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Look at this sweet baby… the two-year-old son of Rags to Riches by Galileo, named Auguste Rodin.

Look at this sweet baby… the two-year-old son of Rags to Riches by Galileo, named Auguste Rodin.

I never rooted so hard for a horse to lose. In the 144th Belmont, Union Rags came hard and late to wear down the courageous lead held by Paynter, who missed the win by a head much to my joy and jubilation. It wasn’t too long after that when the world was rooting him on to win the battle for his life, and that time, he prevailed. Paynter is obviously a special horse and he is my current interest to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the fall should he climb back to his old form. Today he races again for the first time since wiring the Haskell (I), at Hollywood Park at 4:13 PST going 7 furlongs, also his first race over all-weather.

I never rooted so hard for a horse to lose. In the 144th Belmont, Union Rags came hard and late to wear down the courageous lead held by Paynter, who missed the win by a head much to my joy and jubilation. It wasn’t too long after that when the world was rooting him on to win the battle for his life, and that time, he prevailed. Paynter is obviously a special horse and he is my current interest to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the fall should he climb back to his old form. Today he races again for the first time since wiring the Haskell (I), at Hollywood Park at 4:13 PST going 7 furlongs, also his first race over all-weather.

See that red white and blue pole? I was right next to that on the fence for this. Waaaaa Palace Malice? I must be his lucky charm because the last time he won for fun (or at all) was when I was there for his Saratoga maiden win. I guess he and I are buddies now.

See that red white and blue pole? I was right next to that on the fence for this. Waaaaa Palace Malice? I must be his lucky charm because the last time he won for fun (or at all) was when I was there for his Saratoga maiden win. I guess he and I are buddies now.

Back to Belmont: A Recap of My 145th Belmont Experience

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Palace Malice! The latest one of my Saratoga ponies to do awesome things (Photo by Gary Hershorn)

It wasn’t my first trip to Belmont Park, and it certainly won’t be my last— possibly this year alone. Last year, I delighted in the triumph of Union Rags in the Belmont Stakes and made the pilgrimage from western Massachusetts over the Throgs Neck Bridge to New York’s Long Island for the third jewel of the Triple Crown. The race has a pulse different from the other races whether you watch it in person or on TV, and many who have been to all 3 races have told me it is special in its own way and a race they just have to make it to. Read on for my personal journey, insights, and handicapping triumphs and woes (mostly woes) from the big day I’ve been looking forward to since the start of the crown.

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Orb and Oxbow Meet Again for Belmont Stakes

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Here it is: the final jewel of the Triple Crown. By now you know these horses, and Todd Pletcher leads the fray with 5 entries. Will Derby winner Orb bounce back? Will Oxbow stick it out once more and live up to his classic pedigrees for another 2 furlongs? Will new guns like Midnight Taboo and Freedom Child make an impact? Anything can happen in this race, and often does. I will be at the race, so look out for me around the finish line (picture of me and what I’ll be wearing incoming).

Weather has been a big question, but I am handicapping for a good to fast main with most of the rainfall occurring Friday into Saturday morning. This is one of my longest analyses yet with 14 horses and a setup analysis along with picks, so do click to read on.

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Back to Belmont: Workout Video Comments

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Dullahan worked like a dream over the Belmont main last year before struggling with the surface in the race and ultimately being pegged as a poly horse.

If workouts were any indication of success in the Triple Crown races, you would have had the winner in the Derby instantly upon watching Orb and possibly Oxbow. Belmont is a bit trickier— after all Dullahan had a great work over the main track before getting lost in the shuffle during last year’s race— but watching the workouts themselves is often a big help coming into these big races. Unfortunately, I have not seen anything from Frac Daddy's camp.

