Justify Could be More Vulnerable in the Belmont than Anyone Believes

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D.S. Williamson

May 29th, 2018

Justify heads to the Belmont Stakes with a chance to become the second Triple Crown winner since 2015. That's somewhat amazing considering that until American Pharoah won the Crown, horse racing fans had waited for 37 years. Can Justify do it? No doubt, he can.

Will Justify do it? That's another question. Based on early odds, Justify is 1/2 in some future racebooks, the son of Scat Daddy should have no trouble wearing the Crown. But, this is horse racing. That means Justify could be more vulnerable than anyone wishes to believe.

Justify Could be More Vulnerable in the Belmont Than Anyone Believes

Early Position Means More in the Belmont than Pace...

The reason I've added California Chrome's Triple Crown try in 2014 is to illustrate how much early post position means in the Belmont Stakes. Chrome appeared to have great position early in the race. However, jockey Victor Espinoza had to make a choice around the far, sweeping, turn.

Did Victor make the right choice? I believe he did because there isn't really a wrong choice. I mean, how many times have you seen a horse get bottled up on the inside where the rail doesn't open for a clear run to the wire?

That's the point. Early position means more than pace because early position determines later decisions. The issue in the Belmont is that early position, because of the length of the race, requires a longer commitment then in other, shorter, races.

...But, Pace Still Means Something

Pace still means something. The Belmont Stakes is at 1 1/2 miles. Some great horses, California Chrome, Smarty Jones, Silver Charm, have lost the Triple Crown because they weren't as good at 1 1/2 miles as another horse in the race. The pace did those horses in because the pace was just a tad too fast, or, possibly in the case of Silver Charm, a tad too slow.

If Charm had gotten a bigger jump on Touch Gold, who knows?

It's Difficult to Win a 1 1/2 Mile Race Only 5 Weeks After a 1 1/4 Mile Race

This goes without saying. The reason the Belmont Stakes is the Test of Champions is because it's at 1 1/2 miles over a deep, sandy, racetrack with sweeping turns. If a horse has proven itself in the Derby, and then in the Preakness it must now prove itself doing something it most likely well never do again. Also, it must prove it only 5 weeks after running in a 1 1/4 mile race.

Some of the most talented turf horses on the planet have difficulty managing 1 1/2 miles after a 1 1/4 mile race in less than 6 weeks. We're asking 3-year-old horses to accomplish the feat on dirt.

Justify Has Already Run 5 Races Since Feb. 18

The Belmont Stakes will be Justify's sixth race since Feb. 18. That's a lot of running for a 5-year-old handicap horse. At some point, Justify will hit the wall.  Can you think of a better time to hit the wall then the Belmont Stakes? Also, let's not forget that Justify didn't run at all as a 2-year-old.

Justify has the talent to win the Triple Crown. When it comes to the Belmont Stakes, talent isn't the only thing that matters. Although the Derby and Preakness winner appears set to romp in the Belmont, he could be more vulnerable than most anyone believes.