This Saturday’s Belmont Stakes in New York lacks a Triple Crown attempt but it does include the next best thing: a rematch between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winners. Along with the stars of the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the fourteen Belmont starters, the biggest field since 1996, includes a filly as well as the second and third place finishers from the Derby. This year’s Belmont Stakes field is as intriguing as we have had this century.
Kentucky Derby winner, Orb, and Preakness winner, Oxbow, will mark the ninth time since 1984 that the winners of the first two legs of the Triple Crown will square off in the Belmont. In 1984, Swale, the Derby winner, beat Preakness winner Gate Dancer in the Belmont. Since then no Derby winner has beaten their Preakness rival in the Belmont while five Preakness winners have beaten the Derby winner, the last coming in 2005.
Orb is the likely post time favorite in the 2013 Belmont. Orb had a bad day in the Preakness but all indications point to a bounce back performance on Saturday. While Orb ran a forgettable race in Baltimore, Oxbow ran the race of his life in winning the Preakness. Overall, Oxbow’s career has been inconsistent, he has never won two races in a row during his eleven lifetime starts. Can he string together two career best races in three weeks? History tells us that Preakness winners have the edge in rubber matches against the Derby winner in the Belmont. However, based on the 3-year-old form of the two colts, Orb is the likelier candidate to capture two of the three Triple Crown races in 2013.
Only one out of the last nine Belmont winners raced in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Since 2004, when Birdstone shocked the racing world by beating Smarty Jones, four Belmont winners raced in the Derby but skipped the Preakness including last year’s winner Union Rags. Another four winners since 2004, didn’t race in either the Derby or the Preakness. With that trend in mind, here’s a look at the main contenders that fit the profile of recent Belmont winners lining up against Orb and Oxbow:
Revolutionary was second choice among the bettors when they opened the gate for the Kentucky Derby. He raced near the back of the pack for much of the race and closed well into a fast pace to finish third, three-and-a-half lengths behind Orb. He has been one of the most consistent performers among the 3-year-olds in 2013 and is a major threat in this year’s Belmont. He retains the services of jockey Javier Castellano who rode him to two graded stakes wins early this year. He will be a popular pick among the bettors and is the likely second choice behind Orb.
Palice Malice is a colt that ran well in three stakes races leading up to the Kentucky Derby. He surprised everyone, including his jockey Mike Smith, when he bolted to the front at the start of the Derby and set a blistering pace for the first three-quarters of a mile before tiring and finishing a distant twelfth. If he can relax and run off the pace, as he did in most of his prior races, he stands a legitimate chance in this year’s Belmont Stakes. He could go off at odds exceeding 15 to 1, a solid price considering his performances in graded stakes before his bizarre race in Kentucky.
Overanalyze, along with Orb and Oxbow, is one of three Grade 1 winners in the field. He won the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby before running eleventh in the Kentucky Derby. He has won four of eight career starts, three of those wins came in graded stakes, including one at Belmont Park last year. In early 2013, he was among the most highly regarded 3-year olds in this class. His sire, Dixie Union, also sired last year’s Belmont winner, Union Rags. Considering his solid career resume, he could be a strong play at odds around 12 to 1.
Golden Soul ran brilliantly to finish second in the Kentucky Derby at odds of 35 to 1. After wide trips in three graded stakes races early this year, he had a perfect ground saving trip and ran the race of his life in the Derby For a runner exiting a second place finish in America’s toughest race, he could be a square price for those who believe he can duplicate his run from Churchill Downs.
Freedom Child won the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on May 11. His win came in front running style over a sloppy track against a questionable field but he did win by a convincing thirteen lengths and earned a solid speed figure. The Peter Pan has produced a few Belmont winners over the years including Lemon Drop Kid in 1999 and Drosselmeyer in 2010. Among the runners who did not race in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes, he will receive the most money from bettors and will likely be less than 10 to 1 come post time.
Unlimited Budget is the first filly to enter the Belmont since Rags to Riches won it in 2007. Only three fillies have won the Belmont since its first running in 1867. Fillies far more accomplished than Unlimited Budget have tried and failed in the Belmont including Kentucky Derby winners Genuine Risk (1980) and Winning Colors (1988). With fan-favorite jockey Rosie Napravnik aboard, the lone filly in the field will be well backed by the bettors but appears a long shot to make history. The field is rounded out by Will Take Charge, Giant Finish, Incognito, Vyjack, Midnight Taboo, and Frac Daddy. All deserving long shots that would join the list of recent inexplicable winners should they pull off a win.