Photo courtesy NYRA
By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing
ELMONT, N.Y. – Shug McGaughey, trainer of Orb, felt certain the Belmont Stakes would draw a crowd the minute his Kentucky Derby champion took fourth to longshot Oxbow in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
“I knew when we got beat they would be coming out of the woodwork,” he said as an unusually large field took shape. “This is not a surprise.”
Fourteen starters – most since 1996 and the second-highest total in the 145-year history of the 1 ½-mile Belmont – were stuffed into the entry box when post positions were drawn on Wednesday morning at Belmont Park.
Kiaran McLaughlin, who will saddle 20-1 longshot Incognito, does not believe the large turnout reflects any disrespect for Orb, the 3-1 favorite from post five, or Oxbow, listed at 5-1 after he drew post seven.
“We all have a lot of respect for the Derby winner and the Preakness winner,” McLaughlin said. “But this is a different race. They are going a mile and a half, and that is the reason we’re in it. We feel we want the distance and a lot of horses don’t want to go the mile and a half. We hope we’re correct.”
As many as 15 entrants, which would have tied the record set in 1983, were expected as late as Tuesday. But trainer Dominick Schettino informed the racing office that Always in a Tiz, who did not figure to contend in the Belmont, would instead compete in the $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes as part of the undercard.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who saddled a record-tying five horses in the Kentucky Derby, was not represented in the Preakness. But he will again have a formidable quintet for the Belmont and believes he will have freshness as a formidable ally. He said of the Derby and Preakness winners, “Maybe by them having their third race in five weeks, that’s in our favor.”
Pletcher will be kept very busy by Midnight Taboo (post 8, 30-1), Overanalyze (post 3, 12-1), Palace Malice (post 12, 15-1), Revolutionary (post 9, 9-2), and Unlimited Budget (post 13, 8-1), who will attempt to become only the fourth filly to win the “Test of the Champion.”
Rags to Riches, a Pletcher filly, won the Belmont for him in 2007 when she wore down Curlin in a pulsating stretch duel. Midnight Taboo, Overanalyze and Unlimited Budget, a winner of all four of her career starts before she finished third in the Kentucky Oaks, are owned by Mike Repole, a native of Queens, N.Y.
McGaughey was most uncomfortable when Orb drew the rail for the Preakness; his worst fears were realized when the colt got pinned inside. He believes the fifth position will suit the son of Malibu Moon and his rider, Joel Rosario, far better.
“I’m a lot more satisfied than I was at Pimlico,” he said.
D. Wayne Lukas does not expect post seven to have any effect on Oxbow or Gary Stevens, his seemingly ageless 50-year-old jockey. “At a mile and a half with those sweeping turns, I think we have a tendency to overanalyze the draw for this race,” he said.
The draw appeared to harm the chances of Derby runner-up Golden Soul, who must start from far outside in 14. “He’s met a lot of challenges and I think he will be up to it Saturday, even with the tough post,” trainer Dallas Stewart said.
Freedom Child, who rolled gate to wire to rule the Peter Pan by 13 ½ lengths, looms as the likely pacesetter from post two. He may benefit from a sloppy track as he did in the Peter Pan.
“I’ve been watching the forecast since a few days ago and it keeps getting better and better,” trainer Tom Albertrani said of the rain being predicted.
$1 million Belmont Stakes
3-year-olds, 1 1/2 miles
|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|