Analyzing run styles in Belmont Stakes
It’s well-documented that being prominent early is favorable in the Belmont Stakes.
We know the numbers, with horses racing in the top 3 or within four lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile winning more than 80% of the previous runnings this century. And we know why, with horses in a forward position often able to outfinish their late-running counterparts as the entire field is tired by the closing stages of the grueling 1 ½-mile race.
But it doesn’t always play out that way, with Creator rallying from far back to prevail last year. The confirmed closer received the proper set-up, with a no-hope stablemate ensuring a taxing pace up front, and the presence of pacesetter Gettysburg dearly cost Destin, who closely tracked in second before being nailed by a nose on the wire.
The potential exists for a solid pace in this year’s 12-horse field. Here’s my break down of run styles (listed alphabetically by category):
Meantime appears certain to gun for the lead when the gates open. A wire-to-wire maiden winner two back, the Shackleford colt held second after sprinting clear early in the Peter Pan (G2) last out. He’s not the only speed present and it will be interesting to see how much pressure Meantime faces because it could come in waves.
Epicharis will try to establish forward positioning. A front-running winner of his first four starts in Japan, he will make his first start since a head second after setting the pace in the UAE Derby (G2) and the dark bay is eligible to be a little eager off the break.
Irish War Cry likes to be prominently placed and we know he can scamper with BRIS Early Pace Ratings of 106 and 119 from his convincing Wood Memorial (G2) victory. Doesn’t have to be on the lead but Irish War Cry may not wait too long before putting himself into the thick of things.
Twisted Tom exits a pair of Laurel stakes wins, displaying improved quickness most recently taking the Federico Tesio on the front end, and Chad Brown pupil owns a three-race win streak. Gelding will be tested for class but Javier Castellano is hungry for his first Belmont Stakes win. Don’t be surprised to see Twisted Tom show more speed than expected.
Gormley doesn’t want to drop too far back but has become more push-button for John Shirreffs in recent starts, including a rallying win in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). He remains a candidate to revert back to his front-running ways at some point, displaying high speed earlier in his career, but Gormley will probably look to settle in midpack.
Patch experienced a rough trip from post 20 in the Kentucky Derby but the unraced juvenile didn’t figure to show much anyway. Louisiana Derby (G2) runner-up remains a promising type for Todd Pletcher and will be looking to grind out a good showing from off the pace.
Multiplier needs to race closer after dropping far behind in the Preakness. He was asked for more speed in a recent workout and we’ll see whether the Illinois Derby (G3) winner can establish better positioning.
Tapwrit offered an outstanding turn of foot in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), rallying past rivals to win going away in eye-catching fashion, and appeared to regress off the big effort when flat in the Blue Grass (G2) next out. Tapwrit could be in rebound mode after being wiped out and shuffled back toward the rear at the start of the Kentucky Derby, and the gray colt will look to get involved with a big move on the far turn of the Belmont.
Hollywood Handsome lacks tactical speed and the recent entry-level allowance winner is facing a severe class test.
J Boys Echo needs to find form following a pair of dull showings in the Kentucky Derby and Blue Grass, but the dedicated closer’s victory in the Gotham (G3) three back looked better when runner-up Cloud Computing upset the Preakness.
Lookin at Lee offered a fierce rally for second in the Kentucky Derby but made no impact following a troubled start in the Preakness, getting up belatedly late for fourth. The sustained type gets part often without offering a serious challenge from well off the pace, but Lookin at Lee may put it all together one of these days for Steve Asmussen.
Senior Investment also possesses a formidable late kick, rallying dramatically past half the field for third in the Preakness stretch, and the up-and-comer has captured four of his last six starts. Trainer Kenny McPeek upset the 2002 Belmont with Sarava and has another interesting longshot who appears to be peaking.