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HRN Original Blog:
Handicapper's Corner

Belmont Stakes Pace Analysis

 

The old adage that the Belmont Stakes is “The Test of Champions” held up to its billing, as the entire field was gasping for air the in the stretch, with Palice Malice as the last colt standing at the finish line.

 

Similar to the Kentucky Derby, the early pace for the Belmont was extremely fast, but unlike the Derby, the son of Curlin was not the one making the pace. Trainer Todd Pletcher took the blinkers off last Saturday, and jockey Mike Smith was rewarded with a kinder, calmer Palace Malice, who relaxed in 4th down the backstretch, challenged for the lead on the far turn and shook clear of the others late for a 3 ¼ length victory.

 

After an opening 6 furlongs in 1:10.95, most thought the runners who completed the Derby trifecta (Orb, Golden Soul and Revolutionary) would come running late once again, but they could only muster 3rd, 9th and 5th respectively. On a day when the track race playing kindly to front runners and closers, how could they not offer a severe challenge in the final quarter mile considering the final 6 furlongs was run in a pedestrian 1:19.75? It’s a combination of factors, but easy to explain.

 

In the Derby, many of the top finishers gallop near the back of the field for a mile before putting a furious late rally. In fact, the first 4 finishers in the Derby were 16th, 15th, 18th and 7th after the 4th quickest first half mile in Derby history. That strategy does not work in the Belmont because of the extra quarter mile. Horses cannot sustain all-out 4 furlong drives at distances that already test the outer limits of how far they really want to run. Consequently, the first 4 finishers in the Belmont were 4th, 2nd, 13th and 6th after the first half mile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why couldn’t they gallop for a mile and a quarter before putting in that furious late rally in the last quarter mile like the Derby? They could try, but that rally normally is not that furious considering most horses are trying to dig deep just to finish, let alone make up ground in the final 2 furlongs that they’ve never completed in any other race.

 

Track configuration also plays a role as why most late runners flounder in the Belmont. Everyday jockeys on mounts mid-pack or farther back generally start to make their moves going into or on the far turn, but since Belmont Park is 1 ½ miles in circumference this means horses must sustain that drive for 4 furlongs, not 2. Belmont Stake jockeys with late running are normally in a Catch 22 regardless of pace. They either try to get their mount to sustain a 4 furlong drive and come up flat in the final furlong (Orb) or save as much energy as possible and finish stoutly in the final quarter of the longest race they will ever run in (Golden Soul). Both solutions are recipes for disaster.

 

Palace Malice (sans blinkers) had the perfect running style (and trip) for winning the Belmont. As Matt Shifman charted 2 weeks ago, runners that stay within the front half of the field early in the Belmont have a distinct advantage. Palace Malice stalked a 3-way speed dual, took over from the tiring front runners without much urging and held on in the stretch despite looking just as weary as those behind him to be crowned 2013 Belmont Stakes winner.

 

 Result charts courtesy of Equibase 

 

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Older Comments about Belmont Stakes Pace Analysis...

early also called the Clean Silks Syndrome..See how many pristine (relatively to the rest of the riders) have their pictures taken on wet wet days.
early bias showed up with the rain on Friday which made the stakes race winner all the more impressive
simple reason, the early bias was there all day for two days...End of story
him and oxbow were in the perfect, spot i threw closers out after race 3. when my 12 stole it, that is when the track changed.
The trick was figuring out that Palace Malice was the one that would run to that Belmont style the vest. Thank goodness for the ALL button!
I usually can root them on all the way to the wire in a big race, but I got tired just outside the 1/4 pole in this one.
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Meet Jasen Mangrum

My interest in the Sport of Kings goes back over 25 years with my father taking me with his friends to the old Ak-Sar-Ben Race Course in Omaha, NE.  From those early experiences I was able to read the Daily Racing Form before the age of 10.  Once The Woodlands opened in Kansas City in 1988, I became totally hooked on the sport studying racing charts after homework and tennis practice.  In recent years, with the explosion of handicapping tournaments, my love for handicapping the races has risen to a new level.  Primarily focused on New York, Chicago and Louisiana racing, I have now been forced to study races far and wide in attempt to find “cap horses” in the tournaments I play.  I have also dabbled in horse ownership within syndicates and on my own.

 

My fondest memories in racing include Silver Charm’s 1997 Kentucky Derby victory.  Both my father and I selected him, which made for a memorable day.  The best race I’ve seen was Tiznow’s first Breeders Cup Classic win in 2000 when he outdueled Giant’s Causeway down the length of the Churchill Downs stretch.   My biggest windfall as a gambler was a pool-scooping pick-4 win, paying over $6,600 at The Woodlands in 2005.

 

The point of this blog is to get everyone out there a few winners, but also to go in depth at how I come to the conclusions that I do.  From week to week, I’ll explain angles I think are important to locate winners.  I encourage others to post picks they like too, but please explain how you come to your conclusions.  That way everyone can learn a little more about this great game, and add another weapon to their handicapping arsenal.-Best of luck, Jasen Mangrum