FOX Sports Analyst Jonathon Kinchen Chats the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga, Analyzes the Field

Jonathon Kinchen Belmont Stakes FOX Sports analyst horseplayer handicapper Sierra Leone Mystik Dan Saratoga Chad Brown Mindframe Resilience Honor Marie Florent Geroux Seize the Grey MyRacehorse Triple Crown Kentucky Derby Preakness TV (Race Track Industry Program/Eclipse Sportswire )

FOX Sports will be the primary place to turn for television coverage of the four-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, which begins Thursday and will have the 156th Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets as its centerpiece Saturday.

The network will offer an “America’s Day at the Races” show each day of the Festival at historic Saratoga Race Course either on FS1 or FS2. The world-class racing will feature 24 stakes races totaling $10.25 million in purses.

On Saturday, coverage begins on FS1 and will stretch from 10:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. ET. Then, a national broadcast on FOX runs from 4-7 p.m. while FS1 continues its show with coverage geared toward the experienced horseplayer. Post time for the Belmont, which will be run at a mile and a quarter instead of the traditional mile and a half due to Saratoga’s configuration, is set for 6:41 p.m. Fans eager for still more after the national FOX show ends can tune to FS2 from 7-8:10 p.m.

Jonathon Kinchen will be among FOX’s expert analysts. He shared his thoughts on the Belmont’s reduced distance, the Triple Crown format, and this year’s top contenders in a wide-ranging question-and-answer session conducted on behalf of America’s Best Racing.

PEDULLA: Does it enhance the Belmont Stakes to have Saratoga host it?

KINCHEN: You look at American racing and there are five days that really stand out. There’s the Breeders’ Cup, Derby Day, Preakness Day, Belmont Day and then you sprinkle in the Travers Stakes, maybe a little Pegasus (World Cup). And so to have one of the best races and racing days at what I call the best racetrack is an awesome opportunity, and it’s one we’ve been afforded for a couple of years because of the construction downstate.

PEDULLA: How significant is the difference between a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half?

KINCHEN: Well, you put on your running shoes and you go outside and you tell me about the difference. There is a difference. Do I think it’s significant in terms of the history of the race? No, I don’t think so. But I do think having it at a mile and a quarter has allowed us to see a couple of horses in this race that I don’t think we would have seen. I don’t think Resilience would have been in this race at a mile and a half and I don’t think Mindframe would have been in this race at a mile and a half. And those are two horses that could make it interesting.

PEDULLA: Do you favor changing the Triple Crown format?

KINCHEN: I do not favor a change in the Triple Crown layout. I think there are some creative things that can be done to increase participation, specifically in the middle leg of the Preakness and even the last leg of the Belmont. There is no secret that horsemen don’t always gravitate to the mile and a half. There are some changes that I think can be made as far as incentives to keep horses participating. I do not think the layout should change. If you look at the Preakness – last year’s Preakness and this year’s Preakness – the top three finishers all ran two weeks prior. Horses run just fine on two weeks’ rest.

PEDULLA: Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve runner-up Sierra Leone receives a new jockey and a change in his bit. Will that make a difference?

KINCHEN: You know Tyler (Gaffalione) and the old bit were an inch away from winning America’s most prestigious race. You never know what changes are going to do. If Chad Brown, a future Hall of Famer, thinks he needs a new bit, I’m going to side with him. If he thinks Flavien Prat can give the horse a better chance, I respect that opinion. I don’t necessarily think Tyler did anything wrong. I don’t know that Chad did anything wrong in making this choice.

Mindframe trains at Saratoga. (Adam Coglianese/NYRA)

PEDULLA: Which is the best of Todd Pletcher’s three runners, Antiquarian, Mindframe or Protective?

KINCHEN: Mindframe, without a doubt, with a high level of certainty. 

PEDULLA: Why do you say that?

KINCHEN: Of the three of them, he is the one that can potentially be brilliant. The fast race he ran on debut can be compared to other brilliant horses.

PEDULLA: Can Honor Marie rebound from his tough Derby trip?

KINCHEN: I know a lot of really sharp horseplayers that liked Honor Marie in the Kentucky Derby, and Honor Marie had a pretty tough trip in the Kentucky Derby. So I absolutely think Honor Marie can rebound and, it’s unfortunate what happened to Ben Curtis (broken collarbone at Delaware Park), but it’s never bad having Florent Geroux.

PEDULLA: Can Preakness Stakes winner Seize the Grey’s success have a big impact on future micro-share sales?

KINCHEN: Any time you can make racing a positive experience for fans, you can never knock it. And that is what MyRacehorse has done and brought a lot of people to the table. They brought over 2,500 people into the thrill of Seize the Grey’s Preakness victory. That can definitely have a positive impact on racing.

PEDULLA: This is the third race in five weeks for Derby winner Mystik Dan and Seize the Grey. Is this the race where they show wear and tear?

KINCHEN: I think it’s less about them showing wear and tear than about someone else showing up and running better. I don’t think California Chrome got beat because he didn’t show up. He got beat because Tonalist showed up. I don’t think Smarty Jones showed wear and tear. Birdstone ran a lifetime best. I’m not a big subscriber to the wear-and-tear conversation about three races in five weeks.

PEDULLA: How about a live longshot?

KINCHEN: A longshot opportunity is Resilience. If you are of the belief, which I am, that the pace was fast in the Derby, Resilience was close to that pace and ran well considering. I would think from a longshot standpoint he would be very interesting.

PEDULLA: How about your top four?

KINCHEN: Mindframe, Sierra Leone, Mystik Dan, Honor Marie.

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Instagram TikTok YouTube
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Instagram TikTok YouTube