Pros & Cons for 2015 Belmont Stakes runners
Let’s take a look at the Pros & Cons of Saturday’s Belmont Stakes contestants. Horses are listed by post position:
Pros: Dubai star took a circuitous route to the Kentucky Derby, shipping to Arlington Park to prepare before arriving at Churchill Downs five days out, and finished an even eighth in U.S. debut. Trainer Mike De Kock lamented the flawed strategy, sending Mubtaahij to Belmont Park days after the Derby, and put five local workouts into his charge over a 13-day period (May 17-30), including three at five furlongs. Whether it will be enough remains to be seen but an improved performance can be expected from well-regarded colt. His impressive eight-length U.A.E. Derby victory remains notable and he’s certainly bred for 1 ½-mile distance. Possesses some tactical speed and at 10-1 on the morning line, Mubtaahij is eligible to outperform expectations.
Cons: He’s too much of an unknown to back with much confidence. Supporters are hoping for more, but Mubtaahij ran to the expectations of those who doubted his qualifications entering the Kentucky Derby -- he may not be good enough to challenge our best three-year-olds on dirt this spring.
Tale of Verve
Pros: Easy to admire progress he’s made for Dallas Stewart and dedicated closer will attempt to capitalize if front-runners weaken in latter stages. Improving colt followed a maiden win with a commendable second in the Preakness and picks up the services of Gary Stevens. Added ground should be no problem for exotics contender.
Cons: Quality concerns remain and won’t get the sloppy conditions he relished last time. BRIS Speed ratings remain low, with a career-best 95 two starts back, and one-run closing style is often a poor fit for 1 ½-mile distance.
Pros: Showed an affinity for Belmont recording his first stakes victory in the May 9 Peter Pan, similar to 2014 Belmont winner Tonalist, and jockey Javier Castellano will be back aboard the grinder, who figures to settle in midpack. A minor award is probably more realistic but if stablemate Materiality can make things difficult for American Pharoah on the front end, Madefromlucky has a puncher’s chance for an upset.
Cons: He was no match for American Pharoah in a pair of Oaklawn starts and the Peter Pan essentially fell apart when the front-runners began giving way in upper stretch. Won’t dismiss his chances for a minor award but can still question whether he’ll be good enough to factor into the equation.
Pros: Training forwardly, according to reports, for Nick Zito, who has thwarted a pair of Triple Crown bids (2004 and 2009) with massive upsets in the Belmont. Late runner experienced a rough trip in Kentucky Derby, but he’s based in New York and Zito has always been high on his abilities. Frammento will get blinkers off and would offer exotics value as the probable longest shot on tote board.
Cons: It will be no surprise to see him finish last given his poor form – he’s never run fast enough to suggest he belongs at this level.
Pros: It’s time for the Triple Crown drought to be over and American Pharoah is the horse to do it. The two-year-old champion is blessed with an amazing stride and should benefit from a relatively easy campaign so far, with the Kentucky Derby being the only start this year where he was all out. He’s hands down the best three-year-old and his speed can be deadly – threat to run opponents into the ground or sit close and pounce. Love what Mike De Kock, trainer of Mubtaahij, told Bloodhorse.com about American Pharoah: “He’s a super horse. He’s moving like a monorail; he does it with such great ease.”
Cons: Three races over a five-week period is a grind and the 1 ½-mile Belmont distance adds a great level of difficulty – American-based horses aren’t as durable as they once were and are no longer being bred for extreme distances. There’s a chance American Pharoah will feel the effects and not show up with his best. And the other jockeys will try their best to beat him. A disadvantageous trip, which weakens him up for the latter stages, is at least a minor concern.
Pros: Throat surgery made a tremendous difference for him, with Frosted impressively capturing the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial in his first attempt after the procedure, but colt dropped too far back behind slow pace and traveled widest of all before rallying stoutly for fourth in Kentucky Derby. Both wins have come in the Empire State and locally-based gray brings a “New York feel” to the event like other Belmont winners who run their best races at NYRA tracks (Tonalist is a prime example). He’s drawn rave reviews recently based on his training and appears to be peaking for Kiaran McLaughlin. Frosted has an excellent win chance if American Pharoah falters.
Cons: Frosted appears to have a bright future, but 1 ½-mile distance represents a serious challenge for Tapit colt. He defeated a questionable field in the Wood and may be getting too much credit off a non-threatening Derby effort. No guarantees he’ll continue to move forward on the stretch out.
Pros: Didn’t get enough pace up front and experienced a troubled trip in traffic before rallying for seventh in Kentucky Derby. Keen Ice appears to be training forwardly and trainer Dale Romans got Medal Count to run a huge third in last year’s Belmont following a troubled Derby trip. Late runner could appreciate added ground and is a threat to come running late for a share.
Cons: He’s placed in only one of four starts this year, a well-beaten third in the Risen Star, and maiden winner still has much to prove unlike Medal Count, a Grade 3 victor who finished second in Blue Grass. Keen Ice has done little to suggest a turnaround in form, earning slow Speed figures, and plodder could be overbet underneath in exotics – he disappointed supporters with a clunker when bet down to 5-1 in Louisiana Derby two starts back and could get hot and dirty in this spot.
Pros: Unraced at two, Materiality opened his racing career in sterling fashion, winning his first three starts at Gulfstream, including a fine Florida Derby tally that netted a 105 BRIS Speed rating. Finished well for sixth after missing break in Kentucky Derby and is eligible to improve significantly off that performance. Two-time Belmont winner Todd Pletcher should have him ready for his best off the five-week freshening and Materiality brings good speed to the equation, winning his first three attempts in front-running fashion. Figures to be sent from starting gate by John Velazquez and must be regarded as a serious win contender if American Pharoah falters.
Cons: A promising individual with a seemingly bright future, Materiality didn’t beat a deep field in Florida Derby, with runner-up Upstart potentially over the top, and must still prove himself away from Gulfstream. Won’t discount the possibility he holds for a minor award, but wonder how much he’ll have left for the stretch drive if he takes it to American Pharoah in the early stages as expected.