The Test of Champions
Here are some other points to consider before you plop your money down on Saturday:
* Although it’s called “The Test of Champions,” recent winners of the Belmont Stakes haven’t exactly reminded racing fans of Nashua or Damascus. Since 1992, Belmont victors have won just 24.3 percent of their subsequent starts (28-115) — after having won 41.8 percent of their races beforehand (71-170).* Since 2000, only six Belmont champs had previously won a stakes race. Worse, four of them — Summer Bird, Da’ Tara, Jazil and Commendable — had won just once prior to scoring in the Belmont.* Despite all the talk about the benefits of rest, every Belmont winner since 1992 raced within the past 36 days.* It appears as though speed figures can safely be ignored in the Big Apple. Since 1998, 10 Belmont winners improved their last-race Brisnet speed figure by more than five points.* Since 1999, only two horses that competed in the Preakness — Afleet Alex (2005) and Point Given (2001) —were able to win in New York.
While I agree with those who argue that Oxbow set a legitimate pace over the Pimlico strip — the track was very dull, so naturally the splits were slow — I vehemently disagree with the notion that the early tempo was, in any way, daunting as some have suggested. Oxbow recorded a -3 ESR in his wire-to-wire win in Maryland — that’s not fast (and my pace figures measure relative speed).
Given that, I simply can’t take a short price on Oxbow in the Belmont.
Jockey Garret Gomez said the horse was spooked by the large crowd and simply wouldn’t settle down in Kentucky, but, whatever the case, Vyjack is not that kind of animal. He’s a plodder — a methodical closer who does his best running late, as witnessed by the fact that he has the best overall LSRs in the field.
(Click on image to enlarge)
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