Despite the awful weather, Saturday’s Belmont Stakes was exciting, the kind of race we should be used to seeing by now—the totally unexpected happens, and a longshot wins, this time “nutty” Ruler On Ice whose stamina pedigree on paper was highly suspect. However, any casual observer should have noticed that the Belmont track had favored front-running speed horses over the past couple days, and wagered accordingly. Obviously, the equipment change to blinkers on worked, so kudos to trainer Kelly Breen.
Amidst all the sour grapes, what a damn shame Jose Valdivia Jr. isn’t getting more attention. His post-race comments on track were fabulous—articulate, genuine and humble. Seriously photogenic too—a truly well-deserved win for a jockey who isn’t usually in the spotlight.
Given the sloppy track and on-speed bias, I thought Shackleford had a serious shot for a placing, but that last furlong was just too much. Third-place finisher Brilliant Speed ran true to his stamina pedigree, as did runner-up Stay Thirsty. When I saw him break so well and be up on pace early, I knew my pick had a serious shot at winning. I never thought it would be Ruler On Ice to defeat him, though. Ah, live and learn—but at least I made more money than I lost with my generous WPS bets on Stay Thirsty. Barring Ruler On Ice, I’m pleased I had three of the top four runners highlighted over at Hello Race Fans!—and that was without considering a possible wet track.
When the rain came, I exempted Animal Kingdom from all my exotics, and never once considered everyone’s wise-guy pick Master of Hounds—he was my biggest throw out. Yes, his pedigree is decent for 12 furlongs, but he’s only won one race—why do we Americans assume European horses are better distance runners, especially on dirt, even when they lack form? I don’t get it. Do we have that much of a cultural inferiority complex when it comes to racing?
My picks this year over at The Paulick Report’s Derby/Preakness/Belmont Index were spot on. I had Animal Kingdom as my second choice in the Derby, hit Shackleford on the nose in the Preakness, and my pick Stay Thirsty finished second in the Belmont. Unfortunately, I can’t quit my day job—yet. Thus, the dream lives on...