Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem June 13, 2022
A good Monday morning to you all! Belmont S. (G1) and the Triple Crown are now in the books, and that’s what we’ll be focused on this week here on the columns. Thursday I want to kind of look back on the Triple Crown season as a whole, but today we’ll focus on the Belmont. I watched the Belmont from the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs with several friends as they had it up on the huge screen on the backstretch. I asked a CD employee how big the big board was, and he said he forgot the dimensions but did remember that if you put three basketball courts side by side, they’d all fit on the board. Insane!
I was happy with Mo Donegal’s victory for a few reasons. First and foremost, he was my pick in last Thursday’s column, and it’s nice to have a race play out as you see it sometimes. He was bet down to slight favoritism at his 5-2 morning line and truly looked a winner the entire final turn before he finally saw daylight and exploded. His moves in the Wood (G2) and the Kentucky Derby (G1) both showed a horse who figured to have a good chance to succeed at the demanding Belmont distance, and with a clean trip he was able to outlast his competition. He’ll certainly be a force in the three-year-old races throughout the summer, and I think being closer to the pacesetters will prove useful for him as opposed to dropping too far back.
We had Jerry Crawford from Donegal Racing on my podcast back on Jan. 25 of this year just before the Holy Bull (G3) to talk about the horse. It was great to get to hear the horse’s story from the owner. I remember Jerry being very confident in the horse making the jump from two to three, which looking back he was clearly right on, even though they didn’t win that Holy Bull.
While the Belmont had several interesting storylines coming in, I think it’s hard to dispute that Rich Strike was the biggest among them. The power of the Kentucky Derby and the power of his underdog win made him the real star attraction, even if we hardened horseplayers thought of him as a bit of an afterthought in terms of a win candidate. I think the pace played out exactly as it looked like it would on paper and for a horse like him, it was always going to be an uphill battle to close in and win. I believe the horses who eventually ran 1-2-3-4 were 4-3-2-1 in running position with a half-mile left to go. It just wasn’t a race to be too far back.
But I look forward to seeing what the coming chapters look like for Rich Strike. I mean he surely wasn’t embarrassed in the Belmont. I think he belongs with the top three-year-olds in these races, and with the proper set-up or if he just runs his best race again, he can absolutely win another marquee race this season.
The last horse I want to talk about from Saturday’s Belmont is Nest. I had the good fortune to see her in person as she kicked off her three-year-old season with us down at Tampa Bay Downs, where she strolled to a very easy victory in the Suncoast S. She towered above that field, and so I wasn’t quite sure when she hit the wire that we’d just seen arguably the top three-year-old filly in the land. She had to wait for room a little bit in the Belmont the other day and when she was given daylight, after already being 10.5 or 11 furlongs into the race, she accelerated nicely. She gave an amazing accounting of herself, and I have to think the Saratoga races, like the Alabama (G1) and Coaching Club Oaks (G1), are definitely on the menu for her.
It was a mostly formful Belmont Day and certainly won’t go down as one of the most memorable days there, in my opinion. But we got to see several top horses in many divisions strut their stuff, so not all was lost. It seems with the Triple Crown in the rearview mirror now it kind of officially feels like summer racing season will kick off. I mean we’re only a month or so away from Saratoga, Del Mar, and, most importantly, Colonial Downs starting!