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2008 Belmont Contenders Analysis

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2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown

2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown is sure to be the favorite for the Belmont Stakes

© Cindy Pierson Dulay
Updated June 04, 2008

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. Can Big Brown become the 12th this year?

Thanks to injuries, poor performance in preps, or just plain lack of ability at the distance, the Belmont often gets a short field of horses. Although Big Brown seems to have scared away some, he still could have as many as 10 foes face him on Saturday June 7. While traffic trouble, a major issue in the Derby, shouldn't be an issue here, once again 3-year-olds are being asked to do something they've never done and conditioning will be key. Major factors which separate the likely winners of the Belmont are weighed out in this analysis, as we did for the Derby and Preakness fields.

Like 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. For example. Belmont winners come off layoffs of no longer than three weeks with the allowed exception of horses coming straight from the Derby, 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. As well, the 4.00 Dosage Index angle is stronger in the Belmont than in the Derby where it's mostly used, but there's an additional dosage angle which is quite counterintuitive indeed. The Belmont favors horses who do NOT have points in the Solid or Professional wings of their dosage profiles, where you'd expect to see indicators of stamina for the grueling 12 furlong trip.

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.

The first two horses scored equal points and are listed alphabetically.

Big Brown, undefeated winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and attempting to become racing's 12th Triple Crown winner, tops this list as expected but does have a few knocks which allowed another horse to score equal points. Coming out of the Preakness, a winning effort, he comes to Belmont off the recommended layoff of 3 weeks, has exceeded the Beyer par of 106 (the only horse entered to do so), has won at 9 furlongs or longer, and has made the required number of starts this year. He also has a Dosage Index below 4 (only 1 horse entered this year does not), and he can stalk the pace as he showed at Churchill and Pimlico. However, he does have dosage points to the right of Intermediate, only made 1 start at 2, and has never raced at Belmont Park.

Tale of Ekati shares the top spot here. Although he is coming off a 5 week layoff, horses which started in the Derby but skipped the Preakness also earn the layoff point since in recent years this has been a positive angle. He also stalks the pace, had won at 1 1/8 miles (Wood Memorial), and has made the required number of starts at 3. Unlike Big Brown he has raced at Belmont and won there, and made the required number of starts as a juvenile. On the negative side, Tale of Ekati also has points to the right of Intermediate, has not run a triple digit Beyer, and his four place showing in the Derby does not qualify as a sharp prep.

The following three horses scored equal points and are listed alphabetically.

Anak Nakal, like Tale of Ekati, skipped the Preakness, coming straight from the Derby to the Belmont. His 7th place finish does not qualify as a sharp prep, and he has never run a Beyer faster than the 87 in his last two starts, nor has he won at 1 1/8 miles, losing the Fountain of Youth, Wood, and Derby. He likes to rally from well off the pace which is not preferred in the Belmont. On the positive side, he qualifies on both Dosage factors, has made the required number of starts this year and last year, and has a win at Belmont Park.

Casino Drive will be making just his third career start, after winning a maiden race in Japan and then the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park. He earned a 101 Beyer in that 1 1/8 mile effort, has qualified under Dosage, can stalk the pace as he did in his last start, and has a sharp prep over the Belmont surface. On the negative side, he has not run the required number of starts this year and made no starts last year, he did not race in either the Derby or Preakness, and he has not run a 106 Beyer.

Macho Again ran second to Big Brown in the Preakness, beaten 5 1/4 lengths. He has not run a triple digit Beyer (his best effort being a 99 when he won the Derby Trial), has never raced at Belmont Park, and has never won at 1 1/8 miles or longer. He did score points on several key factors, coming off the correct layoff time, having a sharp prep, dosage under 4 with no points on the right side, required number of starts and 2 and 3, and a start in either the Derby or Preakness.

On to page 2 for the rest of the horses

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