What's the old saying? “Those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it.” Trying not to fall into that trap, I've decided to pour over my memory bank of Belmont's Past to better prepare myself for tomorrow's outcome. In so doing, I have found winners of previous runnings that have an awful lot in common with horses in this year's field. Here is what I came up with...
Master of Hounds – Will look to become this year's Go and Go. It was 1990, when the Irish import ran away and hid from the Belmont field that included Derby winner, Unbridled. It was clear that day that the Dermot Weld runner benefited from a strong foundation of training back in Europe that emphasizes distance much more than used for American runners. If it is Master of Hounds tomorrow, sprinting home while the others look like they are standing still, it will be Go and Go all over again.
Santiva – You need to look no longer back than last year's Belmont to find the horse to compare Santiva with. Just like Drosselmeyer, Santiva is a well bred horse who despite good form has not broke through in a big race to date. His strategy should be to get good position early and then grind his way to the wire as the field begins to tire from the marathon distance, just as the Bill Mott trainee was able to do last year.
Brilliant Speed – Birdstone may have been one of the most unpopular winners ever of the Belmont Stakes, but in many ways he reminds me of Brilliant Speed. They both have Classic American breeding that suggests distance. Brilliant Speed will try to make a big late run like the Mary Lou Whitney charge was able to do when he rebounded from a mediocre Derby, skipped the Preakness, and then uncorked a sustained rally which reeled in the people's favorite in the late stages.
Nehro – Empire Maker may seem like a strange choice, as he was more accomplished than Nehro to date, but both horses were lightly raced, and ran a solid 2nd in the Derby, before passing on the Preakness. Empire Maker proved to be as good as anyone in his crop with a solid win over Ten Most Wanted and Funny Cide in the Belmont. It would not be much of a surprise to see Nehro take the same big step tomorrow.
Animal Kingdom – For the Derby winner, I chose Thunder Gulch as a strong comparison. Both were sent off at high odds in the Derby, but were able to make a powerful move on the turn to carry them to the glory and the roses. Each colt ran well in losing races in the Preakness, in fact Animal Kingdom was even closer to winning. Of course, Thunder Gulch went a long way to clinching an Eclipse, with a strong win in the Belmont.
Mucho Macho Man – Like the surprise winner of the 1980 Belmont Stakes, Temperence Hill, Mucho Macho Man has shown flashes of brilliance. Each horse won one of the Kentucky Derby preps but displayed immaturity and disappointed in others. Temperence Hill stretched his long legs to win the Test of a Champion on a wet track, which began a more consistent second half of his champion year. Like him, Mucho Macho Man could be ready to put it all together at Big Sandy.
Shackleford – I went all the way back to Bold Forbes as a horse for Shackleford to emulate. There have been other horses to wire the Belmont, since the 1976 winner, but none came into the race with the credentials of this year's Preakness winner. Back in the day, Bold Forbes was able to use his speed to grab the early lead, and despite getting a little tired late, could not be caught. Shackleford has his work cut out for him, but I would never count out quality speed in any race.
As far as Stay Thirsty, Ruler on Ice, Monzon, Prime Cut, and Isn't He Perfect, I can't say I see to much to recommend them … Of course I couldn't find much to like in Sarava or Da 'Tara either.
[And if you want even more help on the big race, please check out the fantastic research my friend and colleague, Mike Shutty, does on the Super Screener.]