Freedom Child romped in the slop in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont. (Photo courtesy of NYRA)
By Ellis Starr – National Racing Analyst for Equibase
The 145th running of the $1 million Belmont Stakes features the rubber match between Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow, each having beaten the other when victorious in the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
In the Belmont, Orb attempts to rebound off a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Preakness similar to the rebound Oxbow put forth when leading from start to finish following a sixth-place showing in the Derby. However, there are 12 others signed on to win the $600,000 winner’s share and etch their names alongside many notable horses in racing history. Perhaps foremost among the new shooters is Freedom Child, who is attempting to pull off the Peter Pan Stakes – Belmont Stakes double for the first time since A.P. Indy accomplished the feat in 1992. In addition, a number of horses that finished well behind Orb in the Derby have been rested and will attempt to reverse their fortunes, those being Giant Finish (10th), Overanalyze (11th), Palace Malice (12th), Frac Daddy (16th) and Vyjack (18th). Then there are Golden Soul and Revolutionary, who finished second and third in the Derby, respectively, and who could provide a lot of competition to the featured pair as fresh horses. The filly Unlimited Budget, who finished third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks in her most recent race, is one of three Belmont entrants owned by Mike Repole and one of five trained by Todd Pletcher. Will Take Charge finished eighth in the Derby before a seventh-place finish in the Preakness and he won the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes in March. He would need a complete form reversal to be competitive. Incognito showed a lot of promise when winning in April but followed that up with a fifth-place finish in the Peter Pan. Midnight Taboo rounds out the field as he tries stakes competition for the first time off a runner-up effort in a first-level allowance race.
Freedom Child earned a career-best and field-high 112 Equibase Speed Figure in his most recent race when leading from start to finish at Belmont in the Peter Pan Stakes last month. As such, Freedom Child will be attempting to be the first horse since A.P. Indy in 1992 to pull off the Peter Pan – Belmont Stakes double. Just prior to the Peter Pan, Freedom Child missed his opportunity to score enough points to enter the starting gate in the Derby when he was declared a non-starter in the Wood Memorial Stakes after being held for a moment by the assistant starter when the gates opened. Considering that before the Peter Pan, Freedom Child led from start to finish to win easily by five lengths and that he won the Peter Pan by 13 lengths on a sloppy track – very likely to be the case in the Belmont - Freedom Child could slip away to an easy lead from the start and get brave once again to post the upset win.
Orb is another expected to have no problems if the Belmont main track comes up sloppy as he proved water on the track was no obstacle when winning the Derby in visually impressive fashion. After winning the Derby with a career-best 105 Equibase Speed Figure, Orb seemed uncomfortable in the Preakness on the inside of other horses in the early stages of the race and actually lost ground midrace before regaining his focus and closing for fourth. In addition, Preakness winner Oxbow was allowed an easy lead while setting much slower than average fractions that made it difficult for any horse to make up ground. Although it may be that Freedom Child gets an easy lead in the Belmont, like Oxbow did in the Preakness, if Orb can sit back in fourth or fifth position in the early stages as he did before he rallied to win the Florida Derby, Orb can rebound and become the 12th horse in history to win the Derby and Belmont.
ORB WINNING DERBY ON SLOPPY TRACK
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Revolutionary was one of the few horses making up ground in the last eighth of a mile in the Derby, rallying from 18th in the early stages to end up third. Prior to the Derby, Revolutionary won the Louisiana Derby with a career-best 111 Equibase Speed Figure that stacks up very well against the 112 Freedom Child earned winning the Peter Pan. In the Belmont, Revolutionary will be reunited with jockey Javier Castellano, who rode him to victory in the Louisiana Derby and Withers Stakes prior to that. With his patented late kick, Revolutionary could be motoring past most, if not all, of the field in the Belmont and would be no surprise getting the victory.
REVOLUTIONARY WINNING LOUISIANA DERBY
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Golden Soul was another of just a few to be finishing well and passing horses in the Derby, ending up second at high odds. Jockey Robby Albarado rode Golden Soul for the first time in the Derby and had him in perfect position to rally from 15th, his finish fastest of all but winner Orb. Having earned a 102 Equibase Speed Figure in the Derby following a 104 figure when fourth behind Revolutionary in the Louisiana Derby, Golden Soul has proven he belongs in this top echelon of 3-year-olds and should be in the thick of the action in the late stages once again.
Preakness winner Oxbow isn’t to be taken lightly in the Belmont, particularly as he tied his career-best figure of 110 while winning that race. On the other hand, all three of his career wins have come when leading from start to finish and in two of those wins he was allowed to control a leisurely pace, something unlikely to occur in the Belmont with Freedom Child having drawn an inside post and expected to get the rail and the lead from the start. Incognito and Palace Malice are two others that can’t be discounted when considering exotic wagers in the Belmont, such as the trifecta and superfecta. Incognito earned a 107 figure when winning in April and one race before a fifth-place finish in the Peter Pan. Palace Malice ran well enough for a 103 figure when third in the Risen Star, finishing second by a neck in the Blue Grass Stakes two races later.
The rest of the Belmont Stakes Field (with their best representative Equibase Speed Figures): Frac Daddy (95), Giant Finish (97), Midnight Taboo (96), Overanalyze (101), Unlimited Budget (102), Vyjack (104) and Will Take Charge (110).
$1 million Belmont Stakes
Saturday, Belmont Park, Race 11, 6:36 p.m. ET
1 1/2 miles, 3-year-olds
TV: NBC 5–7 p.m. ET
|1||Frac Daddy||Kenny McPeek||Alan Garcia||30-1|
|2||Freedom Child||Tom Albertrani||Luis Seaz||8-1|
|3||Overanalyze||Todd Pletcher||John Velazquez||12-1|
|4||Giant Finish||Tony Dutrow||Edgar Prado||30-1|
|5||Orb||Shug McGaughey||Joel Rosario||3-1|
|6||Incognito||Kiaran McLaughlin||Irad Ortiz Jr.||20-1|
|7||Oxbow||D. Wayne Lukas||Gary Stevens||5-1|
|8||Midnight Taboo||Todd Pletcher||Garrett Gomez||30-1|
|9||Revolutionary||Todd Pletcher||Javier Castellano||9-2|
|10||Will Take Charge||D. Wayne Lukas||Jon Court||20-1|
|11||Vyjack||Rudy Rodriguez||Julien Leparoux||20-1|
|12||Palace Malice||Todd Pletcher||Mike Smith||15-1|
|13||Unlimited Budget||Todd Pletcher||Rosie Napravnik||8-1|
|14||Golden Soul||Dallas Stewart||Robby Albarado||10-1|