The Belmont Stakes tends to find itself at the kid’s table when there isn’t a Triple Crown at stake. Enthusiasm is muted, mystique is tempered, and the race lacks the widespread appeal to those outside of New York or hardcore horse players.
But at 1½ miles, the longest race in the Triple Crown series, the Belmont is generally a competitive race with interesting storylines. Among these, no horse has ever run so far in a Saturday race. .
But perhaps distance is being overestimated as a factor. Experienced race trackers would tell you to just watch the race as if it were only 1 1/8 miles.
“The misconception is that deep closers do better because the horses mature in the front tire,” Hall of Famer jockey Jerry Bailey told The Times in 2018 before Justify won the Triple Crown. “But in the Belmont they don’t go as fast early on, so they don’t slow down. The early pace is more deliberate and the lead horse can hold on and win because he’s not slowing down.”
It will not be known until Saturday’s race begins at 3:49 p.m. PT if that will be the case this year. This eight-horse field certainly has its share of race-winning horses.
- There is one filly, Nest, who is hoping to become the fourth female winner. The last was Rags to Riches in 2007 for trainer Todd Pletcher, Nest’s trainer.
- The favorite is We the People, who hasn’t run at any of the previous Triple Crown races but won the Peter Pan by 10¼ lengths four weeks ago at the same track in Belmont. If he wins, he’ll likely lead the entire race. It is partially owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay.
- And there’s Mo Donegal, who has won his last three races in New York, including the Wood Memorial. He finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby.
The morning line maker has established We the People as 2-1 favorites, followed by Mo Donegal (5-2), Rich Strike (7-2), Creative Minister (6-1), Nest (8-1). Barber Road (10-1), Skippylongstocking (20-1) and Golden Golder (20-1).
Although We the People are the early favourites, it would not surprise anyone to see Mo Donegal go down as a favourite. If he wins, he will be the first horse in almost two decades to win both the Wood and the Belmont. It was last made by Empire Maker in 2003.
“He’s a horse that showed us from the start that he wants to go longer,” said trainer Pletcher. “We sprinted him on his first start and he finished third. And he came back and won over 1 1/16 miles. He stretched out in the brakes and drove a very credible race in the Derby [where he finished fifth].
“It still closed in the end. … What I liked is that he kept running to the wire and kept finding a little bit more. He just couldn’t get there in time.”
Pletcher had eyed the Belmont for his stablemate Nest since earlier this year. Her last race was a second at the Kentucky Oaks after winning her previous three races.
“The Triple Crown nominations end in January and we didn’t exactly nominate them with the Derby in mind,” Pletcher said. “We nominated her with the Belmont as a possibility. She is a filly bred really well for this race.”
We the People will be the ninth horse to complete the Peter Pan-Belmont double if he wins on Saturday. It will be the first Belmont Stakes start for coach Rodolphe Brisset.
“The way he acted is what you want to see,” Brisset told the New York Racing Assn communications team. “The way he’s really changed is really good. If you let him suck and he sucks that well, it’s all a good sign.”
When asked how he would feel about winning the Belmont, Brisset said, “I personally couldn’t speak for the next 20 minutes after that.”
For all the 3 year old talent at the Belmont, it will be Rich Strike who will draw the most attention from those who only follow racing a few days a year.
A win in two of the three stages of the Triple Crown will keep him in the national spotlight. An average performance would quickly make him yesterday’s buzzword.
It’s certainly not for lack of effort that coach Eric Reed points to the former rather than the latter. Since the horse arrived in Belmont, Frank Sinatra’s version of “New York, New York” has been played in the barn most mornings so he’ll be familiar with it when he hears the song before the post parade.
Reed has been very careful to maintain the same routine for his derby winner up to the daily 11am nap.
“The other day he lay down with his head on a pillow [made of straw and shavings] against the wall,” Reed said. “You can’t invent this stuff.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2022-06-10/belmont-stakes-we-the-people-rich-strike-race-odds 2022 Belmont Stakes shaping up as a very competitive race