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2010 Belmont Stakes: Race Re-cap

ELMONT, NY - JUNE 05:  Drosselmeyer, with Mike Smith aboard, wins the 142nd Running of the Belmont Stakes in front of Fly Down, with John Velazquez aboard at Belmont Park on June 5, 2010 in Elmont, New York.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 05: Drosselmeyer, with Mike Smith aboard, wins the 142nd Running of the Belmont Stakes in front of Fly Down, with John Velazquez aboard at Belmont Park on June 5, 2010 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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Most of the time when we talk about an upset winner of a big race, we are talking about a horse that makes a significant improvement either due to pace, surface, running style, or a jockey/trainer change.  Sometimes we talk about a winner of a race due to the fact that some horse has to win, regardless of how each horse in the field performs.  Yesterday's Belmont Stakes, unfortunately, falls into the latter category. 

The 2010 Belmont, from both a visual and a time perspective, was one of the weakest editions of the race in the last twenty years.  And while I don't think that necessarily diminishes Drosselmeyer's accomplishment (however bad the race was, he was still better than everyone else in the field), it does add further credence to the notion that this year's three year old crop was not only light on top-level talent, it was also very, very thin.

The Beyer Speed Figure for this year's Belmont came up abysmally low (94 to Drosselmeyer - easily the lowest winning figure since 1993), and if you had to describe the race shape it would probably be "slow early, slow middle, slow late".   

Before I get to the horse-by-horse recap I'd like to add in one additional TV rant: providing a race review for this year's Belmont was beyond challenging, namely due to the horrible camera angle choices by the director for ABC.  Horse racing is an easy sport to shoot; it's called a pan-shot.  You pull the camera back so that the viewer can see the majority of the field and you follow the field around the track.  Yeah, in the Derby it's a harder task due to the huge field of twenty horses, but the Belmont should have been a piece of cake.  Instead we get 50% of the race shown from the blimp cam.  Even on my 50 inch HDTV it's next to impossible to distinguish one horse from the other on the blimp cam. 

Pan's not that hard.

In order to watch the replay I used the NYRA/simulcast feed since that gives me exactly what I want: a shot of the full field and timely fractions. 

Rant over.

Okay, let's take a look at each horse in the order that they finished.

1st - Drosselmeyer (94 Beyer): Given how this entire Triple Crown season has progressed, I suppose it makes perfect sense that Drosselmeyer ended up the winner of the Belmont Stakes.  Just four weeks ago, this colt finished six lengths behind Fly Down in the Dwyer Stakes, but yesterday he was able to turn the table and record the first graded win of his career.  And while Drosselmeyer certainly enjoyed the extra distance of ground, I think it was his grinding style combined with that mile and a half that allowed him to cross the wire first.  Visually, it appeared that he made a "big move" on the turn, but in actuality it was simply jockey Mike Smith keeping Drosselmeyer in the clear and allowing him to wear down the leaders over the final 3/8ths of a mile.  This was the text book definition of a  "grind-it-out" victory.

2nd - Fly Down (93):  Nick Zito's Fly Down finished up the fastest of any colt in this field (26.16 seconds for the final ¼ mile) but just couldn't ever get by Drosselmeyer at any time in the race.  After a half mile and a mile, Fly Down was only a half length behind the winner.  After a mile and a quarter, he was two lengths behind.  And after a valiant run through the final two furlongs, he could only get to within ¾ of a length.

3rd - First Dude (93): This colt ran similar to his effort at Pimlico; he just didn't have enough to get it done in the final strides probably due to the added distance of ground; a mile and a half may have been a little more than he wanted.  First Dude has the potential to become a big factor within the division going forward as he should enjoy the summer races at 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 miles.  At a minimum, we know that he'll give a good account of himself.

4th - Game On Dude (91): Bob Baffert's colt got the perfect stalking trip right off of First Dude and Interactif through the early stages of the race.  When the field made its way to the top of the stretch, Martin Garcia asked Game on Dude for everything he had but it was not meant to be; Game On Dude flattened out badly in the final furlong and had to settle for fourth.  The reac really couldn't have set-up any better for this colt as the pace was soft and he had a clean trip.  In the end, like most of these colts, he didn't have enough stamina to get those final furlongs.

5th - Uptowncharlybrown [DQ] (90): This colt pressed the pace from the rail early on but raced evenly throughout and never made a serious move to threaten the top two.  Following the race it was revealed that Uptowncharlybrown lost his 8 lb. weight pad at the seven-eighths pole and was disqualified and placed 12th as a result.

