Why tactical speed plays well in the Belmont Stakes by James Scully

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June 6th, 2019

Run styles in the Belmont Stakes: Tactical speed plays well

  When it comes to run styles in the Belmont Stakes, the extended distance can provide an edge to horses possessing tactical speed. The longest of three American Triple Crown races, the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes typically features a less demanding pace than the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and horses racing on or within striking range of the lead can save something for the latter stages after moderate fractions. Last year’s Triple Crown serves as a perfect example: Justify chased an opening half-mile of 45 3/5 seconds in the Kentucky Derby and a 47-second half in the Preakness. The imposing front-runner seized upon an easier set-up in the Belmont Stakes, reaching the half-mile mark in 48 seconds with a two-length lead, and rolled to a wire-to-wire decision. Factors such as form, pedigree, connections and race shape remain important, but late runners often find themselves at a disadvantage in the Belmont Stakes. The opening half-mile has been completed in less than 48 seconds only twice in the last decade and it’s proven difficult to make up significant ground over the final furlongs on the 1 ½-mile oval known as “Big Sandy. Six of the last eight Belmont Stakes winners raced on or within three lengths of the lead after the opening quarter-mile. Reaching a striking position by the far turn has been advantageous and only a pair of confirmed closers (Creator and Summer Bird) have won in the last dozen years.

2019 Belmont Stakes Predictions

Another moderate pace appears likely in Saturday’s 151st running of the Belmont Stakes. The 10-horse field attracted only one need-the-lead type, 30-1 outsider Joevia. He’ll show speed from his innermost post to gain the advantage and look to slow the tempo rounding the first turn. At least three rivals appear poised to race up close (Spinoff, Tax and War of Will) and wire-to-wire maiden winner Intrepid Heart could be more prominent early with the addition of blinkers. Tacitus, the 9-5 morning line, has raced at least eight lengths behind the pace after the opening-half mile of his last three starts. Here are the running positions for the last 12 Belmont Stakes winners:
Horse ¼-mile position (lengths behind) ½-mile Mile
Justify 1st 1st 1st
Tapwrit 3rd (1 ½-lgths) 3rd (2-lgths) 4th (2-lgths)
Creator 11th (9 ¾-lgths) 10th (8-lgths) 6th (3 ½-lgths)
American Pharoah 1st 1st 1st
Tonalist 6th (3-lgths) 3rd (1-lgth) 3rd (1-lgth)
Palace Malice 5th (2 ½-lgths) 4th (2-lgths) 3rd (½-lgth)
Union Rags 5th (4-lgths) 5th (4-lgths) 3rd (3 ½-lgths)
Ruler on Ice 2nd (2-lgths) 2nd (1 ½-lgths) 2nd (1-lgth)
Drosselmeyer 6th (5-lgths) 5th (4-lgths) 5th (2 ½-lgths)
Summer Bird 5th (4 ½-lgths) 6th (4 ½-lgths) 9th (6-lgths)
Da’ Tara 1st 1st 1st
Rags to Riches 6th (2 ¾-lgths) 5th (2-lgths) 5th (1 ½-lgths)
Learn More: SCULLY: Run styles in the 2018 Belmont Stakes