The 2014 Belmont Stakes field charges out of the starting gate and approaches the first turn at Belmont Park. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)
It will be another 11 months before the next Triple Crown chase rolls around, but there were several lessons offered in the last five weeks that could pay dividends at a highly opportune time next spring.
The Belmont Stakes, in particular, has become a creature of habit and there are some dos and don’ts that should be stored away until the next time a group of 3-year-olds take on the challenge of the "Test of the Champion".
For example, DO look for a horse with a race at Belmont Park: The victorious Tonalist came into the Belmont off a victory on the track in the Peter Pan Stakes. Thanks to him, four of the last five Belmont winners had a previous race on the Belmont main track as have 11 of the last 17 victors.
DON’T look for a horse coming out of the Preakness Stakes: The last Preakness runner to win the Belmont was Afleet Alex in 2005. Beyond that, they are 2-for-15 dating back to 2000. That doesn’t bode well for the prospects of a Triple Crown winner in 2015, but with an 0-for-36 record things seem pretty shaky on that front anyway.
2014 BELMONT STAKES
DO look for a horse coming out of the Peter Pan: Tonalist was the first Peter Pan winner to take the Belmont since A.P. Indy in 1992, ending a 22-year drought. But in 2010, when the Dwyer took the place of the Peter Pan on Belmont Park’s stakes schedule for a year, Fly Down and Drosselmeyer ran 1-2. A month later, Drosselmeyer and Fly Down ran 1-2 in the Belmont. With results like that in the last five years, Belmont’s steppingstone prep – regardless of what it’s called in 2015 – deserves special attention.
DON’T look for a California-based horse: The last horse to win both the Santa Anita Derby and the Belmont Stakes was Point Given in 2001. Since 1979, winners of California’s definitive prep are 2-for-36, making them only slightly better than Triple Crown bids in the same period.
DO look for a horse with at least four weeks of rest: Tonalist was the eighth horse in nine years to win the Belmont with at least four weeks of rest. Six of them had five weeks rest, which clearly helped Medal Count this year as he finished third in the Belmont at 24-1 odds after finishing eighth in the Derby.
So there you have it. Do commit them to memory and then store them away for a while.
There will be a test on them a year from now.