2014 Belmont Stakes
The Triple Crown Heartbreak Hotel
The failures since 1978 are many but which Belmont Stakes loss hurt the most for racing fans?
Notable Races: G1-Kentucky Derby (2nd); G2-Louisiana Derby (3rd); G2-Risen Star (6th)
It's hard not to like the upward direction of this colt's form over his past three races. After breaking his maiden in his fourth attempt, Commanding Curve finished sixth in the Risen Star, third in the Louisiana Derby, and then a strong, late-running second to California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby. He has very little early speed to speak of but has a good late turn of foot and shouldn't have to contend with too much traffic in the Belmont.
Commanding Curve is going to take a lot of action at the windows based on that runner-up finish at Churchill Downs but it's hard not to like the direction of this colt's development over the past three months.
Truth be told, I've got a real Ice Box-Nehro feeling about Commanding Curve heading into the Belmont Stakes. Perhaps that's a bit unfair since these are completely different horses running in different years against different competition. But the Derby runner-up winning the Belmont is a pretty rare occurrence over the last thirty-plus years. Since 1980, only 4 horses have finished second in the Derby and come back to win the Belmont:
2003: Empire Maker
1998: Victory Gallop
1989: Easy Goer
1987: Bet Twice
Ice Box made a huge run from the back of the pack to finish second in the Derby, skipped the Preakness, got a ton of attention in the Belmont where the added distance appeared to be right up his alley, went off as the favorite and proceeded to finish a non-threatening eighth. Ice Box's runner-up finish in the Derby was the last time the colt would ever finish as high as second in a race; the rest of his career saw him compile a 9-0-0-1 record. Ouch.
Nehro made a late, hard-charging run in the Derby to finish second to Animal Kingdom, skipped the Preakness, got a lot of attention heading into the Belmont where he went to post as the second choice to the Derby winner, and then finished fourth, over seven lengths back of winner Ruler on Ice. Nehro won an allowance/OC event at Belmont in his next start but saw his post-Derby record finish at 7-1-1-0.
There's always this feeling that the big, late running place horse in the Derby is going to put it all together with the extra ground in the Belmont but, more often than not, that simply doesn't happen.
I'm treading lightly with Commanding Curve in the Belmont. I'll play him in the exotics but I'll be hesitant to look his way in the win pool unless his odds are very generous. Like 20/1 or greater generous. Due to his run in the Derby, we probably won't even get 10/1 on this colt which is enough to push me away from any win bets in his direction.