Analysis: Belmont Stakes pace scenario hinges on Joevia

May 29, 2019 11:37am
Analysis: Belmont Stakes pace scenario hinges on Joevia
Photo: Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO
One of the greatest misconceptions about the Belmont Stakes is that closers automatically hold an advantage going longer. While handling 1 1/2 miles is important, the Belmont is also decided by the pace scenario like any other race.

For the June 8 renewal, the pace scenario may depend on the speedy colt named Joevia, who is listed as possible, but not yet probable, by the New York Racing Association.

If Joevia starts, he will cause enough damage to tilt the race toward closers. If he skips, then the pace is looking a bit soft in terms of speed.

Joevia’s speed is seen in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2), when he cleared the field from outside and then spent the backside dueling Not That Brady.

The speed duel set the race up for Tacitus and Tax, who are both headed to the Belmont as well. Joevia faded badly to 11th, but the point is he could hurt the chances of tactical speed horses such as Preakness winner War of Will, Spinoff, Intrepid Heart and maybe even Tax, though that one clearly benefited above in the Wood.

Tax could get hurt by Joevia at a marathon distance because tactical speed horses in shorter races will not settle as easily going long. But Tax has never seemed difficult to handle before, so it is possible he can adjust.

Intrepid Heart is also interesting as a longshot with tactical speed and the right pedigree to handle the distance. The fact that he finished an even third in the Peter Pan Stakes (G3) is not a concern, as running in that fashion going shorter is a plus in the Belmont. However, this colt is green and still learning.

As for War of Will, he was headstrong in the Kentucky Derby but settled better in the Preakness racing in the same pocket position. But it has been speculated he looked relaxed only because of the 22.50, 46.16 and 1:10.56 fractions.

Warrior’s Charge encouraged Market King and Anothertwistafate to chase, causing a separation heading into the first turn as the trio went too fast.

Once those three came back to War of Will, he did not seem to mind racing behind them. But did the Preakness pace oddly help War of Will?

With that in mind, Joevia's presence could help War of Will race more in the clear if he causes the field to spread out a bit, but War of Will might also decide 23 and 47 is too slow and go with Joevia. If Joevia enters the race, those are questions to think about after the post position draw.  

Of course, the entire field could let Joevia go and wait for him to get tired, but in those scenarios it always feels like the other horses run faster by default. Jockeys know they can't leave a horse alone on the lead.

If one of the speed horses goes with Joevia or he sets a fast pace by himself, then the race sets up for Everfast, Sir Winston, Tacitus and Master Fencer, assuming they are talented enough. But how a closer makes his move in the Belmont needs consideration, too, as the timing is tricky.

With Mine That Bird and the 2009 Belmont Stakes, it seemed all too easy to pick him as a closer. He had the right pedigree for 1 ½ miles as a son of 2004 Belmont winner Birdstone and class as the Kentucky Derby champion.

But the way Mine That Bird closed in the Derby and Preakness is notable, as he looked like a shot coming out of a cannon.

As seen in the Derby replay below, he had a quick far-turn move.

For those two races, that kind of move worked (the loss to Rachel Alexandra is forgivable, after all). But when it came time to compete in the Belmont, he made the same move and failed to sustain it in the stretch upon making the lead.

Closers do not sustain their rallies for an infinite period, which is why 1 1/2-mile races do not favor them by default, especially not one with Mine That Bird’s 0 to 100 style. Rather, it favors a horse who can run steadily.

Master Fencer started his move later in the Kentucky Derby, but similar to Mine That Bird, his move looked too flashy to prove useful in a race two furlongs farther. He went from 0 to 100 in the stretch, and that could result in a rubber band trajectory where he looks threatening and stalls.

Tacitus is the opposite of the above description, as he possesses a grinding rally that is supposed to prove useful in the Belmont. But the public knows this or will bet him because of his proven sire, Tapit, which means his value will become almost non-existent. He could very well go favored over War of Will.

But it might be impossible to ignore Tacitus. He is bred to go long and runs like he wants to compete in longer races. There are few flaws in him.

Don't consider this a final endorsement. Rather, it's an initial bit of perspective on a race that hinges on Joevia's early speed.

Also, speed figures will not help much in this race, as the Belmont is two furlongs farther than anything these horses previously tried. In that sense, the third leg of the Triple Crown is a good exercise in studying replays and looking beyond numbers.


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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