Saturday’s running of the Belmont Stakes is looking to end this year’s Triple Crown the same way it began; in the mud. That is unless the first tropical storm of 2013 can make its way up the Northeast Corridor fast enough to ensure the track at Belmont Park a full day of drying. Regardless of the weather the 2013 Belmont Stakes is set to go off at 6:36 p.m. EST, and will mark the 11th race of a 13 race card at ‘Big Sandy’ out on Long Island. The race drew a very wide contentious field of 14 horses, with Kentucky Derby winner Orb installed as the 3-1 ML favorite.
Orb will run at his home track for the first time since September of last year when, as a very green two year old he compromised his chances by acting up in the gate, then breaking slow. It took two more races before Orb broke his maiden, and after that went on a five race winning streak that included the Fountain of Youth Stakes, and the Florida Derby, in addition to his win in Kentucky.
Orb’s first loss of 2013 came at the hands (or hoofs) of Oxbow in the Preakness. The Awesome Again colt, romped to an easy victory in the second jewel of the Triple Crown under a masterful ride by hall of fame jockey Gary Stevens. The noted thespian stole the race by lulling everyone to sleep on the front end and getting the jump on the field before they turned for home. Orb, on the other hand drew the 1 post and was stuck on a dead rail that day. With a target on his back, jockey Joel Rosario’s attempt to get him off the rail was foiled when Julian Leparoux gunned Titletown five up the rail to pin Orb in. After that Orb failed to mount a bid for the lead.
Although the loss guaranteed another year without a Triple Crown winner, the race itself drew a quality field of 14. The large field should guarantee this year’s Belmont as a great betting race with lots of opportunity to make a score.
Among those offering value; Freedom Child (2), although his ML odds of 8-1 make him a logical fourth choice, the presence of Triple Crown horses should push his odds up. Freedom Child is the winner of the Peter Pan Stakes, a prep race for the Belmont. On that day the track came up sloppy and Freedom Child relished it drawing off to win by over 13 lengths. Another interesting fact about this horse is that both he and Orb share the same father, Freedom Child is a 350K purchase out of Malibu Moon.
With his impressive deep closing style and an impressive win in a race where he had virtually every race obstacle thrown at him, Incognito has built a small cult following of horse racing fans. A following that bet him down to 7-2 in his first stakes race, the G2 Peter Pan, on that day Incognito didn’t like getting mud kicked in his face, as the track was sloppy and for most of the race he was a non factor. Despite that, trainer Kiaran McLauglin feels that his breeding suggest he wants to run all day, and this is the perfect opportunity to find out. Incognito is out of super sire A.P. Indy, and multiple stakes winning mare Octave. Both were excellent classic distance runners. Incognito sits at 19-1 in advance betting.
Finally, many advances in life come from happenstance and tinkering, for trainer Todd Pletcher, in order to be as successful as he has been you must tinker and take chances. Sometime those experiments don’t always work out, one of these would be when Pletcher decided to use the Kentucky Derby of all races to put blinkers on Palace Malice. On that day, the son of Curlin surprised everyone, even his jockey Mike Smith. When the gates opened Palace Malice shot out of the gate, setting a torrid pace for the derby. By the time they were going down the backstretch Palace Malice had opened up a three and a half length lead before tiring to 12th. Saturday in the Belmont, Pletcher will take the blinkers off and trust that hall of fame jockey Mike Smith will have a better feel for his horse this time around.