What we learned: Promise Keeper a bet-against in Belmont Stakes

What we learned: Promise Keeper a bet-against in Belmont Stakes
Photo: Sophie Shore/Eclipse Sportswire

Promise Keeper won the Peter Pan Stakes (G3) at Belmont Saturday, proving that he does not need Lasix for his best effort. Thanks to his victory, his connections, including trainer Todd Pletcher, plan to start Promise Keeper in the Belmont Stakes.

From a numbers standpoint, though, Promise Keeper looks too slow to capture the third leg of the Triple Crown.

In fairness, Promise Keeper did not make any mistakes in the Peter Pan besides running a bit slow in terms of time and speed figures. As seen in the race replay below, Promise Keeper gave chase to Wolfie’s Dynaghost early on through fractions of 24.53 and 48.62.

Promise Keeper let Wolfie’s Dynaghost enjoy a small cushion, but he never allowed Wolfie’s Dynaghost to get too far ahead.

On the turn, Promise Keeper took over and battled Nova Rags in the stretch.

After Nova Rags gave a brief scare, Promise Keeper widened his lead toward the wire and secured his win over Nova Rags by 2 1/4 lengths with an 89 Beyer Speed Figure and 110 TimeformUS Speed Figure, which are both fairly low on the respective scales. Promise Keeper’s stablemate Overtook was 3 3/4 lengths behind in third.

Runner-up Nova Rags is the one who faded to fourth and seven lengths behind Known Agenda in the Florida Derby (G1) after contesting the pace. After a troubled ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, Known Agenda also is pointing to the Belmont Stakes.

If Promise Keeper is only two lengths better than Nova Rags at nine furlongs, then he needs to significantly improve at 1 1/2 miles to beat Known Agenda, who is also a stablemate, as well as other top 3-year-olds such as Essential Quality and possibly Medina Spirit.

Known Agenda gives the impression he wants the longer distance. After a poor first turn in the Kentucky Derby, Known Agenda made up enough ground to finish ninth – not bad, considering his traffic problems.

Promise Keeper might handle the distance as a grandson of Curlin on the dam side. With that said, his pedigree is not clear cut.  

Promise Keeper’s dam Mira Alta is a half-sister to Great Hunter, who broke his maiden at five furlongs and won the 2006 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and 2007 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) before going winless for the rest of his 17-race career. Mira Alta is also a half-sister to Aspen Light, the dam of the active stakes router Owendale. Most people wonder if Owendale is better suited as a closing miler.

On top, his sire Constitution is supposed to give enough stamina. His stallion career is probably too early though to make any definite conclusions about his progeny and their potential for 12 furlongs.

From a visual standpoint, Pletcher did say Promise Keeper has a "big bouncy, reachy stride" in the NYRA race notes. Perhaps that observation is true. But some of the typical traits of a marathon runner also are missing from this Peter Pan winner.  

For example, take a look at how the third-place Overtook runs. He sports a big stamina pedigree with Curlin on top and the A.P. Indy mare Got Lucky underneath. Got Lucky won the 2015 Spinster Stakes (G1) and more than $950k in her routing career.

Note how Overtook could not keep up with a nine-furlong pace. Also, Overtook closed in a mild fashion without showing off any real acceleration. He just kept grinding. Nevertheless, Overtook never looked tired late. Past the wire, he galloped out past Promise Keeper.

On paper, it seems like Overtook would benefit from a slower marathon pace. If he starts in the Belmont Stakes, Overtook could grind his way to a better early position and possibly contend just by running at the same pace and making a mild move, as marathons reward this style.

In any case, Promise Keeper is probably a play-against in the Belmont Stakes, although it might end up weak enough to rethink this opinion. If Pletcher decides to start Overtook too, then give that one a longer look. 

Channel Cat captures Man o’ War with aggressive tactics

After Wolfie’s Dynaghost’s failure in the Peter Pan, this blog did pick up one impressive winner in Channel Cat, who paid a generous $18.40 to win in the Man o' War Stakes (G1).

Channel Cat’s race deserves a second watch, if only for the early drama.

Both Channel Cat and Field Pass went aggressively for the lead before the first turn, with Field Pass finally letting up slightly when Luis Saez guided him wide.

If accurate, the opening quarter went in a blazing 22.69.

Channel Cat took them through a half-mile in 47.53 as well, with Field Pass still close in second and a gap to So High in third, and a larger gap to Shamrocket in fourth.

Logically, Channel Cat was supposed to fade on the final turn after that early pace. Field Pass threw in the towel at that point, but somehow, Channel Cat kept maintaining his lead. Ziyad had dead aim on Channel Cat’s right and Moon Over Miami found room on the inside, but they could not finish off the crazy pacesetter.

On the outside, Gufo came at Channel Cat with one last rush. He made his surge one moment too late, though, as Channel Cat won the headbob for the exciting Man o’ War Stakes conclusion.

Channel Cat’s tactics were more reminiscent of typical dirt race strategy, but sometimes it works on turf. Looking back at Channel Cat's form, he also won the 2019 Bowling Green Stakes (G2) with almost the same ride. Maybe he prefers setting the pace.

Considering Channel Cat never won after the Bowling Green until now, he should use aggressive tactics more often. He could become a division leader. 

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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