2011 Belmont Stakes
Belmont Park, Elmont, NY
1 1/2 miles, flat oval track, surface: dirt
Saturday, June 11, 2011, post time approximately 6:35 pm, TV: NBC
Though some of the luster was taken off the Belmont when Shackleford upset Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in the Preakness Stakes 3 weeks ago, this still has the potential to be an exciting and profitable race. Of the 12 horses in the field for the Belmont Stakes, only three didn’t run in either the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness or both. Master of Hounds (5th), Stay Thirsty (12th), Santiva (6th), Brilliant Speed (7th), and Nehro (2nd) all ran in the Derby and skipped the Preakness. Isn’t He Perfect finished 9th in the Preakness but skipped the Derby. It is no coincidence that the three horses who ran in both the Derby and the Preakness are among the 5 horses who are favored. Animal Kingdom, Shackleford, and Mucho Macho Man finished in the top 6 at both races. For a complete look at the field, click here.
Animal Kingdom is the morning line favorite at 2-1, followed by Nehro at 4-1, Shackleford at 9-2, Master of Hounds at 10-1, and Mucho Macho Man also at 10-1. Every other horse in the field is at least 15-1. Here is a look at some of the horses I think can win the race, and a couple of long shots I feel can pull off the upset.
Animal Kingdom (2-1 morning line odds) Jockey: John Velazquez, Trainer: Graham Motion
Animal Kingdom won the Kentucky Derby by about 2 lengths, and finished 2nd in the Preakness by half a length. Animal Kingdom was running near the back of the field at Pimlico and Velazquez didn’t release him soon enough in the short mile and 3/16th Preakness. In six career races, AK has never finished lower than 2nd. He will certainly be a factor in this race and should be included in all exotic wagers. He drew the #9 post position for the Belmont, which isn’t bad in a 12 horse field.
Nehro (4-1 MLO) Jockey: Corey Nakatani Trainer: Steven Asmussen
Nehro has only one win in 6 career races, but has finished 2nd in his last 3 races, including the Kentucky Derby, the Arkansas, and the Louisiana Derby. He skipped the Preakness, so he might be a little more rested than Animal Kingdom, Shackleford, or Mucho Macho Man, and didn’t have to travel across the Atlantic like Master of Hounds. Having said that, I just can’t get past the fact that Nehro took three races to get his first win including a disastrous 10th place finish in his second career race earlier this year at Oaklawn Park. You can bet on him if you want, but I think there are other horses with better value. Nehro drew the 6 position, right in the middle for the Belmont.
Shackleford (9-2 MLO) Jockey: Jesus Castanon Trainer: Dale Romans
Shackleford was leading the Kentucky Derby but faded to fourth down the stretch. At the Preakness, he led wire to wire and held on for the narrow victory. The problem was he was laboring at the end of both races. This does not bode well for him in the long 1 1/2 mile Belmont, a quarter mile longer than the Kentucky Derby. He has 3 career wins in 7 starts. However, Shackleford does have some clunker performances in his career including a 9th place finish in his first race, and a 5th place finish at the Fountain of Youth in late February. Despite drawing the outside position #12, Shackleford will set the pace early, but I don’t think he has the stamina to win the Belmont. He might be worth a play in trifecta or superfecta wagers.
Master of Hounds (10-1 MLO) Jockey: Garrett Gomez Trainer: Aiden O’Brien
Master of Hounds is from Ireland and has no wins in 4 career starts. Though all were Grade 1 or Grade 2 races, his best career finish was 2nd at the UAE Derby in Dubai in late March. He finished 5th in the Derby and he skipped the Preakness. This is the third time he has raced in America, and the first time at a track other than Churchill Downs. Two trips back and forth across the Atlantic might take their toll on MOH. He might contend but he very lightly raced and doesn’t have a win yet. He drew the dreaded inside post position as well, so that is another potential strike against him.
Mucho Macho Man (10/1 MLO) Jockey: Ramon Dominguez Trainer: Kathy Ritvo
Though he only has 2 wins in 10 career starts, Mucho Macho Man finished third in the Derby and sixth in the Preakness. It would certainly be a great story if Mucho won this race. As a June foal, he is the youngest horse in the field, but at more than 15 hands high he is also the biggest. He was a stillborn colt but was revived. If all that wasn’t enough, his trainer Kathy Ritvo had a heart transplant a few years ago. Some say this horse has already won. I think Mucho has the chance to pull off the upset and should be included in all exotic wagers. Mucho is in the #10 position for the Belmont
Santiva (MLO 12/1) Jockey: Shaun Bridgmohan Trainer: Eddy Kenneally
After a promising start to his career, where he didn’t finish lower than third in any race in his first 5 starts he has faltered a little as he rose in competition. He came in 9th in the Grade 1 Blue Grass and came in a respectable 6th in the Derby. Master of Hounds, Santiva, and Brilliant Speed were noses apart at the Derby. I actually think Santiva has a better chance to pull off the upset than Hounds. Santiva might be worth a play. Santiva drew the #4 position for the Belmont.
Brilliant Speed (MLO 15/1) Jockey: Joel Rosario Trainer: Thomas Albertrani
Brilliant Speed finished 7th at the Derby and skipped the Preakness. He has the breeding to run the distance but he runs better on synthetic or turf than dirt. He has nine career races and 2 wins. It took him 5 races to break his maiden, so that could be a concern. He has placed 4th or higher in 7 of the 9 races, so he might be worth a play in exotic wagers.
I really wanted to pick an upset, but I just can’t see Animal Kingdom getting beaten. All of the other contenders are flawed in some way.
Animal Kingdom – WIN, Mucho Macho Man – PLACE, Shackleford – SHOW