The Runner Sports

2016 Belmont Stakes Preview

After two exhilarating and grueling first legs of the Triple Crown, we’re on to the concluding stretch, a daunting 1 1/2 mile running of the Belmont Stakes.

The final jewel of the crown takes place at Belmont Park, located in Elmont, New York, just an hour’s drive east of downtown Manhattan. Also known as “The Championship Track”, Belmont has been site of the concluding race to the Triple Crown since 1931, and has seen some of the finest horses in thoroughbred horse racing don its dirt, and habitat its paddocks.

With the allure of the Triple Crown dashed, plenty of interest gets drained from the event, but it still gets billed as one of the sport’s top purses and most impactful races. While the Preakness didn’t have many repeat visitors from Kentucky, this field is chock full of horses seen back on the first Saturday of May.

The weather is lining up to again be wet, making a trifecta of storms for the big races. It’s set to be warm, starting the day in the low 60s, but extending into the 70s right into the evening. The biggest call for rain comes right before/during the race. So factor in some moisture.

 


Governor Malibu


Post #1

Owner: Jump Sucker Stable and Oak Bluff Stables

Trainer: Christophe Clement

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Odds: 12-1

Governor Malibu is coming off a pair of stakes races, with a narrow place in the Peter Pan Stakes, and was disqualified for a bump after winning the Frederico Tesio Stakes. Neither a pace-setter or a closer, look for Governor Malibu to be right in the middle of the main pack. Generally a solid speed & distance horse, Governor Malibu is an outsider on this pack that might find its way into some money. It’ll mark the fourth start at Belmont, and has never finished worse than third here. Malibu also has two wet starts, and has a win and place in those races.

Clement and Rosario combined for the big upset in 2014 aboard Tonalist, which is an interesting tidbit. The prep is similar, the tandem is identical, will the result look the same?

 


Destin


Post #2

Owner: Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners

Trainer: Todd A Pletcher

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Odds: 6-1

Destin looked very briefly as though it was going to make a move late in the Derby, but a bump and wide run kept this horse from really ever being a factor, finishing 6th in the astronomically large field. Castellano continues to ride this horse very well. For the pedigree junkies, this horse has good distance lineage. It’ll all be a matter of keeping that speed in check. Lacking closing speed, it lacks the fortune of lagging behind, but doesn’t hold the ability to sustain a full front of the pack run. One of the toughest roles to play in this monster of a race. It’s a balancing act that sees a lot more casualties than victors. Destin had a big layoff ahead of the Derby, and the hope that a shortened time off will have the horse in tip-top shape for this outing.

 


Cherry Wine


Post #3

Owner: William Pacella, Frank Jones Jr., and Frank Shoop

Trainer: Dale L Romans

Jockey: Corey J Lanerie

Odds: 8-1

After having an eerily similar feeling to Tale of Verve from a year ago, Cherry Win comes in to impress in identical fashion. Exaggerator had this horse beat by over three lengths, but Cherry Wine gutted out some late ground to surpass a tiring but bounding Nyquist and Stradivari, a promising notion tacking on another quarter of a mile. The pace shouldn’t be at quite the speed we saw the Preakness break at, but Cherry Wine’s ability to keep kicking that late in the race should keep it a big factor here.

If we’re to assume Cherry Wine continues along the Tale of Verve path, it sadly doesn’t mean notoriety and fame here in the Belmont Stakes. Tale of Verve finished 7th of 8 horses a year ago. Of course, they’re two horses without any relation, and the odds of it continuing on the same path are slim to none. It’s had some solid runs on wet tracks, and the distance it closed in the Preakness was out of this world. But after a surprise finish, short rest, and big distance awaiting, it’s hard to imagine this horse doing much with its finish.

 


Suddenbreakingnews


Post #4

Owner: Samuel F Henderson

Trainer: Donnie K Von Hemel

Jockey: Mike E Smith

Odds: 10-1

After a disappointing 5th place four lengths off the lead finish in the Kentucky Derby, Suddenbreakingnews will see a jockey change as Mike Smith will get his first mount on the horse. Smith has a pair of Belmont wins to his name, and is looking to create some headlines with the breakthrough win for this horse. Always the bridesmaid and seldom the bride, this closer is looking to balance its pacing and masterfully creep into the money in the expiring feet of this race. While 5th was disappointing back in Louisville, the manner in which it got there was hardly so; a big close as accustomed to this colt. He likes to stay close inside, and with how much exhaustion comes into play in the Belmont Stakes, he’ll have all the room he wants to work off the rail late in the action.

