 2.00 category is lacking.
Four colts will hit that board and it will be based on the ability to run the 12f. I can only say that stamina, combined with previously displayed speed, will hold much more merit this year than simply looking at the advantaged 2.00 category. Take heed of the bottom of the spectrum. Do not discount the power of the 2.10 to the 3.00 category but since their numbers are not tied neatly in a bow, it translates to nine horses on this field who are carrying no advantage at all. With no advantage, luck, class, and stamina will shine. This is truly an exceptional year.