With Gettysburg in, we can now resume normal Belmont handicapping

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June 7th, 2016

WinStar Farm's announcement Monday that its stakes-placed colt Gettysburg would be added to Saturday's Belmont S. (G1) field finally gives the 1 1/2-mile classic a legitimate pace presence.

For more than two weeks, prognosticators have been trying to figure out in their heads how the Belmont would unfold without a definite front runner in the field. Along with that came questions about how the lack of speed would affect a horse like Exaggerator, the Preakness (G1)-winning Belmont favorite who has become much more effective since adopting a closing strategy earlier this year.

Thanks to WinStar, who hold the breeding rights to Exaggerator and own the deep-closing Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Creator, who is also in the Belmont field, we can now resume normal handicapping.

Strange things, of course, could still happen, but there's no sense in trying to predict the unpredictable. Gettysburg is in there to set an honest pace for Exaggerator and Creator, and by default others, and barring the unforeseeable he should do so.

From a class and speed perspective, it still looks like Exaggerator's race to lose. His efforts in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness, and everything he accomplished before, far exceed what any of his Belmont rivals have achieved. Both he and Nyquist have separated themselves quite a bit from the rest of the crop.

At this point, roughly 24 hours before the post draw, the most appealing of the other entries is Stradivari, who I thought ran very well in the Preakness considering the conditions and a relative lack of stakes experience. He was only a half-length behind Cherry Wine for the runner-up spot, and he can improve off that race.

Cherry Wine and fellow Dale Romans trainee Brody's Cause have the tools to get themselves in the frame, but have a lot of improving to do vis a vis Exaggerator. Suddenbreakingnews and Creator both endured difficult trips in the Derby, but the Arkansas form so far has not been flattered in the classics or elsewhere.