Matt: A look at today's Belmont Stakes from our friends at Predicteform.
In depth analysis of the 2014 Belmont Stakes including Pace Figures and Form Cycle Pattern of each starter. Please refer to the Legend or Pattern Guide for back-up definitions and patterns.
The Predicteform.com Pace Figures will tell you if a horse is likely to improve or regress in its next start. Pace Figures are not just a single speed number, but rather a series of numbers that are incredibly powerful in identifying the Form Cycle Patterns of a horse.
To view the Pace Figures for the Belmont Stakes, click here.
Medal Count (20-1)
Here's what we had to say about Medal Count prior to his Kentucky Derby effort.
Medal Count's 4f Pace Figures look erratic. In his two races on dirt, the 4f Pace Figures are 75.5 and 77.6 respectively, his two highest 4f furlong marks. His two most recent final Pace Figures are "paired up tops," meaning he ran back to back 77's, which in some cases would be construed as a positive pattern. However, given both efforts were on synthetic (artificial grass of horse racing), there is not much stock in either of those efforts. The play: REGRESSOR - Overly aggressive owners got him in the Derby, but it is unlikely Medal Count can fire a third time in a row, especially on dirt.
By all accounts, his Kentucky Derby effort was okay as he ran a 76/69.2 (Final/4F) Pace Figure. Looking at his last three starts and as seen by the "basic view" graph below, the sets of Final and 4F Pace Figures are each within a point of each other indicating a runner who has found his level.
The Play: TOO SLOW - Runner looks like a turf/synthetic surface specialist with slower Final Pace Figures than the top group.
California Chrome (3-5)
Here's what we had to say about California Chrome prior to the Preakness:
California Chrome was a deserving Derby favorite and ran lights out, opening up on the field before coasting to the wire running a 79.1/73.8 (final/4f) Pace Figure. His Final Pace Figures continue to climb ever so slightly while his 4f Pace Figures have steadied out in the low 70's. This indicates a runner who continues to manage his energy very efficiently while showing signs of brilliance with the ability of running an 80+ final Pace Figure.
By Final Pace Figure alone California Chrome looks at least two points faster than any of his competitors. Plus his 4f Pace Figure should keep him close to the lead without joining the fray of the front-runners.
Chrome did run a Final Pace Figure over 80 as suspected, winding up with an 81.5/76.6 (final/4f). The Final Pace Figure of 81.5 is what legends are made of, but before we hand him the crown, let's dive deeper into his figures.
Over the course of his last six races (all wins), his final Page Figure has stepped up in each race, ultimately going from 73.9 to 81.5, a very reasonable eight point increase over six races. However, the measured increase in each of six races without the sign of regression brings up the question - can he increase his final Pace Figure again? While it is very unlikely that he posts even better numbers in the Belmont Stakes, based on his competitors, an 82+ Pace Figure may not be necessary...
Turning to his internal 4F Pace Figure, his mark of 76.6 in the Preakness was a three point increase from the Derby. And, with the exception of the 80.7 4F Pace Figure in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes, the 4F Pace Figures have increased every race, a total of +9.9 points in his last six races. Essentially, without that lone 80.7 4F, Chrome's last effort would have been a Double Top (DTOP - a runner's best final and 4f Pace Figure by a notable margin). DTOP patterns are strong indicators of future regression. The odds on the eventual Belmont Stakes winner having increased both his final and internal (4F) Pace Figure in 11 of 12 instances over his last six starts is not strong.
Chrome continues to look the part of a Triple Crown contender. He is sitting on immortality as 12 other runners have since Affirmed last won the Triple Crown in 1978. Close your eyes and imagine if you can hear the name California Chrome in the same breath as Secretariat and Seattle Slew. A deserving Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown contender, Chrome carries the weight of a generation. The TV cameras, the horse and jockey competitors and an expectation that this is the year adds weight that can't be measured.
The play: CONTENDER - His Pace Figures are remarkable, but this is a runner who makes his third start in five weeks. Are you willing to back a runner who will likely have a slower Final Pace Figure in his effort to win the third leg of the Triple Crown? It's a tall task for any horse, especially one that is not likely to take another step forward. He is just a little more likely than not to win the race, yet likely will not have value at less than even money.
A $625k two year old auction purchase has banked only $62k lifetime, the least amount of all starters in the Belmont and less than one percent of California Chrome's earnings. Trainer Todd Pletcher won the Belmont last year with Palace Malice (though he did have five runners in the race).
His last effort out in the Grade II Peter Pan at Belmont was a 74.3/66.2 (Final/4F), best of his career. His graph below shows a set of parallel lines indicating a runner who has done a good job of distributing his energy efficiently throughout his short career.
The Play: TOO SLOW - Expect better things to come from this colt but not here in the Grade I Belmont Stakes.
