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Analyzing the Belmont Stakes Contenders

Date: 06/08/2022

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 grueling 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 13 horses have completed the task, including Justify 3 years ago. Last year was an aberration with the Belmont being run first of the three races due to covid restrictions and the distance being shortened to only 1 1/8 miles, but this year it is back to its normal distance and date.

Thanks to injuries, poor performance in preps, or just plain lack of ability at the distance, the Belmont often gets a short field of horses, even if the race is wide open with no Triple Crown on the line and no obvious standout. While traffic trouble, a major issue in the Kentucky Derby, shouldn't be as much of an issue here, once again 3-year-olds are being asked to do something they've never done and conditioning will be key. In addition Belmont Park's "Big Sandy" 1 1/2 mile oval will be unfamiliar to most horses so we favor those which have had a sharp past race over it. Note that although the Belmont oval is much larger than those at Churchill and Pimlico, given the placement of the winning post it has a shorter home stretch at just 1,097 feet. Major factors which separate the likely winners of the Belmont are weighed out in this analysis, as we did for the Derby and Preakness fields.

Like 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. Some novice horseplayers mistakenly believe a long race immediately favors closers when in fact the Belmont favors stalkers, so we prefer horses labeled "E/P" or "P" in BRIS past performances (by comparison "E" types are confirmed front-runners while "S" are deep closers). As well, the 4.00 Dosage Index angle is stronger in the Belmont than in the Derby where it's mostly used; here, we set the upper limit on Dosage at 3.00 and Center of Distribution at 0.75 to account for the longer distance. However as we noted at the Derby, the list of "Chefs" is no longer being updated annually so this approach to handicapping Triple Crown races will gradually lose relevance as the final group of sires drop back in the pedigree charts.

The Belmont favors horses who have zero points in the Solid and Professional wings of their dosage profiles, which is counterintuitive as you'd expect to see indicators of stamina for the demanding 12 furlong trip, but "double zero" horses get an extra point. As we have for the Preakness, horses that are tied in points will be listed in morning line odds order. It is worth noting that no horse scored the maximum possible point total; each has his share of knocks, as is explained below. You can view the past performances of these horses free here from BRISnet (look for Nest).

Where there is a tie in points we will list the horses in morning line odds order.

horse racing Nest tops this year's analysis as the lone filly in the race and is 8-1 on the morning line. She comes to Belmont off her second place finish in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) where he ran a new career best 101 BRIS figure. She has a BRIS "E/P 4" runstyle, generally pressing the pace. On Dosage she qualifies on all three factors; note that every entrant qualified on the "double zero". She has run twice at Belmont, winning her debut then finishing third in the Tempted Stakes. Her only negatives are coming off an over 5 week layoff (the limit is 4) and only running 3 times this year so far; we look for a narrow range of 4-6 starts. New jockey Jose Ortiz picks up the mount for trainer Todd Pletcher out of post 2, as regular rider and brother Irad rides stablemate Mo Donegal. Pletcher trained the last filly to win the Belmont, Rags to Riches in 2007.

The next two are tied in points and are listed in morning line order.

horse racing We the People is the 2-1 morning line favorite off his 10-length romp in the Peter Pan (G3), one of the two recommended preps for the Belmont (the other being the Derby). This gives him a sharp prep and stakes win over the Belmont track 4 weeks out with a new career BRIS top of 108, also exceeding par. That was his 4th start at 3, also within our range, and on dosage he qualifies on center of distribution, just meeting par at 0.75. On the downside his dosage index of 4.33 does not qualify, he is a need-the-lead type ("E 6"), and he did not race as a juvenile. Regular rider Flavien Prat rides again for trainer Rodolphe Brisset and breaks from the rail.

horse racing Golden Glider is a 20-1 longshot for trainer Mark Casse. He comes here off a second place finish in the Peter Pan, so, like We the People, gives him a sharp prep at Belmont 4 weeks out and also a new career top. He qualifies on all dosage factors, and has run 5 times this year. However he uses a "sustained" runstyle ("S 3"), his career best BRIS figure is a 97 in the Peter Pan, short of par, and he has never won a stakes. Dylan Davis retains the mount from post 7.

horse racing Rich Strike is the 7-2 third choice despite being the Kentucky Derby winner, and sits alone ranked 4th in our analysis. His shocking upset under the Twin Spires gave him a career best 102 figure, a sharp prep, and the required stakes win at 3, all at the same time, and also importantly, in his 4th start this year. Like most in the field he qualifies on dosage. On the negative side he is a dead closer (BRIS runstyle "S 0") in a race that prefers stalkers, he raced 4 times as a juvenile (we want 1-3 starts), is coming off a 5 week layoff, and has never raced at Big Sandy. Regular rider Sonny Leon gets the call again for trainer Eric Reed out of post 4.

The next two are tied in points and are listed in morning line order.

horse racing Mo Donegal is the 5-2 second choice out of post 6. He raced three times at 2 including two sharp races at Belmont, and won the Wood Memorial (G2) with a career (and field) best BRIS figure of 111. He also qualified on all dosage factors. However his 5th place finish in the Derby (regressing to a 98 figure; we prefer a new top last out) was not sharp nor is it within the 4 week layoff window, and was just his third start this year. Finally, he is confirmed closer ("S 1"). Irad Ortiz Jr. retains the mount for trainer Todd Pletcher.

horse racing Creative Minister is the 6-1 fourth choice from post 5. He is a confirmed presser ("P 1") according to BRIS, which is one of the two desired running styles. He finished third in the Preakness last out, giving him a sharp prep within the 3 week window, and ran a 101 figure, same as his previous start (an allowance win on the Derby undercard). He qualifies on dosage and ran 4 times this year, however he did not race as a juvenile. He has never won in stakes company, did not run a new best figure last out ("paired tops" can be a negative as he is more likely to regress), and this will be his first race at Belmont. Brian Hernandez Jr. will be in the irons for trainer Ken McPeek.

horse racing Skippylongstocking drew post 2 as a 20-1 longshot. He had too many starts (5) as a juvenile. He finished fifth in the Preakness, clearly not a sharp prep, and a race where he regressed to a 96 figure. He has never run at Belmont, has not won a stakes race, and is not coming from either preferred prep (Derby or Peter Pan. He did qualify on dosage (all 3 factors) and on runstyle as an "E/P 0" type, is coming off a 3 week layoff, ran a 107 BRIS figure when finishing third in the Wood Memorial, and has as 5 starts this season. New jockey Manny Franco picks up the ride for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.

horse racing Barber Road drew the far outside post at 10-1 morning line, and scored the fewest points in this year's analysis. He finished a disappointing 6th in the Derby, clearly not a sharp prep and beyond the 4 week window, and was short of par on speed, a career best 97 BRIS. He also ran too often as a 2-year-old with 4 starts, and still lacks a stakes win. His dosage index of 3.80 and center of distribution of 0.93 both fail to meet par (however he is a "double zero" like the rest of the field). He has never run at Belmont Park and he is a confirmed closer ("S 2"). He does have 5 starts this year and is coming from a preferred prep race. New jockey Joel Rosario picks up the ride for trainer John Ortiz.

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