When it comes to tradition, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) is willing to try new ones — the official Belmont Stakes song has bounced between “The Sidewalks of New York,” “New York, New York,” and Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” Hold out your souvenir glass for the official race cocktail and, depending on the year, you might get a Belmont Jewel (Woodford Reserve bourbon, lemonade, pomegranate juice) Belmont Breeze, (Harveys Bristol Cream, whiskey, etc.), or a White Carnation (vodka, Peach Schnapps, etc.), the latter two cocktails an underage drinker with momentary access to a liquor cabinet might whip up under duress of discovery. But never mind that; horses and riders entered to run in the last race of the Triple Crown know that this is the longest, toughest race with the stiffest competition in the field of 3-year-olds. This year, the Belmont Stakes is expected to draw a field near the capacity of 16 starters.
Who has the heart to go the distance? If you judge by pedigree, 13 of the past 18 Belmont Stakes winners descend from the Mr. Prospector sire line. Interestingly, of the probable Belmont starters only three – Unlimited Budget, Palace Malice, and Will Take Charge – come from the Mr. Prospector sire line. Other contenders do have Mr. Prospector prominent in their pedigrees, however, including Golden Soul, whose dam (mother), Hollywood Gold, is by the breed-shaping sire. Word has it that the Derby asked much of Golden Soul. For a time after the race, he reportedly didn’t show much interest in his food tub. However, as of late, he’s been resting and eating plenty, taking advantage of newfound leisure to get the recovery time needed to be a strong contender. Mr. Prospector also appears in the pedigrees of Derby winner Orb and Preakness winner Oxbow.
Those peering into Oxbow’s stall say he’s wide awake, energetic and ready. Trainer Shug McGaughey’s decision to enter Kentucky Derby winner Orb in the Belmont is pending. McGaughey’s word is golden, so if Orb is entered, don’t fear tossing your hat in his ring. Not all horses are on a rest schedule. Palace Malice has been thrilling those who gather to watching his morning workouts at Belmont. His gallops have been relaxed, easy, full of speed with plenty of punch left.
Who has the mind to go the distance? Familiarity with the track, a mile and a half in circumference, is essential. Some will prefer to go with riders at the top of the New York jockey colony who know how to prevent their horses from making an early move when they see that five-eighths pole, a pole which represents the 3 ½-furlong pole is at most other tracks. Revolutionary, ridden by Calvin Borel in the Kentucky Derby, will be ridden by New York rider Javier Castellano for the Belmont and his workouts present a rosy picture.
Whether your horse looks good in the stall or good on the track, something beyond wishful thinking, past-performance analysis, reformation hopes, and bloodstock evaluation is necessary to determine outcome, especially at the Belmont track: patience.
Keep your head in the middle and your feet on both sides. See you at post time.—Amanda Ferguson