We're going to take a minute to look back at the results of the Belmont Stakes. We do this not to be masochistic − though the way our picks went, we could certainly do that − but to try to gain some knowledge for the next time.
The first thing that jumps out from the results chart is that the Triple Crown trail is a grueling ordeal, and that modern thoroughbreds are not built to withstand it. War of Will was the only horse to run in all three legs this year, and his next-to-last effort in the Belmont showed that the races had taken some starch out of him. We can expect that in the future, more trainers will be reluctant to subject their horses to the rigors of all three races.
The toll the races took on War of Will makes the Triple Crowns won by Justify in 2018 and American Pharoah in 2015 look even more incredible. The race record of American Pharoah, when compared to the results of the 2019 Triple Crown races, looks almost incredible. Between March 14 and Oct. 31, Pharoah won the Rebel, the Arkansas Derby, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont Stakes, the Haskell, and the Breeders Cup Classic -- and he finished a game second in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. That's eight races in seven months; we're not going to see anything like that anytime soon.
We also saw on Saturday that Tacitus is a very good horse. In fact, one can make a very good argument that Tacitus was better in the Belmont than winner Sir Winston. There was a fairly significant rail bias at Belmont on Saturday, and Tacitus was wide all the way around the track, whereas Sir Winston skimmed the rail. Only one length separated the two at the finish, and it's very easy to imagine that on a fair track, the results would have been reversed. Tacitus looks like a horse built to handle the classic distances, and he seems a terrific fit for a race like the Travers.
This year, each of the Triple Crown races was won by a different horse, and the most impressive performance in any of the races was by a horse who did not win. Maximum Security's run in the Derby (disqualification notwithstanding), is still the most impressive performance by a 3-year-old horse this year. It's going to be interesting to see what happens if he can get back to the races. We'll find out in a race like the Haskell whether his effort in the Derby was a fluke, or whether he might actually be that good. If he is that good, look out.
The last thing that we take away from the Belmont in particular, and the Triple Crown races in general, is that there is still much, much racing left this year, and though the results of the three races did not really clarify anything, and in many ways were truly disappointing, there's still a lot of time for the 2019 crop of 3-year-olds to sort themselves out. We don't know right now whether Tacitus is better than Maximum Security, or whether War of Will is better than Sir Winston, but there is plenty of time to find that out.
We're glad that the Triple Crown races are over. It's time for a brief freshening, and then it will be time for summer racing. One thing that we like about sports in general, and horse racing in particular, is that there is always something to look forward to, and now that the Belmont is in the rear-view mirror, we'll start anticipating juveniles at Saratoga, the Arlington Million, and the unmatched ambiance of Del Mar. This may not have been the best Triple Crown series ever, but the next one might be − and looking forward to that is a great thing about this sport.
We'll see you on the rail until then.