Horse Head Logo Image
Running Racer Animation

Welcome to Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds

Welcome to Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds

Four Factors of the Belmont Stakes - by Laurie Ross

Article Image

Four of the most important factors in figuring out the Belmont stakes are pedigree, current form, running style and jockey choice. A horse with the right combination of these attributes can be lethal. Let's take a closer look at some of the threats that could ruin American Pharoah's Triple Crown venture.

Every year race fans debate the running styles of the Belmont Stakes contestants. Which manner - front runner, pace presser, mid-pack runner or come from behind stalker - is the most favorable for winning the grueling 1 ½ mile Test of Champions?

After reviewing the last fifteen editions of the Belmont Stakes, the conclusion was that half of the last fifteen Belmont Stakes winners raced mid-pack, (around fifth place) early on, either between horses or in the clear on the outside. Only three took the rail trip. They started gearing up right around the 3/8 pole and were in full running mode by the time they hit 1 ¼ miles.

Pedigree plays a large part in determining a Belmont Stakes winner. A horse must be capable of making a strong, sustaining move after traveling a mile. Although every colt entered in the Belmont Stakes has the potential to upset the applecart, some have a better chance than others.

Besides pedigree and current form, a Belmont Stakes contender's jockey choice is crucial. Belmont Park is the only 1 ½ mile oval in the United States and experience over the oval can be a winning factor. Jockey's seldom have the opportunity to ride the 1 ½ mile distance. Given the huge track configuration of Belmont Park, it can be easy to misjudge when to make a winning move and the best part of the track to do so.

Jockeys of other high profile Belmont runners have been a deciding factor in their mount's winning chances. In the last twenty years, all except two winning jockeys, Jeremy Rose and the top Irish jockey Mick Kinane had previously ridden at Belmont Park.

Good examples of inexperience that cost the race are the rides given to Smarty Jones in 2004, whose jockey sent him to the front at the mile pole and Mine That Bird who charged to the front after passing the mile pole but couldn't sustain his bid. Neither Stewart Elliot, the jockey of Smarty Jones, nor Calvin Borel, Mine That Bird's pilot, rode regularly at Belmont Park; however eleven of the last eleven Belmont Stakes champs all had ridden on the New York circuit or had previous Belmont Stakes experience.

This year, American Pharoah appears to have almost everything going for him. The major drawback is his pedigree. American Pharoah carries the large heart gene, which enables him to outrun his middle-distance pedigree. He's undeniably talented and is one race away from being undefeated, but how far that will take him is the million dollar question. American Pharoah has been on or near the lead in almost every start, yet the colt's laid-back temperament indicates that he could be effective from practically anywhere in the pack.

It's hard not to draw a comparison to last year's almost Triple Crown hero, California Chrome. He too carries the large heart gene, has a pedigree better suited to middle distances and was undefeated going into the Belmont Stakes. The grueling demands of previous races, a large heart and competitive spirit will take a horse only so far. In California Chrome's case, it was not far enough and could also be American Pharoah's undoing.

American Pharoah is expected to face nine other competitors, one less than California Chrome did last year. A few of those nine entrants have a strong chance to deny a Triple Crown winner for yet another year. Who has the pedigree, running style, jockey, current form and favorable morning works to conquer American Pharoah? Find out more in the Belmont Stakes E-Book.

2016 KENTUCKY DERBY/OAKS DATABASE - by Laurie Ross

Del Mar vs. Saratoga

Summer racing at Saratoga, Del Mar and Gulfstream Park is just around the corner. All three meets highlight the juvenile races as this year's crop of two year olds take their first steps towards the Breeders' Cup and ultimately, next year's Triple Crown. The very early precocious types already have a start or two under their girth. Join Horse Racing Nation as we unveil the 2016 Kentucky Derby rankings, as well as the 2016 Kentucky Oaks rankings.

Horse Racing Nation is the only website in the world that offers up to the minute news and an ever expanding wiki of Thoroughbred race horses. You, our members, can add horses, update data, read and comment on news, view race data and videos plus vote for your favorite runners. The amount of data on the 2016 Kentucky Derby and Oaks lists is totally dependent upon the Horse Racing Nation community. As part of this community, you can help expand the database by adding and voting for two year olds to the Wiki as you spot them. Learn how to use the Wiki. To vote for your favorites, click on the horse's name and vote. Horses will move up and down the power rankings as more members vote. Discover more about the Power Rankings and Voting.

Well-bred Babies

This year's crop of two-year-olds is very promising. Full and half siblings to Uncle Mo, To Honor and Serve, Carpe Diem, Constitution, Honor Code,  Creative Cause, Palace Malice, Grade 1 winner Zazu, Super Saver, Shackleford,  California Chrome, Orb, plus a precocious looking son of superstar Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra's daughter are all part of the two year old class of 2015. Below are some already named two year olds to add to your virtual stable:

Finnegan

Finnegan (IRE) (Unbridled's Song - Untouched Talent, by Storm Cat) – after a troubled runner-up second on the Keeneland dirt this spring, the half-brother to Kentucky Derby/Preakness runner-up Bodemeister (Empire Maker)  won his second start in a rarely scheduled turf sprint at Pimlico, blowing away a field of six colts by eight lengths. The Chestnut colt is trained by Wesley Ward and owned .by the Coolmore connections and Ice Wine Stable. We will likely see Finnegan head to Royal Ascot for the summer and perhaps he'll take a shot at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf later this year.