6th - Stay Put (86): Ran a similar race to his two efforts at the Fair Grounds this spring where he was able to close into a fairly soft pace and improve his position as the race wore on.  When he came off the final turn he had every opportunity to run down the leaders, but he didn't have the turn of foot nor the stamina to make the big move he needed to win.

7th - Interactif (85): This colt broke well, was running in excellent position early on, and looked like he might run the race of his life.  He faded badly after about the mile mark and could only manage to run the final ¼ mile in a soft 27.39 seconds.  He looks like a colt that would be better suited for races at a mile going forward.

8th - Stately Victor (82): A poor start didn't help this colt's chances but since he's a closer it shouldn't have mattered.  Tom Durkin noted during the race that he made a very wide move on the turn but in reality he never made much of an impact or a threat on the leaders.  After his performance in the Derby and here in the Belmont, I think it's safe to say the Stately Victor is simply not a dirt horse. 

9th - Ice Box (81): The overriding concern with this colt going into the Belmont was whether or not he would be compromised by a slow early pace.  After yesterday's results, you have to believe that the pace cost him any chance to win.

Following the race, trainer Nick Zito suggested that Ice Box just wasn't happy and not feeling his best during the hours leading up to the Belmont.  And while I have no doubts as to how Zito felt his colt was doing, Ice Box ran the two best races of his career after the leaders set fast early fractions.  He didn't get that yesterday, and as a result, he wasn't able to run his top effort.  However, Ice Box is certainly a colt to watch going forward in the Haskell, Travers, and Breeders' Cup Classic, as he's has the potential to put in a big effort in the right pace situation.

10th - Make Music for Me (75): Not much to "analyze" for this colt as he didn't do a lick of running at any time during the race and his big effort in the Derby looks to be the result of loving a wet track.  At this point in his career he's won only one race...and that was in a listed turf stake.

11th - Dave in Dixie (62): This colt may have been the worst bet in the entire field: 14/1 odds at post time on a horse that, quite frankly, hadn't shown enough to warrant odds anywhere near that level.  Dave in Dixie was at the back of the pack the moment the gates opened and he remained in that position all the way around the track.  Look for this colt to return to California and synthetic tracks.

12th - Spangled Star (39): If you look simply at this colt's pedigree you'd think that a mile and a half would be right up his alley.  His sire, Distorted Humor, has tons of stamina, and his broodmare sire, Kris S., also tends to produce horses that can get a route of ground.  But whatever his breeding suggested, Spangled Star had little desire to run in the later stages of the race and essentially quit after a mile.

A couple of other notes from yesterday's Belmont:

-The Pick 4 had a total pool of $2,026,444, while the Pick 6 attracted $1,442,500.  I think the lower numbers in the Pick 6 could be directly related to the short fields that dotted the first two legs of the sequence as opposed to the Pick 4, which looked to be a brutal bet (and likely a high paying one) from the outset.   It's also a sign of how pop ular the Pick 4 has become due to the combination of a smaller base bet and potentially high returns.

-I don't know that I've seen a day with such dramatic swings in pari-mutuel prices as we saw yesterday at Belmont Park.  Take a look at the Win payout for each race on the day that I've summarized below.  We went from a day that was on its way to being Chalk City to one that was Bomb Central in a matter of races.




 $ 11.00


 $   4.30


 $   7.00


 $   4.50


 $ 18.20


 $   4.40


 $   4.20


 $   7.50


 $ 81.00


 $ 44.80


 $ 28.00


 $ 23.20


 $ 35.80



















Looking at the payouts and how dramatically the day changed, I wonder if there may have been a fundamental change in the way the track played during the day.  I haven't had a chance to go through each result chart to examine the fractions and the running styles of the winners, but I wouldn't be surprised if the track became a little deeper and tiring as the day wore on.  During the ESPN under card broadcast, there was a report about the amount of water that track maintenance crews were pouring over the surface between each race.  Apparently, either due to the wind or the heat, the dirt surface was drying out fairly quickly and was not holding water.  Now, whether that made a difference throughout the day is simply a guess on my part, but it's possible that the track got deeper and slower as the day progressed.

-Following the conclusion of the race, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin took the blame for the weight pad falling off of Uptowncharlybrown. McLaughlin told the Daily Racing Form:

"It's the ultimate responsibility of the trainer," McLaughlin said. "When the valet came out for the race, everything was in a nice, neat package - the shammy, the weight pad, the saddle towel, and the saddle. I should have made sure we put everything on one piece at a time. During the race, the saddle stayed in place. But the pad slid right off his back. Rajiv told me he knew when and where it happened.

"I'm just glad for two things. One, that no other horse was injured. And two, that we didn't win. I've never been so glad not to win a Grade 1. It would have been horrendous."