 

 


Stradivari


Post #5

Owner: John D Gunther, Michael B Tabor, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier

Trainer: Todd A Pletcher

Jockey: John R Velazquez

Odds: 5-1

Breaking into its first stakes race, Stradivari was right in the mix of the exciting Preakness action. Back again, and bloodthirsty for more, Todd Pletcher hopes to propel Stradivari even further than the 4th place finish they saw at Pimlico. Stradivari was gassed coming into the wire, and the Belmont Stakes has plenty of distance on top of that. The pace was quick, and Velazquez will have to do a better job of keeping this horse reigned in early if things get out of hand.

When it’s all said and done, Stradivari’s impressive outing in Pimlico was simply its 4th start. It’s never had anything near as short as rest it’s coming off between the Preakness and Belmont.

 


Gettysburg

Post #6

Owner: WinStar Farm, LLC

Trainer: Steven M Asmussen

Jockey: Paco Lopez

Odds: 30-1

A former Pletcher horse, Gettysburg enters the Belmont Stakes as a newly trained horse under Steve Asmussmen. New trainers, new jockey, and a daunting distance hardly equate to a happy conclusion. This horse poses a big threat to the early pace, though, and all eyes will be on how this horse breaks. A horse that has such an irrelevant chance to actually win the race, will possibly be the singular biggest factor in the outcome. WinStar could use Gettysburg as an early bait and chase, setting up a cruising close for fellow stablemate Creator to do what it does best late in this race with an exhausted field. It’s been running some quick short distance workouts of late, so don’t be surprised at all to see this horse well out front early only to lose steam. It’s nothing more than a rabbit here, and should see little money ahead of its efforts.

 


Seeking the Soul


Post #7

Owner: Charles E Fipke

Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Odds: 30-1

Fipke has a duo of horses in this race, and they wind up in posts adjacent to one another. They’re pretty inexperienced horses in the grand scheme, as neither have seen a stakes race, and both have only broken their maidens in their most recent outings. Not exactly sure what the thought process in entering these horses is, but they’re here nonetheless.

Seeking the Soul saw minute success in stretching its races out, moving from a pair of sub-par 6-furlong finishes, to breaking its maiden at a mile. Its singular win was at a decent pace, but at this distance, and potential speed to break in front of it doesn’t boil down to make a sweet mix.

 


Forever d’Oro


Post #8

Owner: Charles E Fipke

Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Jockey: Jose L Ortiz

Odds: 30-1

Fipke’s second horse has a similar story to Seeking the Soul. It’s more of a closer, but comparable to his stablemate, the talent level seen is nothing near what they’ll see on Saturday. Not a bad closer when it’s all said and done, but it won’t show in this field of talent.

 


Trojan Nation


Post #9

Owner: Julie Gilbert and Aaron Sones

Trainer: Patrick Gallagher

Jockey: Aaron T Gryder

Odds: 30-1

Trojan Nation was supposed to be one of the many closers to make some noise late in the Derby. Here at the Belmont Stakes, the field is littered with even more skilled finishers. After getting checked early, this horse failed to really get anything going, gallivanting at the rear of the pack 26 lengths off the lead. Still a maiden, this horse is knocking on the door of popping that cherry. Its closest attempt came at the Wood Memorial, where as an $81.50 longshot he finished a head off of the eventual winner, Outwork. Don’t get overly excited about this horse.

 


Lani


Post #10

Owner: Koji Maeda

Trainer: Mikio Matsunaga

Jockey: Yutaka Take

Odds: 20-1

Disappointing results in the Kentucky Derby turned into an almost miraculous finish in the Preakness, and Lani is back to complete its international showcase at the Triple Crown circuit. Not typically a closer, Lani came screaming down the stretch in the Preakness, closing a 9-length distance to a mere 5, finishing 5th narrowly behind Nyquist and Stradivari. Allow this temperamental horse to keep exactly where it was in the Preakness, and this horse could easily find it has the stamina to waltz right into the money.

