Which Horses are Bred to Handle the Belmont Stakes Distance?

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

May 22nd, 2019

While many handicappers will argue pedigrees are no longer a key factor in determining the winner of the Kentucky Derby, they remain an important aspect to consider when analyzing potential contenders for the Belmont Stakes.

The 1 1/2-mile distance of the “Test of the Champion" places more emphasis on stamina than the 1 1/4 miles of the Kentucky Derby, so generally speaking Belmont winners tend to boast stouter pedigrees than their Derby-winning counterparts.

Which horses are best bred to handle the testing distance of the 2019 Belmont Stakes? Sorting through the prospective field, here are my top five choices based exclusively on pedigrees.
  1. Intrepid Heart

Intrepid Heart’s sire, Tapit, has already sired three Belmont winners (Tonalist in 2014, Creator in 2016 and Tapwrit in 2017), but the bottom side of Intrepid Heart’s pedigree is also strong. His dam, Flaming Heart, is a daughter of the 1996 Belmont winner Touch Gold, and as a broodmare she’s already produced Commissioner, runner-up by a head in the 2014 Belmont. Suffice to say, there’s no reason to doubt Intrepid Heart’s ability to negotiate 1 1/2 miles at Belmont Park.
  1. Game Winner

Game Winner's grinding style should be well-suited to the Belmont Stakes, and he has the pedigree to back it up. His sire, Candy Ride, was a grade 1 winner going 1 1/4 miles and is a solid source of stamina, while Game Winner’s dam sire—A.P. Indy—won the 1992 Belmont and is likewise renowned for imparting long-distance durability to his descendants.
  1. Tacitus

Like Intrepid Heart, Tacitus is a son of Tapit, so there aren’t any stamina concerns in the top half of his pedigree. The bottom half is solid too. His dam, Close Hatches, was a five-time grade 1 winner at 1 1/16 miles or farther, and she sprinted just once during her 14-race, championship-earning career.
  1. Plus Que Parfait

Plus Que Parait’s sire, Point of Entry, has a tremendously stamina-oriented pedigree and was a two-time grade 1 winner running 1 1/2 miles on turf, so if Plus Que Parfait has inherited a fraction of his sire’s stamina, he should be good to go in the Belmont Stakes. Plus Que Parfait’s dam sire is Awesome Again, winner of the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and the sire of 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Ghostzapper, among others.
  1. Sir Winston

Speaking of Awesome Again, he’s the sire of Sir Winston, who also gets a healthy dose of stamina from his dam, La Gran Bailadora. A daughter of the 2005 Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex, La Gran Bailadora was at her best running a mile or farther, winning three stakes races during her successful career.