  • Vyjack - 5 furlongs in :59 handily - Hard to really tell how good of a work this was, the videographer was incredibly shaky. He looked good going down the back, and was hand-urged a bit upon hitting the top of the stretch. Overall it looked pretty good.
  • Giant Finish - 4 furlongs in :49.94 breezing - Less shaky video. The horse finished up the breeze well but his strides look choppy.
  • Overanalyze -  4 furlongs in 48.01 breezing - Looked fresh and ready galloping into the breeze, starting off about 2 lengths behind his workmate Caixa Eletronica then slowly drew on even terms coming around the turn, going head-to-head down the stretch. Both horses’ riders kept the horses in a loose hold, and they hit the line together. Caixa’s exercise rider glanced down at his watch, so I’m guessing this was a specific workout in terms of time. Overanalyze appears fit, but the work was pretty ordinary.
  • Incognito - 4 furlongs in 48.25 breezing - The entire work was not recorded, showing only Incognito on the outside of his workmate coming around the turn about a length and a half behind. He has this kind of lurched forward way of running— not very beautiful— and appeared to finish on or just behind even terms. The workmate looked like he was under a stronger hold than Incognito. Not that impressive by my watch.
  • Golden Soul - 5 furlongs in 1:00.4 breezing at Churchill Downs - You get about 30 seconds of footage of Goldie running in the stretch so I kind of have to shrug at it. He was working alone and came into the stretch under a good hold and moved pretty nicely and galloped out well. Not sure what to make of the whole thing since it was too short a video and not at Belmont.
  • Oxbow - 6 furlongs in 1:14.60 breezing at Churchill Downs - Another short video, Oxbow looked content enough, his ears flicking back and forth to his rider, who had to egg him on at the conclusion of the breeze. Nothing special.
  • Will Take Charge - 6 furlongs in 1:15.80 breezing at Churchill Downs - Another shortie, WTC looked nice and big on the track and had these nice swooping strides without urging. He looked better to me than Oxbow despite having the slower time.
  • Orb - 4 furlongs in 48.3 breezing - The Derby winner looked eager to get going when his inside workmate Hymn Book inched ahead before starting the breeze. He was under a tight hold when curving around the corner, quickly getting on even terms with Hymn Book, who was on a looser hold. Hymn Book got a little more game once Orb reached his head, and kicked up a notch with the rider shaking the reins, Orb in a focused gallop coming down the stretch together. Orb hit the wire well in front of Hymn Book, and I would say it was a good testament that Orb is going to be fit and hard to beat going into the race.
  • Midnight Taboo - 5 furlongs in 1:00.88 - Knew very little about this horse going in so this is as unbiased as you can get. Tall, muscled chestnut colt, he was frothing a bit at the neck starting out but looked eager to get going as the workmate to his inside was let out a length ahead as Taboo was kept in a headlock. Even with the rider holding him back, Taboo bounced quickly to get on even terms and was a half-length ahead in no time. His workmate was let out on the turn and urged as Taboo was let out and managed to keep stride and finished up in front by a head.
  • Revolutionary - 4 furlongs in 48.51- A bit frothy around the neck and back legs at the start of the breeze, Rev was allowed to catch up to a workmate up ahead who was under a strong hold going around the turn. They ran on even terms with Rev on the outside just a neck behind until they began cornering into the stretch where Rev caught up to and matched strides with the workmate all the way down. He looked pretty good and galloped out best.
  • Freedom Child - 5 furlongs in :59.87 - This colt looked like he was galloping “spring-loaded” off his back end if I were asked how to describe the way he moves. He was raring to go and looked super muscled bouncing into action, his rider holding him back and not letting him stride out until he hit the stretch and that’s where the magic happened. Still under a stiff hold, he stretched his legs a bit but I don’t believe he was allowed to show more than a glimmer.
  • Unlimited Budget - 4 furlongs in :47.55 breezing (bullet)- Another Pletcher with another Pletcher workout, Budgie worked in tandem with a workmate to her inside, looking ears-forward alert and healthy springing into action. She tossed her head a bit before settling into the breeze, going stride-for-stride in no time with her workmate who was let out a few steps earlier. The workmate was kept in hand, Budgie a little looser, but she really kicked into gear rounding into the stretch as her workmate was encouraged to keep up but was never better than on even terms with the filly, who was not pushed. Very good-looking effort.
  • Palace Malice - 4 furlongs in :47.56 breezing - Another partial video that did not show the whole work, but assuming Pletcher gave out the generic game plan, I can make some safe bets as to how things started off. P.M. raced to the inside of his workmate and looked okay. If I had to be honest, I would say his workmate was a touch smoother and galloped out better.

