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FILE - In this Saturday, June 9, 2018, file photo, Justify (1), with jockey Mike Smith up, crosses the finish line to win the Triple Crown at the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race, in Elmont, N.Y. Gronkowski (6), with jockey Jose Ortiz up, finished second. The home of the Belmont is laps ahead of other racetracks around the country when it comes to safety measures to keep horses and jockeys safe. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, June 9, 2018, file photo, Justify (1), with jockey Mike Smith up, crosses the finish line to win the Triple Crown at the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race, in Elmont, N.Y. Gronkowski (6), with jockey Jose Ortiz up, finished second. The home of the Belmont is laps ahead of other racetracks around the country when it comes to safety measures to keep horses and jockeys safe. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)|Associated Press
Thoroughbreds

The Belmont Stakes: RT’s handicapping tips for the big race at Big Sandy – Part 1

RT

The Belmont Stakes Part 1

There are two overarching factors for The Belmont Stakes:
1) Breeding
2) Jockey ability

If there is a race in North America that has the opportunity for jockey error, it’s the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes. Having a jockey who knows the horse and the track is paramount to how you’re going to wager. This is truly a test pf patience and an innate ability to rate their mount.

You’ll see below that the track plays to a brief jog to the first turn, then a long backstretch and Belmont has an exhausting stretch run of 898 feet or 1 & 1/3rd furlong.

The Belmont oval.
The Belmont oval.
RT

Below are the most recent statistics to the track bias and you will notice that only 29% of horses running routes wire the field.

So, considering these factors, we’ll look at the jockeys with experience winning this race and other stats to consider.

Past winners with mounts today:
Mike Smith – won with Justify, Palace Malice and Drosselmeyer. Rides Bourbon War
Jose Ortiz – won on Tapwrit. Rides Tacitus
Irad Ortiz,Jr. – won on Creator. Rides Tax
Joel Rosario – won on Tonalist. Rides Sir Winston
Johnny Velasquez – won on Union Rags and Rags To Riches. Rides Intrepid Heart.

The current standings for meet leaders in routes are:
Jose Lezcano – 26% Rides Joevia

For breeding, let’s look at both the dam and sire statistics at this distance:
Joevia
Sire – Shanghai Bobby – has produced no runners going 1.5 miles and never raced this distance.
Dam – Peace Process – never raced and has no foals trying the distance.

Everfast
Sire – Take Charge Indy – has produced many foals who have run routes, yet none at this distance. His daddy is AP Indy and we all know his record, including a Belmont victory.
Dam – Awesome Surprise – raced four times and itm three. Her last was a mile and a sixteenth and no attempts at a mile and a half. Her other two foals have run multiple routes and none at this distance. Everfast seems suitable at this length.

Master Fencer
Sire – Just A Way – this horses’ last race was a mile and nine sixteenths where he closed to within one length of the winner. Achieved multiple Grade 1 wins over varying distances from a mile and three eights to a mile and nine sixteenths. Impressively, Just A Way’s record is 22:6-6-1 for $9.025M.
Dam – Sexy Zumuria – interesting to note that Master Fencer is the dam and sires’ only foal thus far. This lady did very little in her career.

Tax
Sire – Arch – this guy is a breeding machine and only one foal has raced at the distance….and was an abject failure. However, Arch is out of Danzig who produced Danzig Connection, winner of The Belmont as well as multiple graded stakes.
Dam – Toll – has produced zero foals to try this distance. She is out of AP Indy and Giant’s Causeway, both distance and multiple Garde 1/Group 1 winners.

Bourbon War
Sire – Tapit – Kentucky Derby winner and then raced twice afterward before retiring to stud. One foal, Atypique, did a mile and a half and closed to within 3/4th’s of a length to get up for second. Eleven foals which have been produced from this sire have gone a mile and a half - eight have hit the board, three have won, one raced over two miles and one won at the distance three times.
Dam – My Conquestadory – Bourbon War is her only foal thus far and her longest race was a Grade 1, which was a one and one eight mile event at Del Mar. In it, she folded in the stretch. She is out of Malibu Moon, who came from AP Indy and this distance appears to suit Bourbon War via his lineage.

Spinoff
Sire – Hard Spun – multi graded stakes winner who led Curlin and Street Sense in the Belmont and ceded to their ability that day. Has nine foals whom have won at a mile and a half and many more who are accomplished at a mile and three eights.
Dam – Zaftig – has foaled only one other and has shown progress routing. She is out of Gone West and if you keep rewinding, you’ll find Secretariat in her lineage. Could be interesting.

Sir Winston
Sire – Awesome Again – with the number of kids this guy has spawned, he should be named Awesome Again Duggar. By my count, he has had eleven foals who have run at twelve panels and seven of them hitting the board.
Dam – La Gran Bailadora – the key to Sir Winston is in this dam. She clicked off $380K in wins and got hung on the rail at a mile and a half in a $175K stakes at Woodbine. The comments for that race stated “determined driving.” Given Sir Winston’s final fractions of late, it’s easy to ascertain that this colt has that part of his momma in him.

Intrepid Heart
A quote from Todd Pletcher on Wednesday: “I think Intrepid Heart is clearly bred for this race.” “He’s by Tapit, who’s had a lot of success in the race, and he’s out of a Touch Gold Mare.” Touch Gold won The Belmont. “He’s a half to Commissioner (second in the 2014 Belmont). “If you look at his pedigree, it’s AP Indy and Seattle Slew.” “There’s a lot of history supporting his pedigree and out of the three Triple Crown races, I think Pedigree plays the biggest role in this one.”

War Of Will
Sire – War Front – out of his thirteen starts, only three were routes and one of those a victory – The Discovery Handicap at one and one sixteenths mile. His offspring have all been routers, yet none have gone the mile and a half required here. War Front is out of Danzig and he was referenced above.
Dam – Visions Of Clarity – all eight of here races were on turf in Ireland.

Tacitus
Sire – Tapit – see above.
Dam - Close Hatches – 14:9-2-1 for $2.7M incredible. Tacitus is her only foal and she is out of Storm Cat, who never went this distance. Close Hatches could have easily made the mile and a half and the only reason she never was entered, is the lack of choices.

For My Money
The sires that are touted for this race are important; however, for every Belmont Stakes winner they have produced, a large, disproportionate number of losers have surfaced. The dam is the most important cog in the wheel. She can only reproduce approximately once a year and how her offspring have performed gives weight to the runners viability.

The list of horses whose dams that I found intriguing/viable in this field are:
Tacitus
Bourbon War
Sir Winston

Tacitus has Joel Rosario up
Bourbon War gets Mike Smith
Sir Winston has Jose Ortiz

All three previous winners of The Belmont Stakes.

I will be back on Saturday for my final thoughts.