What has the last decade taught us about racing at Belmont Park?

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

May 30th, 2019

Recently I was thinking back on the unforgettable 3-year-old campaign of super filly Rachel Alexandra, and I had to shake my head at the thought that 10 years have passed since her sensational 2009 season.

It seems like yesterday Rachel Alexandra was obliterating eventual grade 1 winners Malibu Prayer and Flashing by 19 1/4 lengths and 31 1/2 lengths, respectively, in the 2009 Mother Goose Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park, where she stopped the clock in the blazing stakes record time of 1:46.33.
A lot has changed at Belmont over the last 10 years. The Mother Goose is a grade 2 now and it’s conducted at 1 1/16 miles, so Rachel Alexandra’s stakes record is safe. The trainer and jockey standings also look a bit different than they did in 2009.

What have we learned from the last decade of racing at Belmont Park? Here are four trends and tendencies to keep in mind while handicapping races at Belmont’s spring and fall meets.
  1. Chad Brown has surpassed Todd Pletcher (but Pletcher is still king of the Belmont Stakes)

In terms of annual wins at Belmont Park, three-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown has generally surpassed Todd Pletcher in the trainer standings. Pletcher dominated the spring and fall meets at Belmont through the early 2000s, but starting in 2012, he has led the standings at just two of the last 14 Belmont meets.

Brown has been winning meet titles in bunches. He’s led the rankings at every Belmont meet since the end of 2015, and he’s been particularly successful at the fall meets, claiming every one since 2012.

One area where Pletcher still holds an edge is in the Belmont Stakes (G1). Brown has yet to win the 1 1/2-mile classic, while Pletcher has scored three wins, five seconds and three thirds in the Belmont since 2006.
  1. Belmont is still a good place to prep for the Breeders’ Cup

Although the Breeders’ Cup hasn’t been held at Belmont  since 2005, the track remains a prime location for horses to prep for the annual event. Over the last decade three winners of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Blame, 2010; Drosselmeyer, 2011; and Fort Larned, 2012) used the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont as their final prep race, while three winners of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Uncle Mo, 2010; Shanghai Bobby, 2012; and Good Magic, 2017) prepped in Belmont’s Champagne Stakes (G1) and four Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winners (My Miss Aurelia, 2011; Ria Antonia, 2013; Caledonia Road, 2017; and Jaywalk, 2018) prepped in Belmont’s Frizette Stakes (G1).

The Beldame Stakes (G1) and the Flower Bowl Stakes (G1) at Belmont have produced their fair share of Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf winners, demonstrating how the major grade 1 races at Belmont continue to be productive preps for the Breeders’ Cup.
  1. The turf courses are incredibly fast

Don’t get too excited about blazing times over the two Belmont turf courses. They’re among the fastest turf courses in the country and frequently produce unbelievable times. The larger Widener turf course is especially fast. Since 2016 four horses have set or equaled North American records over the Widener course: Disco Partner (six furlongs in 1:05.67), A Lot (seven furlongs in 1:19.23), Oscar Performance (one mile in 1:31.23) and Call To Mind (two miles in 3:16.78).
  1. The Ortiz brothers sure can ride

After an injury led to the retirement of New York’s leading rider Ramon Dominguez, brothers Irad Ortiz Jr. and Jose Ortiz took over the New York spotlight when it comes to jockeys. Between them they’ve won nine of the ten Belmont Park meet titles since 2014, and since they’ve forged high-profile partnerships with some of New York’s leading trainers, including Brown, their dominance figures to extend for the foreseeable future.