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2005 Belmont Contenders Analysis

By

Afleet Alex

Preakness winner Afleet Alex topped the list of contenders as the best possiblity to win the Belmont

Cindy Pierson Dulay
Updated June 12, 2009

The Belmont Stakes is the oldest of the Triple Crown races, and at 1 1/2 miles on the dirt, is a dinosaur with so few main track events carded at twelve furlongs these days. With the short five week span for three gruelling races under scale weight of 126 pounds over three very different tracks and three different distances, it takes a very special horse sweep the series. So much so that only eleven horses have completed the task, and the last one, Affirmed, was back in 1978.

Unlike the last 3 years, this year we do not have a potential Triple Crown winner. However, we do have a rematch between Giacomo, winner of the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness, and Afleet Alex, winner of the Preakness and third in the Kentucky Derby. Most of their foes from those two races have dropped out and a few new horses have joined in for this final leg of the Triple Crown. Will the Belmont Stakes crown one of these two as the top 3-year-old for 2005 or will someone else win and muddy the picture even further?

As we did for the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, we have compiled some of the more profitable angles used to select a Belmont Stakes winner in recent years, and applied them to the possible entrants. The Belmont winner should have raced in one or both of the first two Triple Crown events, had 4 to 6 races at two and 3 to 6 races at three, a stakes win at three, a sharp last race which is defined as an in-the-money finish or failing that, within four lengths of the winner. As well, Belmont winners come off layoffs of no longer than three weeks (Empire Maker and Birdstone bucked that trend last two years), have a win at 1 1/8 miles or longer, have run a Beyer of 106 or better, and stalk the pace. Some novice horseplayers mistakenly believe a long race immediately favors closers when in fact the Belmont favors stalkers. This year there is plenty of early speed to insure a good pace for the stalkers and closers to run at.

Below are the contenders we analyzed in order of preference. The contenders selected are the ones who are confirmed or likely to enter as of today. Always remember that this profile is for the winning position only and any horse can still finish in the money. You can view the past performances of these horses free at DRF.

Afleet Alex: It is not a surprise that the Preakness winner and Derby third place finisher ranks highest on our analysis. More importantly, he scored points on every angle listed. He raced in both the Derby and Preakness and he meets the requirements for number of starts at 2 and 3. He has the necessary stakes win at 3 (three of them), had a sharp prep race (winning the Preakness), in which he satisfied the Beyer par requirement of 106 with his towering 114 effort, and the required layoff of 3 weeks or less. Finally, he has the required wins at nine furlongs or more, and generally races with a stalking style.

Giacomo: The longshot Derby winner who silenced many of his critics by a third place finish in the Preakness, was second best on this list. From those two performances he nailed down several angles including stakes win at 3, win at 1 1/8 miles or more, sharp last race, and layoff of 3 weeks or less. However, he has not met the Beyer par (his career best was his 100 in the Derby) and his rallying style is not preferred in the Belmont, despite popular belief that the 1 1/2 miles favors it.

Watchmon: On paper this latecomer to the Triple Crown battles appears overmatched, but using this angle analysis he actually was third best. He scored on five of the requirements, having enough starts at 3, a sharp last race (a second place finish in an allowance), layoff requirement, running style, and a win at 9 furlongs or greater. In fact, he broke his maiden at Gulfstream at 1 7/16 miles, just a sixteenth shorter than the Belmont distance. On the negative side, he was underraced at 2, did not start in either the Derby or Preakness, lacks a stakes win, and has not met the Beyer par. In fact, in this field he has the slowest top Beyer, an 84.

On to the rest of the contenders

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