Run styles & the Belmont Stakes

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May 29th, 2018

The Belmont Stakes will be contested over a 1 ½-mile distance many participants will never see again. Stamina matters, but the extended distance leads to a false impression it benefits late runners.

Barring an early duel, Belmont Stakes horses with tactical foot can take advantage because the pace is moderate. The opening half-mile has been completed in less than 48-seconds only twice in the last decade and jockeys are looking to rate on or near the front end and save something left for the finish.

Creator (2016) and Summer Bird (2009) are the only confirmed closers to win the Belmont in the last decade.

Tapwrit raced up close to the pace en route to capturing the 2017 Belmont Stakes and six of the last 10 winners met the same criteria, including wire-to-wire winners American Pharoah (2015) and Da’ Tara (2008).

Nine of the last 10 Belmont Stakes winners were within 5-lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. Seven were in fourth or better at the half-way point (after 6-furlongs). Belmont Stakes fields don’t tend to be strung out and racing toward the back of the pack has been disadvantageous.

Here is the positioning of the last 10 Belmont Stakes winners at the first three points of call:



¼-mile lengths behind (position)







1 ½-lengths (3rd)


2-lgths (3rd)


2-lgths (4th)



9 ¾-lgths (11th)


8-lgths (10th)


3 ½-lgths (6th)

American Pharoah









3-lgths (6th)


1-lgth (3rd)


1-lgth (3rd)

Palace Malice


2 ½-lgths (5th)


2-lgths (4th)


½-lgth (3rd)

Union Rags


4-lgths (5th)


4-lgths (5th)


3 ½-lgths (3rd)

Ruler on Ice


2-lgths (2nd)


1 ½-lgths (2nd)


1-lgth (2nd)



5-lgths (6th)


4-lgths (5th)


2 ½-lgths (5th)

Summer Bird


4 ½-lgths (5th)


4 ½-lgths (6th)


6-lgths (9th)

Da’ Tara














Given the early projections for the 2018 Belmont Stakes, it’s difficult to envision a legitimate pace.

Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Justify will be forward barring a bad break, possibly showing the way on the front end if he draws an inside post. Three of his five wins have come wire-to-wire and we can expect him to be either first or second entering the first turn of the Belmont Stakes.

The possibility exists for an unexpected pace presence in the Belmont Stakes. Commendable upset the 2000 edition in front-running fashion after being easily classified as a stalker beforehand and Ruler on Ice surprised with similar tactics despite never being first or second at early points of call in previous starts.

Horses who take back and offer one run often find themselves up against it in the Belmont Stakes and 2018 may prove to be no exception. Rivals will probably need to race within striking range of the early pace to have any chance of defeating Justify, who has the perfect run style for the extreme 1 ½-mile test as he tries to complete the Triple Crown sweep. is the source of handicapping reports for the Belmont Stakes Day program. Complementary Belmont Stakes PPs: