I really like a horse as a possible winner of a million dollar race
who has run 9th and 6th in his last two starts?
If we are talking about Santiva in next week's Belmont Stakes, then
my answer is absolutely.
The 2011 Belmont will be only
the fourth start of the year for the grade 2 winner. Santiva began
the season with a strong effort when 2nd to Mucho Macho
Man in the Risen Star Stakes in New Orleans. After missing a chance
to come back in the Louisiana Derby, he was given one more
opportunity to be ready for the Kentucky Derby, but an absolute
nightmare trip in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland left him
less prepared for the run for the roses than most of the field.
Despite this, Santiva ran an encouraging race at Churchill Downs.
"He got a little bit
tired, perhaps, in the Derby. He's a horse that's done well since
then and we're happy enough with the way he ran on Derby Day,"
said trainer Eddie Kenneally.
demonstrated his readiness for the challenge by breezing strongly at
Churchill Downs yesterday, going five furlongs in 1:01 with assistant
trainer Brendan Walsh up. The son of Giant's Causeway did the work in
company with stablemate Manx Miss with both horses finishing in the
same time. It was the 6th fastest of 27 works at the distance. His
last major work before the final leg of the Triple Crown seemed to
please his conditioner.
very happy with him," Kenneally said. "He hasn't missed a
beat since the Derby. He's been on schedule and has had a good four
weeks, and hopefully he'll have another good week until we get to the
Like Kenneally, I believe
Santiva is a good candidate to be ready for the demanding test of the Belmont Stakes. At 1 ½
miles. it is a distance that none of the field have ever attempted,
and likely never will again.
"The thing about it
is you don't know who is going to really be a mile-and-a-half horse
until you try, so you don't know about those horses either,"
Kenneally said. "Our horse is a horse that likes to run, he
doesn't quit and he keeps grinding it out. He's a tough little horse
and he keeps fighting. He's tactical and he doesn't have to be coming
from way back."
The tough part certainly doesn't hurt, but the tactical quality is
something I like for the Belmont. He rallied well in the Kentucky
Derby after coming from pretty far back, but he does not need to be
that far off the pace. Kenneally agrees.
"He likes to run in
the middle of the pack, relatively close to the leader in the first
tier of runners, so I think his running style would be effective in a
race like the Belmont. I don't think the Belmont favors closers. The
Belmont traditionally, for the most part, favors horses that like to
lay up close to the pace -- not on the lead, necessarily, but close
to the pace."
He is well bred, out of
one the best sires in the world, and fresher than many of his
competitors, promising plenty of room for improvement. Much the way
Drosselmeyer did in winning the Belmont last year, Santiva proved
that once he gets near the lead, he can grind out a hard earned
victory. He did that in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Proving his class,
that graded stakes victory was achieved while still a maiden.
need to run his best race of the year to win next week, but at
healthy double digit odds, Animal Kingdom, Nehro, Master of Hounds,
and Shackleford will be the ones they are betting, Santiva deserves a
long look, because when it is all said and done, he might be the one
you are looking at in the winner's circle.