Friday, June 6, 2014

The 146th Belmont Stakes Selections and Analysis

Belmont Stakes Blog

At 6:52 PM on Saturday, post time for the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes, all eyes will be on California Chrome, who is bidding to become the 12th Triple Crown champion in the history of the series. After decisive victories in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, California Chrome will be the overwhelming favorite to triumph in the 1-½ miles test.  Since 1978 when Affirmed became the 11th horse to win each jewel of the Triple Crown, there have been eleven horses, like California Chrome, who have won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and failed to win the Belmont Stakes. They key number for California Chrome is 12. California Chrome will either become the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown, or the 12th horse since Affirmed to fail with one race remaining.

There are ten colts looking to ruin California Chrome’s bid, led by Wicked Strong, fourth in the GI Kentucky Derby and winner of the GI Wood Memorial Stakes; Ride on Curlin, second in the GI Preakness Stakes; and Tonalist, winner of the GII Peter Pan Stakes last time out.  Fringe contenders include Medal Count, Commanding Curve, Samraat, Commissioner, and General a Rod. If either Matuszak or Matterhorn win, I would be shocked.

Selections for the 146th Belmont Stakes

1.     #2 California Chrome (3-5)
2.     #1 Medal Count (20-1)
3.     #8 Commissioner  (20-1)

I love California Chrome. I believe he has the running style, with tactical speed to get a good trip, even from the #2 starting gate. I believe General a Rod and Samraat will both show early speed and I expect California Chrome to sit right off of those two. Turning for home I fully expect California Chrome to be in the lead with every chance to win the Belmont Stakes. Underneath California Chrome I like two horses at longer prices to complete the trifecta.

#1 Medal Count is a major threat to California Chrome and at 20-1 I love him to finish in the top 3.  Medal Count had a very rough trip in the GI Kentucky Derby last time out when he finished 8th. Medal Count is by Dynaformer, who is also sire of the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, as well as the 2010 GI Melbourne Cup Americain. The Melbourne Cup is the greatest horserace in Australia and is contested over 2 miles.  Dynaformer has also sired many top long distance grass horses as well as quality dirt horses.  With that being said, Medal Count should have absolutely no problem with the Belmont distance. While he has yet to run his best race on dirt, I am willing to look past that at 20-1. Combined with a poor trip in the Derby and breeding that will suit the distance, I believe Medal Count is a serious contender in the Belmont Stakes.  

#8 Commissioner is another horse that at 20-1 has a lot to prove in the Belmont Stakes.  Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Javier Castellano, Commissioner comes into the Belmont Stakes off of a second place in the GII Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park behind Tonalist. Commissioner was at a time thought to be a serious contender on the Kentucky Derby trail, but after a series of bad efforts he was withdrawn from consideration. After being briefly freshened, Commissioner was a decent second behind Tonalist in the slop in the Peter Pan. The appeal with Commissioner is his breeding. Commissioner is by Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy, who is by Belmont Stakes winner Seattle Slew. Commissioner’s dam, Flaming Heart, is by a Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold. Needless to say Commissioner was bred to successfully complete the Belmont Stakes distance of 1 ½ miles. While Commissioner will need to take a step up talent wise, he should get a great trip and with the connections and breeding in his corner, Commissioner is worth a shot at 20-1. 

#11 Tonalist is the horse I am most worried about to overtake California Chrome. He has the most talent except for California Chrome, and was very impressive last time out when he scored decisively in the GII Peter Pan Stakes. My greatest concern regarding Tonalist is the distance. Based on his pedigree and the light seasoning he has, I believe the Belmont distance will be too much for him to overcome, but if he does he is the main threat.

#9 Wicked Strong is the most popular horse being picked to upset California Chrome. Wicked Strong ran fourth in the Kentucky Derby with a rough trip. Prior to the Derby, Wicked Strong closed with a flurry to win the GI Wood Memorial Stakes. I am taking a stand against Wicked Strong, mostly because of his breeding. Wicked Strong is by Hard Spun who faded in the 2007 Belmont Stakes. Wicked Strong has a powerful closing kick, but I believe the Belmont Stakes distance will negate his closing kick.

#4 Commanding Curve was second in the Kentucky Derby and #5 Ride on Curlin was second in Preakness Stakes, but I believe neither will be able to reproduce their closing kicks in the Belmont Stakes.

Although it is the most difficult race of the three and particularly challenging for the favorite, I am cheering for California Chrome to make history on Saturday and I believe he will.