Areolite (Tapit - Catera, by Gone West) recently won her maiden going five furlongs in a sharp :58.82 at Churchill. The pretty gray filly's dam Catera is a stakes placed half sister to the very precocious sprinter sire Cuvee. This is the distaff family of Kentucky Oaks heroine Untapable, Secretariat Stakes winner Paddy O'Prado, Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Pyro, and Breeders' Cup Mile winner Tapizar. You can be sure that we'll see this Steve Asmussen trainee taking on stakes competition soon and she has the pedigree to be a top stakes competitor during her racing career.

Decked Out (Street Boss - Once Around, by You and I) was off slow in her 4 ½ furlong debut at Santa Anita, but delivered a strong punch through the stretch to win by 3 ½ lengths. The Chestnut filly finished the race in :51.59, just off of the track record of :51.22. Her dam is a multiple stakes winner and Decked Out is a half sister to Morrow Cove (Yes It's True) winner of the Serena's Song and Raging Fever Stakes. Decked out is trained by Keith Desormeaux.

Uncle Vinny

Uncle Vinny (Uncle Mo - Arealhotlover, by Untuttable) is the first winner by the Champion Two Year Old Uncle Mo. Uncle Vinny won his five furlong debut at Belmont in :58.70 by 4 ½ lengths over four other youngsters.  Uncle Vinny is a half brother to the stakes placed filly Legal Laura (Wildcat Heir) who has hit the board in seven of ten starts. Like his sire, Uncle Vinny is trained by Todd Pletcher and is nominated for the Tremont Stakes.

Cocked and Loaded (Colonel John - Catch the Moon, by Malibu Moon) broke outward at the start of a 4 ½ furlong maiden race at Keeneland, made up ground from fifth place and won going away by a length.  So what's so impressive about the victory? Besides making up ground from second-to-last over a speed-favoring track in a short sprint race, Cocked and Loaded set a new track record in :51.64. The son of a Travers Stakes hero out of a mare by the sire of a Kentucky Derby winner, Cocked and Loaded is bred to run middle distances, and possibly stretch to 1 ¼ miles. His second dam won the Barretts Debutante.  Conditioned by John Hancock, Cocked and Loaded has been breezing steadily at Arlington Park.

Outwork

Outwork (Uncle Mo – Nona Mia, by Empire Maker) beat Finnegan by 2 ¼ lengths in their debut. Trained by Todd Pletcher for Repole Stable, Outwork is a half brother to stakes placed Nona's Boy (Distorted Humor). Their dam was graded stakes placed at two and she's a half sister to Cairo Prince, winner of the Nashua at two and the Holy Bull Stakes as a three year old. Outwork is targeting the Tremont Stakes.

Outwork

Laxfield Road (Quality Road - Katori, by Dixie Union) decimated a full field of fillies by 11 ¼  lengths at Keeneland in a 4 ½ furlong sprint.  The daughter of second crop sire Quality Road stopped the clock in :52.28. Her dam is a half sister to Bluegrass Stakes hero Momba. Laxfield Road is a stablemate to Finnegan.

Little Cherie (Pleasantly Perfect - All Giving, by Allen's Prospect) won her Keeneland debut professionally by 1 ½ lengths, after rating early and splitting horses down the stretch. She's the first daughter out of the multiple stakes winning sprinter All Giving, a veteran of 46 races and earner of over $500K.  Little Cherie is trained by Michael Maker. If she's anything like her dam, expect to see Little Cherie posing for the camera often throughout her career.

Freshman Sires
Freshman Sires

This year's herd of Freshmen Sires is diverse.  The ultra-precocious offspring of Uncle Mo are showing their talent.  He has two winners from three starters and it will be no surprise if he winds up as the leading Freshman Sire at the end of the year. Other Freshmen Sires include Malibu Stakes hero Twirling Candy, Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch, Belmont Stakes winner, Drosselmeyer, Kentucky Derby runner-up Ice Box and Champion Turf Horse Gio Ponti.  The first U.S. crops of the Australian sire sensation Lonhro and  Cape Blanco, a Champion son of Galileo, will step foot on the track this year.

Summer Racing

The month of June means the end of the Triple Crown and the start of new careers for two-year-olds looking for those important blacktype earnings. Hard to believe, but these new babies will be contending in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in less than six months.

June 4 kicks off the two-year-old summer stakes season across the country. At Belmont Park, the win early types will be unveiled in the Astoria and Tremont on June 4 – 5. The California contingent get to show their stuff in the Santa Anita Juvenile and Landaluce on June 21. On June 27, the babies will get the chance to win black type earnings at Churchill in the Bashford Manor (G-3) and Debutante Stakes.

Don't leave Gulfstream Park off of your handicapping schedule. Although there are no stakes races scheduled for two year olds in June, the babies will be prepping for the Summit of Speed on July 5, which offers two sprints for juveniles aiming for the $2 Million Dollar Florida Sire Stakes series later in the year.