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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

Four Star Belmont Stakes Longshot: General A Rod

General a Rod GPD 615 X 415
Photo: Coglianese Photos/Lauren King


One of many great quotes from Joel and Ethan Coen’s comedic masterpiece, The Big Lebowski, goes like this … “Sometimes you eat the bear, but sometimes the bear eats you.” For Skychai Racing LLC and Starlight Racing’s General a Rod, I feel like there has been a whole lot more of the latter going on lately. Now you certainly can take that as California Chrome being the grizzly in question, but I think there is a little more to the story for the good General.

Since celebrating New Year’s Day while winning a spirited battle over Wildcat Red in the Gulfstream Park Derby, the son of Roman Ruler has been beaten down by the bear in four straight. 2nd in the Fountain of Youth, 3rd in the Florida Derby, 11th in the Kentucky Derby, and 4th in the Preakness. You may think that General A Rod has had his chances against the best of his generation, and has failed. Maybe. The majority of bettors will agree with that assessment when they send him off at odds of higher than 20-1 in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, but still I find reason to believe he may be sitting on a big one, and I’m not the only one.

“I see no reason not to go,” his trainer Mike Maker said in speaking of the Belmont Stakes. “There was no reason to rush into a decision, in my opinion. We waited it out, and the horse [General A Rod] told us to go. I felt good before the Preakness and I feel good before the Belmont. One of these times we’re going to have a clean run and go from there.”

And with that announcement yesterday, we not only confirmed the General for the Test of the Champion, but we also saw just a little frustration from Maker regarding the phenomena so eloquently and plainly explained by the Coen brothers. I understand it, and I don’t think Maker is crazy for thinking that with a little luck, his charge could have done a whole lot better lately.

In his Gulfstream Park losses, General A Rod had to chase and try to stay close to a quicker horse in Wildcat Red over a speed favoring racing stip. In neither the Fountain of Youth, nor the Florida Derby, did General A Rod benefit from any help early. Despite this, he never gave up, and was very much in the picture in the finish. At Churchill Downs, he was rated, but was shuffled back, and was in tight, still he finished the ten furlong classic well, and was closer at the finish then he had been during most of the race. Finally, the Preakness may have been his unluckiest cut of all.

Full of run on the far turn, General A Rod was completely shut off by the rapidly retreating filly, Ria Antonia. When the filly had enough, General A Rod had nowhere to go but back. It left him with no chance to win the race, but to his credit, when he finally had clear running again, he kept running down the Pimlico stretch, and fell but one jump short of gaining third. Is this enough to think he has a real shot in the Belmont?

Possibly, especially when you look at the way he is finishing his races. I also fully expect him to be closer to the pace in the Belmont, which should give him a grinder’s chance when they hit the top of the stretch. As a son of a Dynaformer mare, I have every reason to believe that he will have something left in the tank for that seemingly endless stretch run of the Belmont Stakes.

Hoping to give a big assist to General A Rod’s reversal of fortune in the Belmont will be none other than Rosie Napravnik. Proven to be one of the top riders in the nation in recent years, Rosie needs to add a first victory in a Triple Crown race to her quickly expanding resume. Whether or not it happens with General A Rod is a big question, but it will happen for the talented New Jersey native sooner or later. After being rated in the first two legs, look for Napravnik to utilize some of General A Rod’s natural speed to keep him in touch in the early going, which is a strategy that has worked well in the Belmont more often than not. Improved racing luck and Rosie could be a valuable combination.

Don’t get me wrong; just like so many of you reading this, I want Califonia Chrome to win on Saturday. I want to celebrate the first Triple Crown in forever with 120,000 of my closest and craziest friends in New York. I crave the combination of joy and pandemonium that I have not experienced for so long.

I do, however, look at the Belmont as a betting race. I’m looking for a horse to run big at huge odds. He does not need to win for me to make a profit, but occupying any of the top three spots could be very worthwhile. And for this aspect of my own personal Belmont Stakes experience, I will be using General A Rod as my top longshot. 


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Older Comments about Four Star Belmont Stakes Longshot: General A Rod...