Often times the biggest concern for this horse is the mood that it finds itself in. After the Derby, they made the right decision and made camp at Belmont, where he’s been for everything but his time spent at Pimlico for the Preakness.

They’re working this horse early in the am and away from its fellow competitors. It’s seen some massive crowds, including a rambunctious infield at Pimlico. The excuses are out the door, and it’s time for the out-of-towner to make some noise.

 


Exaggerator


Post #11

Owner: Big Chief Racing LLC, Head of Plains Partners LLC, Rocker O Ranch LLC

Trainer: Keith J Desormeaux

Jockey: Kent J Desormeaux

Odds: 9-5

The hands down favorite, Exaggerator has the chance to go from spoiler to inverse spoiled, collecting the back two races of the Triple Crown in rare fashion. It’s happened 13 times, and Afleet Alex in 2005 was the most recent time it occurred. More so than any other horse, Exaggerator will gladly embrace a wet track as its biggest wins have come in sloppy affairs. Is there any violation for a team performing voodoo rain dances? If so, keep the people who keep tabs on that out of the Desormeaux stable cause they’re hitting the lottery again with rain on the way and coincidence doesn’t quite fit.

Only two horses in this field have partaken in the both of the two earlier Triple Crown races, so fatigue concerns are legitimate for the favorite.

 


Brody’s Cause


Post #12

Owner: Albaugh Family Stable

Trainer: Dale L Romans

Jockey: Luis Saez

Odds: 20-1

Brody’s Cause was supposed to be in a perfect storm stalking the field from the rear of the pack in the Kentucky Derby. Instead, he never found the kick and lollygagged to a 7th place finish 9 lengths off of Nyquist. It jumped from as far back as 13th and 14 lengths off, but the overall effort late was hardly anything compared to what was expected. For what it’s worth, this horse does have a win over Exaggerator, coming at the Breeder’s Futurity last year. After being high on Brody’s Cause at the Derby, I just cannot commit myself to seeing why this horse doesn’t disappoint any less this time out.

 


Creator


Post #13

Owner: WinStar Farm LLC and Bobby Flay

Trainer: Steven M Asmussen

Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr

Odds: 10-1

Benefitting perhaps the most from having a stablemate in the race that could very likely dictate the early speed, Creator has the opportunity to be sitting pretty at the perfect time to close. WinStar’s late entrance of Gettysburg, a jockey change to bring out the big guns in Irad Ortiz Jr, and it appears to be all-in on getting Creator to the winner’s circle on Saturday. Perhaps they’re a bit sour from the big bump they took in the Kentucky Derby, and really feel like they could have should have had a vastly better running. I’d be in agreement with them as I had Creator as a top three finisher. With a smaller field, and the chance to start from the outside, the tale of the tape should look a whole lot different. Expect some exciting late action in this race, and for Creator to be right in the mix.

 

Predictions:

I had the top five of the Preakness field, but in vintage Tyler Arnold fashion misplayed the cards to avoid walking out on top. We’ll be hoping for a beter outcome here.

  1. Exaggerator
  2. Creator
  3. Lani
  4. Destin
  5. Suddenbreakingnews
  6. Governor Malibu
  7. Stradivari
  8. Cherry Wine
  9. Brody’s Cause
  10. Gettysburg
  11. Trojan Nation
  12. Forever d’Oro
  13. Seeking the Soul

 

$10 trifecta: Exaggerator/Creator/Lani

$10 trifecta: Exaggerator/Creator/Suddenbreakingnews (my closer card).

$1 super box: Exaggerator/Creator/Lani[Destin/Suddenbreakingnews]

 

Who do you have? Let me hear it in the comments!

Tyler Arnold

Tyler Arnold

I am the founder and editor-in-chief of The Runner Sports. I've been an avid sports fan since I was a child and have turned that love into a profession. I will watch, comment, and break down anything I can get my hands on, from football to white water rafting in the Olympics. Your visit means a lot to me, so thank you for your readership.
Tyler Arnold