Commanding Curve (15-1)
Here's what we had to say about Commanding Curve before the Derby.
Commanding Curve's Pace Figures are another from the set of "parallel lines." His dirt spreads have remained consistent (9.7 - 7.2 - 7.0 - 9.0 in his most recent starts), though his Final Pace Figures are still not competitive.
Curve took a big forward step in the Derby, rewarding his backers with a juicy 38:1 2nd place finish. His Pace Figure effort of 78.4/63 (Final/4F) was a lifetime top by 4.4 points on the final Pace Figure and a 5.8 point increase compared to his Final Pace Figure in his prior outing (72.6) while continuing a consistent line on his 4F figures.
This runner looks to be managing his energy better while increasing his final Pace Figure significantly. Off the pace running style for 12 furlongs says his 4F Pace Figure will likely not crack 60. It is rare, that a dirt spread can move from 8.1 - 15.4 - and then up again, which likely means he will top out at a 74 or 75 final Pace Figure for the Belmont, a little light to be considered in the top flight.
The play: REGRESSOR - His "basic view" graph looks like a runner who is more likely to regress than move forward.
Ride On Curlin (12-1)
Ride on Curlin (ROC) raced willingly in the Kentucky Derby, putting up a 76.3/60.3 (Final/4F) Pace Figure. Add those figures to his Final Pace Figure and 4F Pace Figure line (as seen below) and you have a runner whose Final Pace Figure continues to improve while his 4F Pace Figure decreases. This delineation of an increased dirt spread is a positive.
"ROC" did not disappoint us with his Preakness effort putting up an 80.9/69.4 (Final/4F) Pace Figure. While the final figure was a 4.6 point top, his 4F figure was 69.4, an indication that ROC has some ability to be closer to the pace. Further, looking back at his best three 4F figures, you'd find 82.1, 80.2 and 79.4 all which took place early in his career. As seen by his "basic view" graph below, his forward moving 4F figure from the Derby to the Preakness (60.3 - 69.4) represents a horse who is running a faster tempo and has potential to get back to an earlier (especially without Calvin Borel as the jockey immediately breaking to the rail) internal (4F) and Final Pace Figure.
The play: CONTENDER - A forward moving colt, who we expect to be closer to the lead than in the Preakness, has a controlled stalking style and positive line that could prove beneficial in this 12 furlong battle.
One of four "new shooters" to the Triple Crown fray, Matusak has won one start from eight tries earning $78K. And while his trainer - jockey combo of Bill Mott and Mike Smith is impressive, this late running colt has a monumental task ahead of him.
Turning to his Pace Figures, his lifetime best final figure is 73.1/64.3 three starts back, while most recently his final figures have been 65.5 and 64.1. Looking at the "basic view" graph as seen below, his lifetime Final Pace Figure average is just 68.1, the only runner of the Belmont field with a lifetime average in the 60's.
The play: TOO SLOW - actually, he is WAY TOO SLOW and by the looks of it, the owner wants to cross off a bucket list goal of running in the Belmont Stakes. Not competitive at this level.
His father, Noble Causeway passed away last Friday after a bout with laminitis. And whether Samraat knows it or not, this motivation combined with his status as the only New York bred runner in the race makes Samraat the true "David" against Goliath in the 2014 Belmont Stakes.
Here's what we had to say about Samraat heading into the Kentucky Derby:
Samraat's most recent Final Pace Figure of 78.6 in the Wood was just 0.3 higher than the previous top of 78.3 on 2/23. These Final Pace Figures are as close to a paired up top as you can get (back to back equal Final Pace Figures). The rise from a 71.4 in Samraat's first start to the 78.6 in the Wood shows a gradual increase in Final Pace Figures (which is a positive). As well, Samraat's two most recent Final Pace Figures average 78.5, second in the field behind Wildcat Red.
It is reasonable to expect this continued uneven distribution of energy as Samraat's 4f increases and Final Pace Figure is forced to decline as more energy is used early. Not playable.
This analysis of Samraat was spot on in the Derby. And while a 76.7/73.7 in the Derby is considered respectable, the decline in both the Final/4F Pace Figure from the Wood to the Derby looks like a colt on the decline.
The play: REGRESSOR - Check out his set of Final and 4F Pace Figure lines in the "basic view" graph. A set of regressing parallel lines shows a runner who's internal and final Pace Figures are on the decline.
One of two Todd Pletcher's starters (he had five last year), Commissioner, skipped the first two legs of the Triple Crown after a subpar performance in the Arkansas Derby. He retains the services of jockey Javier Castellano who has owned Belmont Park spring/summer meet, winning at a clip of 22% and in the money 54% of the time since the start of the 2012 season.