Scott i suggest you watch the replay of the Preakness. Watch Javiers hands and arms go in a pumping motion. Do you think that he decided that he needed hand and arm strengthening excersizes at that time. He took him off the rail because Espi moved with CC and he wanted to follow him. He had absolutely no horse underneath him to excelerate. Lie i said before,he rode him the same way he rode him at GP when he ran 2nd by a nose. Funny that when you have horse underneath you,the results tend to be better. Look at the stretch drive,forget the 2 first and second place finishers. S.I. after acting up a lather and never settling,he was a drunken sailor in the stretch run. A Rod could not get past him.Just curious,should CC lose on Saturday,is there a chance that maybe the horse was not able to do so. Or is the blame game that will be directed at Espinoza already pre-determined.
  • Mike Relva · Tom,I like many of your comments. Your racing knowledge is on display. Got banned twice in the past few days from BH,yet others that are idiots are embraced by the staff. · 1230 days ago
I don't particularly like GAR, but it's hard to dismiss your opinion.
  • Show All 3 Comments
  • amino998 · Glad to see you came around to GAR, amdaman!!! Under Chrome is golden. · 1232 days ago
  • amdaman · Well... the more I watched the Preakness, the more I could see GAR could've been right there with C. Chrome. He lost a lot of ground entering the stretch, then was blocked, carried wide, and altered course a furlong out. It was only then that he got clear sailing. Way too late. I'm now believing that he's much better than he would appear to be based on his last two. In the Derby, they used the wrong strategy. He should've been closer to the lead. I think the outside post in the Belmont will give him a shot at a clean trip this time. I think it'd be great to be able to say "I watched the great California Chrome win the Triple Crown, live" (albeit on TV), but I just can't see him pulling it off. So it'll be a GAR/C. Curve exacta for me... boxed. · 1232 days ago
I dont think she much of a downgrade, I dont think he'll win as even if he had a perfect trip CC wouldve won.
Rosie is a big downgrade. After the Belmont the excuses will continue for A Rod
Napravnik isn't exactly an upgrade in my opinion.
The Preakness ride by Castellano was deplorable. He had good position on the rail with a TON of horse then Castellano inexplicably takes him off the rail for no reason and lets Ring Weekend rush up inside of him. A Rod responds to the inside horse and tries to go with him and runs into a wall of horses. Castellano then yanks up and it looked like A Rod was on roller skates, losing at least 10 lengths then missing 3rd by a nose. It was a pathetic ride and precisely why Maker pulled him off for Napravnik. Expect A Rod to be there at the wire in the Belmont.
Not sure how the rest of you guys who analyze pedigrees feel about this field, but I think there are many stamina laden types in this field - it is a deep field - and if California Chrome beats all of these, he will have earned it. This field easily exceeds most of the Belmont fields from the last 20 years, because there are a bunch of runners in here who should handle the 12 furlongs.
I have absolutely no clue if A Rod has the pedigree to win. But i am puzzled by many thinking that he is all of a sudden>>>>A Come from behind Horse. He captured everyones eyes in Florida being an up close pace horse,on speed favoring surfaces. Evidently those efforts are taking their toll. In the Derby and Preakness he was as flat as a horse could be. He could no longer keep pace and he certainly did absolutely no running in the late stages. Regardless of my or anyone elses opinion that may not be favorable to the horses chances. It is the owners call to race,i have no problem in their entering a race. Like the Lottery motto states. You gotta be in it to win it.
  • charliep · He was flat in neither race. He raceived two bad rides by Castellano, particularly the Preakness, where the jock took him off the staking spot on the rail and got him boxed in behind the filly who was stopping badly. Unless you expect a horse to jump over a horse in front of him, there's no way out when that happens. · 1234 days ago
Amino , like i told Sullivan. Look at the Preakness again. Rod was 4 lengths off the pace along side Chrome. When Javier said goooooooooooooo,he opted for the Michael Jackson moondance rendition. Much easier for a backpeddling horse like Ria to run into empty horses like Rod. If he were any kind of a race horse on this day,he then would of shown if he were worthy. Funny that when Javier rode him in the Fountain of Youth ,he asked for run and he gave it to him. He just lost by a head in that race.
  • amino998 · Just like him for 'best of the rest' Blabs. Extra 5/16ths is a plus, Rosie, meh, we'll see. · 1235 days ago
  • charliep · If you really watch the Preakness, you will see that Castellano put General A ROd in a terrible box, from which no horse could escape. I think it is fair to say Castellano cost General A Rod 5 lengths or more. To say General A Rod was "empty" turning for home is ridiculous. He flew down the stretch once Castellano pulled his head out of the fillies rear. Chrome shot ahead of General A Rod in the turn (at "go time") because the General had to slam on the brakes to avoid the filly, directly in front of him. One of the worst rides ever in a big race. · 1234 days ago
If I'm wrong, hope it's with the General, not the winner :)
I'm using him to begin with because of Dynaformer!
All About Lung Power
The General was behind the 8-Ball from the start in the Derby and was close until Ria backed into him in the Preakness. Has good tactical speed, like underneath.
Not sure I agree - really like how he's built - I think he likes to run - I don't think he'll quit - Just not sure he has that will to win - second or third maybe. IMHO
He has the right running style for success in the Belmont.
GAR hung in the FL Derby, but showed me something in his game Preakness event. With that being said, he's a one to put in the 2nd hole for exotics.
Commissioner and General A Rod are two very live horses.

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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