Just to show that the Kentucky Derby isn't the only horse race that can garner a W's interest, here are some thoughts on today's Belmont Stakes.
Curlin is a top grade horse, and could very well end up this year's Three Year Old Champion. No one watching today's race should be surprised by a Curlin victory, and I expect Curlin to go off as the heavy favorite. Still, the marathon length of the Belmont makes it unique among the top stakes races, and Curlin does show some vulnerability, as his Beyers display a classic Z-pattern (101/97/103/98/111). With that in mind, let's check out the rest of the field.
Slew's Tizzy has shown consistent, steady improvement over his career, and I expect him to challenge Hard Spun for the early lead. However, Slew's Tizzy has yet to post a three-figure Beyer, and for that reason I don't believe he deserves serious consideration, as this field is just too strong. Likewise, since both Imawildandcrazyguy and Tiago have yet to post Beyers above 100 (Tiago's best effort being when he hit the century mark right on the nose in the Kentucky Derby) they should also, in my opinion, be eliminated from consideration. CP West posted a Beyer of 102 in his last outing in the Preakness, but that looks to me to be more of an aberration rather than a sign of things to come.
Hard Spun is the only entrant to have posted triple digit Beyers in all three of his previous races. While I expect Slew's Tizzy to challenge him for the early lead, Hard Spun has shown the ability to survive an early break-neck speed, and has also demonstrated an ability to win by rating (rather than setting) the early pace. On the down side, Hard Spun's only Belmont workout (June 3) is also his only workout of the last six that wasn't tops at the track that day, a sign that he could be tired.
That leaves the only female entrant, Rags to Riches. Her Beyers look impressive, showing consistent, steady improvement, peaking with her last effort at 104. Keep in mind, though, that her 104 was posted in the mud at Churchill Downs; since Rags to Riches boasts a Tomlinson Rating of 434 for wet surfaces, that 104 may need to be downgraded a bit. It also should be pointed out that she will be making this trip without Gomez on top, Gomez opting to ride Hard Spun instead (though the jockey's decision seems to have been based on the indecision Rags to Riches' leadership had shown about whether or not to run in this race, rather than based on a preference of one horse over the other). Rags' victories have all been come from behind efforts, which bodes well for this race. Rags also has all the trainer angles working in her favor. If it were to rain in New York this afternoon this would become a no-brainer; but even if the track is dry and the sky is clear, I'm predicting that Rags to Riches will become the first filly in over a century (since Tanya in 1905) to win the Belmont Stakes. So that's my play: Rags to Riches to win, though I may put her with Curlin and Hard Spun in the exotics.
Ladies and gentlemen, the following public service message is brought to you by your friends from D-Generation X, who would like to remind each and every one of you that if you're not down with that, we've got two words for you... Nice call, and you and I were thinking in the same wavelength to boot, as I bet Rags to Riches to win and put her in an exacta box as well, though I paired her with Tiago and Hard Spun. Of course, Curlin defied his pedigree (his high Dosage of 4.00 was the big reason I rejected him in favor of the aforementioned pair) and wrecked that box, though I still ended up ahead on the race thanks to the win bet.
It'll be interesting to see where we go from here. I suspect one of the three Triple Crown race winners will dodge the Travers in August and we'll ultimately get a showdown between Street Sense, Curlin, and Rags to Riches in the Classic in the fall, with the distance of the race and the track at Monmouth Park probably favoring Street Sense's style of running.
smark/net attack Advisory System Status is: Elevated (Holds; June 18, 2006) While the switch from Cena to RVD should alleviate some complaints, the inevitability of the belt's return to Cena (note where Summerslam is this year) and the poor initial showing by the new ECW are enough to keep the indicator where it is for now. The pieces are in place, though, especially on RAW, for improvements to be made to the IWC's psyche in the near future.
I loved this race! Commentators forced to talk about Travis Kvapil all day! Paul Menard's soul patch all over the screen! The Big One! The BIGGER One! Controversy on the final lap! SMOKE! Poor Regan Smith.