Turning to his Pace Figures in the graph below, there is a real inconsistency to the Final/4F figures in every race. Commissioner's erratic nature makes it hard to make a case at any level. His lifetime top of 77.3/68.4 three races back was against Chitu who faltered at 10 furlongs in the Derby. To imagine Commissioner can stretch out to 12 furlongs while running a lifetime best Final Pace Figure seems unmanageable.
The play: TOO SLOW - a slower horse going a longer distance is always a challenge.
Wicked Strong (6-1)
Here's what we had to say about Wicked Strong prior to the Kentucky Derby.
Wicked Strong's most recent Final Pace Figure was 80.3, the fastest Final Pace Figure of all Derby starters. Wicked Strong continued his big step forward over the last three races from 69.6 (final on 1/25/14) to 75.4 (2/22/14) to 80.3 in the Wood. This 10.7 point jump over the course of three races is significant and could likely indicate a horse nearing or on a top. You'll also notice an up and down set of 4f Pace Figures, which shows inconsistency during the early part of the race, not ideal when pitted against 19 rivals. The play: REGRESSOR - Expected to be a lukewarm second choice and favorite of other pros, but the value is not there to back him. He ran a Final Page figure of almost seven points better in his last race than ever before, which is likely unsustainable.
As expected, Wicked Strong did regress in the Derby to 76.7/68 (Final/4F) Pace Figure. He broke from the 19 post and essentially never had a shot while willingly making up lengths in the stretch though never challenging the top three finishers. One of four Derby runners who skipped the Preakness opting for the Belmont, "Strong" does have two starts at Belmont early in his career.
Notice the Pace Figures for his first two career starts at Belmont and the associated Form Cycle Patterns - NEG and DTOP. A Negative Spread (NEG) is a negative Form Cycle Pattern for first time starters while a DTOP (Double Top is defined as a runner who put up his best Final and 4f Pace Figure in the same race) is also considered negative.
The play: REGRESSOR - Should run a similar to slightly slower race to what we saw in the Kentucky Derby, which still probably would not hit the board in this field.
General A Rod (20-1)
Here's what we had to say about the General before the Preakness:
General A Rod ran a 75.6/65.3 (final/4f) Pace Figure in the Derby which was continued regression. Note that his two biggest final Pace Figures came in races of 8 furlongs (76.2/81.2) and at 8.5 furlongs (79.9/81.5) and were accompanied by high 4f Pace Figures; therefore it would not be surprising to see Javier keep him closer to the lead. The play: TOO SLOW - Both internal (4f) and Final Pace Figures are too slow to be competitive in this race.
The partners in General A Rod are a good example about what is right in racing. They made the call a week before the race, based off one workout that he will run in the Belmont. Given he has run in three Grade I races and a Grade II in his last four outing, only Chrome and Curlin have competed at the same level.
General A Rod's Preakness effort from a Pace Figure perspective wasn't all that bad. He moved forward 2.3 points in his final figure (75.6 - 77.9), while putting up his best 4F figure in recent races. He retains the riding services of Rose Napravnik, the top female rider looking to become the second women to win the Belmont.
The play: GASSED - A grueling campaign has left the General A Rod on the outside looking in every start; there is no reason to expect anything different.
A late developing three year old, Tonalist heads to the Belmont Stakes off a visually impressive performance in the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 10th (note the four weeks rest). He broke a half step slow, rushed to the lead, settled in the middle of the race and drew off down the stretch while the jockey spent more time looking back than forward. Trained by Christophe Clement, a grass specialist, Tonalist takes Clement back to the Belmont for his second lifetime appearance (ran 4th with Dynever in 2003). Jockey Joel Rosario takes a calculated risk and chooses to move on to ride Tonalist instead of Ride on Curlin.
Turning to his Pace Figures, Tonalist has a unique line as seen by his graph below. Not only does he have a Form Cycle Pattern in every start, but his Final and 4F Pace Figures have increased consistently as well. Coined a "NDAW" (never done anything wrong) horse by Predicteform.com founder Cary Fotias, his unique set of parallel lines show forward growth in every start while maintaining a dirt spread range (Final Pace Figure minus the 4F Pace Figure) of 4.8 - 6 - 8.7 - 6.2. This tight spread range decreasing down to a 4.8 in the Peter Pan shows a runner who is managing his energy efficiently.
Focusing a bit deeper on his last start, Tonalist ran a 77.5/72.7 which is a New Pace Top (the best 4F figure of a horse's career without a clear max final Pace Figure). He is the only runner in the Belmont Stakes coming off a Form Cycle Pattern and the New Pace Top (NPT) is the best indicator of future improved performance on dirt. While California Chrome had to work hard with a long Preakness stretch drive, Tonalist cruised under the wire in his last race, dialing down with clearly something left in the tank.
The play: CONTENDER - Off a NPT with a previous race over the Belmont surface, decent rest and a tactical running style, plus at least 5:1 odds, Tonalist makes for a very enticing play on top and could be California Chrome's top competition.