Personal Top 3 Favorite Works

1) Freedom Child - Great-looking horse, healthy, very well-muscled, and acts like a good, fresh horse should. We haven’t seen his best and his workout showed he could be sitting on a big one. I’m a big believer in Albertrani’s ability to get a good distance horse ready.

2) Orb - Looked playful and strong in the work, although I will admit it didn’t wow me as much as his Derby and Preakness works. He looks good, and in this dull three-year-old crop, he might not have much to worry about.

3) Unlimited Budget - Kind of surprised me since I currently am not paying the lone filly much mind in general. She looked very focused on the task at hand and showed off her competitive side as well as her fitness in managing to keep her partner at bay.

One of the prettiest ponies in the Triple Crown: Golden Soul

One of the prettiest ponies in the Triple Crown: Golden Soul

Back to Belmont: Unlimited Budget

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In 2007, I laid eyes on what was probably the most exciting moment I’ve ever had watching a horse race from the TV. Rags to Riches, the lone filly in the Belmont Stakes (I), fell to her knees at the start before comparing shoulders with Curlin. Back and forth they went in the stretch, until the chromey lass prevailed over one of the indisputably best modern racehorses. It was the first time in over a hundred years a filly won the huge race, and now this year, we have one of Curlin’s first boys and a daughter of his arch-rival Street Sense competing in the third jewel of the Triple Crown.

Unlimited Budget has proven to be a pretty consistent runner, racing under the blue-and-orange colors of Repole and under the guidance of Todd Pletcher, who also trained Rags to Riches. “Budgie” looked like a good value bet heading into a loaded Kentucky Oaks (I) field, and despite being jostled at the start, pulled ahead in the stretch to finish a strong third. The pace in the Oaks was rapid thanks to Beholder, who held up well under stress to remain 2nd, but she set up for the closing Princess of Sylmar who won. A three-time graded winner, it was Unlimited Budget’s first defeat. It was honestly not a bad race overall, but not one telling of how far she’s willing to go.

For the Belmont, Budgie has a couple questions to answer:

  • Can she go from winning at 9 furlongs to 12?
  • Can she overcome her pedigree? I still regard Street Sense pretty highly as a sire (though he is only proving himself late), but Valid Appeal is the damsire without much else worth mentioning. Valid Appeal was a decent middle-distance goer, but hasn’t thrown a lot in the way of classic ability.

In other tidbits, top rider Rosie Napravnik is slated to ride and the filly looks fit, breezing a bullet 4 panels in :47 1/2 that looked smooth to onlookers.

OVER-HATER. EVERYONE'S PRECIOUS UNION RAGS WON THE BELMONT AND HAD THE SAME SIRE. NO REASON OVERANALYZE WILL NOT DO THE SAME.

Asked by thoughtsonracinglifeandmore

I felt Union Rags would win the Belmont because he looks the part, not so much because of his pedigree. Overanalyze just doesn’t seem like that good of a horse, and seeing as speed figures just about proved nothing the past several months, I don’t see how anyone could favor him over everyone else. For some odd reason, everyone seems to be paying more attention (than they should) to Overanalyze and Palace Malice… not that I mind. I don’t like either and it improves the odds on the horses I do like.

Golden Soul is currently my favorite to win for similar reasons.

Now that I’ve read other people’s garble about the Belmont

I will say this:

Overanalyze is to the Belmont as Goldencents was to the Derby.

*closes book*

And nobody get me started on Palace Malice!

The best Thoroughbred horse racing blog on Tumblr! Updated daily with handicapping analysis, photos, editorials, and things gathered 'round the web.

Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.


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