2013 Belmont Stakes: Final Time Doesn't Tell the Whole Story

First off, I want to start off by congratulating the connections of Palace Malice. They did not give up on him, even after his debacle in the Derby, a race that made many jump off this talented colt’s bandwagon. Their patience was rewarded when he returned in the toughest race of them all, and prevailed. He proved his doubters wrong and those who supported him, right.
Now to get down to the overall Belmont analysis. Overall, I think this race proved just how durable and how talented this crop is. The top three finishers have a combined 19 starts between them. Oxbow with seven, Palace Malice and Orb with six. For horses to race this much this early in the season, during this era, is rarely seen. Last year’s Derby winner I'll Have Another, had only two starts before the Derby, Bodemeister, three. Both only had a total of four lifetime races before they ran in the race. They were brilliant, no doubt, but after the Preakness they never ran again. Orb, Oxbow, and Palace Malice are hardened horses by today’s standards, and you can better believe they will be around for the rest of the year, solely because they have the foundation that others lack.
The time of the Belmont may have been slow, but do not let that fool you about what an incredible race the top three ran. The first six furlongs of the 2013 Belmont Stakes were the fastest we have seen in at least 13 years. Your typical first six furlongs are run from a high 1:12 to a low 1:13, these horses ran 1:10.95. Unless you are Secretariat, there is absolutely no way you can run that fast and possibly have anything left for the final quarter. Just ask Sham, or any of the other horses that tried to run with Secretariat. The nearest horse to him was 31 lengths behind, meaning they ran approximately 2:30 and 1/5.
The early pace literally sapped the field of all of their energy, just like it did in 1973, when the only horse left standing was a physical freak of nature. Every other horse behind him, while good, was not physically capable of continuing. Had the 2013 field had a normal pace, I have no doubt they would have come home in well under 2:30 and change. However, they didn’t have a normal pace, and the time is what it is.
My overall conclusions are that the top three ran exceptional races. For Palace Malice and Oxbow to be in the thick of it, when the pace was as hot as it was, and still be running at the end does indeed give credence to their stamina. Orb, who was the only closer to make up any kind of ground and get anywhere close to the top two also, must be given credit. He did show up with his race, he did make a menacing move. However, it was too soon, and not over a track, or in a race that favors deep closers. He simply had too much ground to make up. After running longer than he had ever run prior, his normally potent kick was not enough. But again, for him to close as much of the gap as he did merits a great deal of respect.
All in all, I think this Belmont showed us the top horses in the crop. I think they all showed us their toughness, their stamina, and their talent. The Belmont time is deceiving. As I said, the top three all had foundation, all had the breeding, but when confronted a pace that hasn’t been seen in more than a decade, they simply were left empty. It was not breeding or a lack of foundation, but the pace that resulted in the time. Do not let that fool you. The top three of this race will come back to be the talk of the summer, mark my words.


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Older Comments about 2013 Belmont Stakes: Final Time Doesn't Tell the Whole Story...

Thanks folks.
The Display ended because of small fields in the '90's. in its hey day it attracted nice size fields. A lot of ex-claimers won the race. I remember seeing a horse named Choker win on the lead at least two renewals. One by over 15 lengths.
Hastings, Fort Erie, Woodbine and several other course have their closing day stake at similar distances
Display Handicap was run at at least two miles and in the '60's was run at 2 1/4 miles.
SHORTENING of races has been UNIVERSAL...Old Sunset Hdcp (closing day at Hollwyood) used to be 2 miles on the dirt, Display at Aqueduct was a very long one, Jockey CLub GOld Cup and on and on..THis phenomenon is NOT limited to a venue or district but UNIVERSAL to all North American racing...Hell 9 furlongs on regular program non stakes races are becoming rare.
ONE closer does not dictate the bias that was OBVIOUS, (to anyone who ever follows them) over the weeken at Belmont..The clean silk syndrome was alive and well.
Good point, AoR.
GREAT post, Mike. You've altered my stance entirely! You make excellent points and that is one way to help the lack of stamina U.S improve the racing.
On the subject of shortening race distances; say what you will about West Coast racing, but at least they've had the guts and (un-) common sense to keep their big races for older males--the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic--all at 10 furlongs while NYRA steadily caves on the other coast.
Mary I missed your post as I didn't go off the post since my last post (not really confusing is it?) The Northern Dancer is a nice race won by an Irish Horse, Wigmore Hall the past two years. It is also a very useful prep for both the BC Turf and the Canadian International, especially enticing with its G1 Status.
Good point Goblin. It is and so is their Northern Dancer Stakes.
In my opinion shortening the top races is exactly the wrong thing to do, they should be doing just the opposite. New York could start by making the Woodward 1 1/4 miles, why does Saratoga have two 1 1/8 mile Grade One races? And they could make the Jockey Club Gold Cup 1 1/2 miles so it fits the track and doesn't have to be started on the turn. Owners and Breeders need to be rewarded for producing horses with stamina and the way is to have major races with big purses at the Classic distances and a lot fewer sprints and 1 1/8 mile races.
Isn't the Canadian International at Woodbine a 12f Gr.1 on turf? It's outside the U.S., but in North America.
OTG I think that the Sword Dancer and Turf Classic at Belmont are 12F G1 Races. THere might be one or two others. I'm pretty sure that the Pan Am at GP used to be a G1. It's currently a G2.
Northern Dancer.
Sword Dancer.
Eastern Hirsch. I gave Laz a like--for no shortening of the distances. Some dirt races should be increased in distance, like maybe the Suburban. Also one of the two 9fs at Saratoga, maybe the Woodward.
Good point Laz. Funny how all the 12f turf races are GR2, and Gr3's. Is there even a GR1 12f race in the states, aside from the BC Turf?
My feeling about shortening the distances (this really makes me burn) is that if they did, probably in another length of time they would shorten them even more. I remember the days when 5F, 6F and even 7F races on turf were relatively rare. Now look at the number of very short races we have on turf on a daily basis and at a lot of tracks.
Sullivan, Tizway probably did run that 117 Beyer in the Whitney (I think the 113 off the top of my head was low). I remember when he ran the race, the slow time and yet the high Beyer. It was all legit as other dirt races on that day were very slow as well as Turbulent Descent won the Test in 1.24.17 and allowance horses won the last race, also at 7F, in 1.26.67.

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