Identifying the Mud Monsters
by Laura Pugh
As rain wreaks havoc at Belmont Park, the question everyone will have to find out isn’t who is the fastest, or the fittest, but which horse will best be able to emulate Michael Phelps.
Belmont Park is completely saturated and the rain isn’t even supposed to end until 11 a.m. on Saturday, at the soonest. That doesn’t bode well for fair weather-loving horses. In order to win, tomorrow’s “Win & You’re In” races, contenders will have to not only be comfortable with off going, but they will have to relish it.
One horse we know will love the conditions is Honor Code. The Met Mile and Whitney victory broke his maiden in a sea of slop, while also charging through a driving monsoon. That day he pulled away to win by over four, easy lengths. The problem is, Honor Code is only one horse, in one race, among several horses spread throughout many races. The question is who else is or will show themselves to be mud-loving monsters?
In the Frizette, the next main track race after the Kelso, there is only one filly who has experienced what it is like to run in the mud. The Darley-bred and Godolphin-owned Desert Tune has only won once in two career outings and you can just about guess what surface she broke her maiden on. If you guess mud, then you are indeed correct. Not only that, but she is the only filly in the field that has won over Belmont. So, if you are looking for a nice longshot, who you can trust in the mud, with experience over the track, look no farther than Desert Tune.
The Champagne Stakes is being billed as a rematch between Ralis, the Hopeful Stakes winner, and Magna Light, the runner-up. Thanks to the amount of rain that Mother Nature has decided to dump on us, Magna Light could very well turn the tables on Ralis in a big way. Ralis has never run in the mud, while Magna Light broke his maiden over a sloppy Belmont track by over four lengths. His morning line odds of 6-1 don’t even have him as second-betting favorite, but as fifth choice. Yes, the DQ’ed winner of the Sanford Stakes and Hopeful runner-up is fifth choice. Get ‘em while he’s…well, not so hot?
The last main track race of the day is the featured Jockey Club Gold Cup and, outside of Tonalist, no horse has a graded win in the slop. Last year, Tonalist decimated his competition in the Peter Pan Stakes by four easy lengths at this very track. If he can perform like that again is there anyone who can stand with him?
Most of his competitors have experience running in mud, but perhaps the most impressive of them was Coach Inge. With three starts over off tracks, Coach Inge has the most experience on off going. He also holds the largest margin of victory in the mud over his rivals, that margin being more than 12 lengths. That day he was caught in 1.49.35 for the nine-furlong distance, which is rather impressive. If he runs back to that there is no reason he couldn’t upset Tonalist.
The unfortunate thing about conditions like these is that you can do all the homework in the world and still end up on the wrong horse. No sloppy track is alike and all you can do is go off what is in front of you and hope for the best. Tomorrow is going to be a wet and wild ride and I hope you all brought your mud caulks for extra traction. You’re going to need them.