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Justify Triple Crown Gear

Analyzing the 2005 Belmont Contenders

Date: 06/05/2005

The Belmont Stakes is the oldest of the Triple Crown races, and at 1 1/2 miles on the dirt, is a dinosaur with so few main track events carded at twelve furlongs these days. With the short five week span for three gruelling races under scale weight of 126 pounds over three very different tracks and three different distances, it takes a very special horse sweep the series. So much so that only eleven horses have completed the task, and the last one, Affirmed, was back in 1978.

Unlike the last 3 years, this year we do not have a potential Triple Crown winner. However, we do have a rematch between Giacomo, winner of the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness, and Afleet Alex, winner of the Preakness and third in the Kentucky Derby. Most of their foes from those two races have dropped out and a few new horses have joined in for this final leg of the Triple Crown. Will the Belmont Stakes crown one of these two as the top 3-year-old for 2005 or will someone else win and muddy the picture even further?

As we did for the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, we have compiled some of the more profitable angles used to select a Belmont Stakes winner in recent years, and applied them to the possible entrants. The Belmont winner should have raced in one or both of the first two Triple Crown events, had 4 to 6 races at two and 3 to 6 races at three, a stakes win at three, a sharp last race which is defined as an in-the-money finish or failing that, within four lengths of the winner. As well, Belmont winners come off layoffs of no longer than three weeks (Empire Maker and Birdstone bucked that trend last two years), have a win at 1 1/8 miles or longer, have run a Beyer of 106 or better, and stalk the pace. Some novice horseplayers mistakenly believe a long race immediately favors closers when in fact the Belmont favors stalkers. This year there is plenty of early speed to insure a good pace for the stalkers and closers to run at.

Below are the contenders we analyzed in order of preference. The contenders selected are the ones who are confirmed or likely to enter as of today. Always remember that this profile is for the winning position only and any horse can still finish in the money. You can view the past performances of these horses free at DRF.

Afleet Alex winning the Preakness

Giacomo winning the Kentucky Derby

Andromeda's Hero at the Kentucky Derby

Pinpoint winning the Sir Barton Stakes

Afleet Alex: It is not a surprise that the Preakness winner and Derby third place finisher ranks highest on our analysis. More importantly, he scored points on every angle listed. He raced in both the Derby and Preakness and he meets the requirements for number of starts at 2 and 3. He has the necessary stakes win at 3 (three of them), had a sharp prep race (winning the Preakness), in which he satisfied the Beyer par requirement of 106 with his towering 114 effort, and the required layoff of 3 weeks or less. Finally, he has the required wins at nine furlongs or more, and generally races with a stalking style.

Giacomo: The longshot Derby winner who silenced many of his critics by a third place finish in the Preakness, was second best on this list. From those two performances he nailed down several angles including stakes win at 3, win at 1 1/8 miles or more, sharp last race, and layoff of 3 weeks or less. However, he has not met the Beyer par (his career best was his 100 in the Derby) and his rallying style is not preferred in the Belmont, despite popular belief that the 1 1/2 miles favors it.

Watchmon: On paper this latecomer to the Triple Crown battles appears overmatched, but using this angle analysis he actually was third best. He scored on five of the requirements, having enough starts at 3, a sharp last race (a second place finish in an allowance), layoff requirement, running style, and a win at 9 furlongs or greater. In fact, he broke his maiden at Gulfstream at 1 7/16 miles, just a sixteenth shorter than the Belmont distance. On the negative side, he was underraced at 2, did not start in either the Derby or Preakness, lacks a stakes win, and has not met the Beyer par. In fact, in this field he has the slowest top Beyer, an 84.

The following four horses tied for fourth place in this analysis:

Andromeda's Hero: Nick Zito kept this horse from the Preakness and saved him for the Belmont, hoping for a repeat of last year when Birdstone turned the trick. He has the required Derby or Preakness start, enough races at three, and a stakes win at 3 (the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay). He also uses a stalking style preferred here. However, he was underraced at two, did not have a sharp prep finishing 8th at Churchill Downs, lacks a 9 furlong win, and has no triple digit Beyers to his credit.

Pinpoint: The second of three Nick Zito entrants in the Belmont comes in off a win in the Sir Barton, the race Sarava used in 2002. Pinpoint has enough races at 3 with a stakes win, the sharp prep requirement, and the required layoff. On the negative side, he was underraced at 2, did not start in any other Triple Crown event, lacks a 9 furlong win, and has a top Beyer of just 87. His front-running style is also a negative in the 1 1/2 mile Belmont.

Southern Africa: This latecomer to the Triple Crown wars comes to Belmont off a win in the Lone Star Derby in Texas. He has enough races at 2 and 3, a stakes win at 3, and a sharp prep. However, he did not start in either the Derby or Preakness, has too long a layoff, has no wins at 1 1/8 miles, has not broken the century mark in the Beyers, and runs on the front end. He is likely to be caught in a speed duel with Pinpoint, A.P. Arrow, and Reverberate.

Reverberate: The runner-up in the Peter Pan Stakes will be going 1 1/2 miles on two weeks rest. The Sal Russo trainee has enough races at 3, a sharp prep, a correct layoff, and just meets the Beyer par with his 106 in that Peter Pan effort. On the negative side of the ledger he runs on the front end, has not won at 9 furlongs, has no stakes wins, was underraced at 2, and did not race in the other Triple Crown events.

The following two horses tied for eighth place:

A.P. Arrow: The lone D. Wayne Lukas entrant looks overmatched here, and is the most lightly raced in the field, going in the Belmont in just his 4th career start. He does have a win at over 9 furlongs, a maiden win at 1 1/4 miles at Churchill, which gives him a sharp prep race. His three career starts, all at 3, barely meet the requirement for number of races at 3. However, he had no races as a juvenile, has not run fast enough on the Beyer scale, has had too long a layoff, lacks a stakes win, and did not race in the Derby or Preakness.

Indy Storm: The third Nick Zito entrant ranks below his stablemates in this anaylsis. He comes into the Belmont off an allowance win which earns him a sharp prep within the correct layoff range. He also has enough wins at three. However, he likes to rally from off the pace, has not run faster than a Beyer of 89, has no wins at 1 1/8 or longer, has no stakes wins, was underraced at 2, and was not in the Derby or Preakness.

The following two horses tied for tenth place:

Chekhov: This Patrick Biancone trainee has just 1 career win and goes into the Belmont off a poor 4th beaten 12 lengths in the Peter Pan. He failed on all angles but two, having enough races at three and the correct layoff. He clearly does not belong in the Belmont under this analysis.

Nolan's Cat: Owner Ken Ramsay has sire Catienus in mind by entering this no-hoper, a maiden in 5 career starts, going to the Belmont off a close second in a maiden race at Churchill, the same race A.P. Arrow is using as a prep. He has enough races at 3 and comes off a sharp race, but fails on all other angles. His fastest Beyer is an 88.

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