Post positions for the Belmont Stakes have been drawn, with Derby winner Animal Kingdom (9) and Preakness victor Shackleford (12) outside of Nehro (6), but flanking Mucho Macho Man (10). Euro invader Master of Hounds who shipped in Tuesday gets the rail, followed by Stay Thirsty (2), Ruler On Ice (3), Santiva (4), Brilliant Speed (5), Monzon (7), Prime Cut (8) and Isn’t He Perfect (11).
Perhaps I’m just being stubborn—or plain stupid—but I’m banking on an upset by Stay Thirsty. Considering his last two efforts, that’s kinda crazy, eh? It’s not that I don’t like the Derby and Preakness winners, or the newly-shod Mucho Macho Man and hot-shot Nehro. I’d actually be pretty pleased if any of them take it. However, purely on pedigree, Stay Thirsty has a huge shot—and we’ve previously seen how much pedigree counts when attempting 12 furlongs (remember Da’Tara, Summer Bird, Drosselmeyer?).
The argument that he’s “too slow” doesn’t ring true when none of these colts have set the track on fire this year. While this crop may not be as bad as once feared given how highly competitive with one another (and thus interesting) they are, collectively they are—without a doubt—slow as molasses. In the Belmont, the real test will be one of pace and endurance, and certainly Animal Kingdom has the breeding to back up his previous form. I’m just willing to take a gamble on Stay Thirsty improving.
The fact that he’s by A.P. Indy’s son Bernardini covers his sire line stamina evaluation well enough, but it’s his dam line that’s even more intriguing. His Storm Bird dam Marozia won only once in her nine-race career, but it was going 12 furlongs on turf. She’s also produced a half-brother to Stay Thirsty, Andromeda’s Hero (Fusaichi Pegasus) who finished a distant second to Afleet Alex in the Belmont.
Both his second dam Make Change (Roberto) and his third dam Equal Change (Arts and Letters) placed in the G1 Coaching Club American Oaks when it was 12 furlongs—Make Change running third behind Goodbye Halo, while Equal Change ran second to Ruffian in her 1975 stakes record equaling effort.
In addition to Roberto who won both the Epsom Derby and Coronation Cup at 12 furlongs, Stay Thirsty’s direct dam line boasts Belmont Stakes winners Arts and Letters and Cavan, as well as Derby/Preakness victor Bold Venture, injured and retired before he could complete the Triple Crown. Stay Thirsty’s unraced fifth dam Equal Venture was a full sister to Triple Crown winner Assault, and in the breeding shed produced Prove Out who not only defeated Secretariat in the 12-furlong Woodward, but also Riva Ridge in the 16-furlong (yes, 2 miles) Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Other immediate family members include Italian Group 1 runner-up Age of Reason who, now racing in Dubai, regularly wins or places between 12 and 16 furlongs; and Shamaiel, an English listed stakes winner at 14 furlongs.
No, trainer Todd Pletcher isn’t exactly exuding confidence in Stay Thirsty:
That said, I’m willing to risk pedigree over current form with this lesser-than-stellar crop. Come Saturday night, I’ll either be brilliant or a fool—stay turned, my friends!