When the gates start loading for the 54th running of The Rebel stakes (gr.2) there will be an 80% chance of rain and thunderstorms. Although we all know the weather can quickly change; the current forecast for Hot Springs Arkansas is slated for a very wet and humid weekend! Alas, weather can surely influence the outcome of a race and a sloppy- muddy track could definitely result in surprising results. With a much smaller field than originally anticipated, 8 sophomores will be taking a plunge in stretching out to 2-turns (some for the first time). With the end in mind; trainers/owners hope their young colts will thrive the added distance when stretching out to 2-turns. A victory will guarantee the winner a spot in the Kentucky Derby since only the top twenty 3-year olds will make it to the gate on the first Saturday in May.
With the Belmont Stakes now behind us, the dust has finally settled and we can now reflect on the final leg of the Triple Crown trail. What a journey it has been for this year’s crop of talented 3-year olds! On picking winners, we can either give ourselves a tap on the back for some great handicapping efforts, or knock ourselves across our heads for overlooking imperative information and picking incorrect winners.
Now who would have thought the results of the Belmont Stakes (1st- Palace Malice #12, 2nd- Oxbow #7, 3rd- Orb #5) could be compared to a Mathematical equation, but the number 12 is indeed the sum of 7+5. How simple does that sound? If picking a winner was that easy; we’d all be rolling to the bank! I never really like numbers, in fact I hated Math in high school, but when I started to understand how the relationship of numbers within a horse race could actually help me with my handicapping, I actually appreciated all the numerical information I could I could get my hands on! I realized how important it was to keep things simple, and just understand each race and how the numbers within the race could help me to narrow-down my choices. Nothing comes easy when you are trying to pick a winner and things can get even more complicated once different variables are added to the mix. Yes in horse racing anything can happen, but having the right information gives you a calculated edge on who to keep within a race, as well as who to toss-out. This may probably be the longest distance any of these 3-year olds will ever run. A grueling mile and a half, no wonder it’s known as “The Test of the Campion”. Palace Malice who had set the second fastest initial quarter and half mile fractions in the Kentucky Derby’s history was by-far the best horse on Belmont Stakes day. He drew clear in the last quarter mile to win by three and a quarter lengths from Oxbow, with Orb in third. With such wide sweeping turns at Belmont Park, how difficult was this race to figure out? Well, you could have eliminated half the field by understanding just how invaluable these factors were:
1. Tomlinson Figures – The late Art Kaufman aka Lee Tomlinson developed the Tomlinson pedigree ratings as a handicapping tool. It became a part of the DRF in 2001, and can be easily found in your DRF forms. It’s located in the far top right of each horse’s career information box under WET, TURF, DISTANCE. It is a 3 digit rating purported to gauge a sire’s ability to pass turf, wet-track, sprinting, and staying ability to its offsprings. A look at the rating might give you a clue to which horse has the pedigree to get the distance
- A DISTANCE rating range from 0-480 with a rating of 320 to be considered average. Each horse has a rating and is revised quarterly. Ratings are keyed to the distance of the specific race. The higher the rating the better chances a horse should run particularly well over that distance
- For an off-track, a MUD rating of 320+ merits further consideration as a horse who could run particularly well over a wet track
Within the Belmont field the following horses had the highest Tomlinson Distance Rating:
**Midnight Taboo – 309
Palace Malice – 310
Overanalyze – 311
Incognito – 316
Oxbow – 330
2. A favorable Dosage Index figure of 3.00 or less. The Dosage Index is a number that comes from the ratio of speed to stamina in a horse’s pedigree. The higher the number the more speed in the pedigree — while a lower number indicates that a horse should have more stamina. Anything above a number of 4.00 is supposed to indicate that a horse will have trouble at longer distances. It’s a useful tool to quantify a horse’s ability, or inability, to negotiate the various distances at which horse races are run. It is calculated based on an analysis of the horse’s pedigree.
- In the last 10 years horses that won the Belmont had a Dosage Index of 3.00 or less (In 2003, Empire Maker had a DI of 3.16)
- In the last 25 years there have been three horses with Dosage Index above 4.00. Sarava in 2002, Commendable in 2000, and Touch of Gold in 1997
- A Center of Distribution of .67 and higher. The CD value indicates the “Balancing Point” of the horse’s pedigree profile, with positive values toward speed. A CD of 0.0 means that he horse has an even number of speed points as he does stamina. A CD of -0.5 means he has slightly more stamina points, and a CD of 1.5 for example, shows a large favor in the speed side of the profile.
- In the last 10 years, there has been only one horse that had a CD lower than +0.67. Drosselmeyer in 2010 with a CD of +0.55
Again, only half the field in this year’s Belmont had a Dosage Index of 3.00 or lower, and a Center of Distribution close to +0.67 or higher:
*Unlimited Budget – DI 3.00/CD +0.92
Incognito – DI 3.00/CD +0.64
**Midnight Taboo – DI 3.00/ CD +0.75
Overanalyze – DI 3.00/CD +0.92
Oxbow – DI 2.50/CD +0.86
Palace Malice – DI 2.64/ CD +0.65
Golden Soul – DI 1.92/CD +0.61
Vyjack – DI180/CD.71
Giant Finish -DI159/CD.41
When combining all 3 figures for Tomlinson Ratings, Dosage Index and Center of Distribution there were only 2 horses that had very close numbers, and that would be Palace Malice and Oxbow. Orb’s Tomlinson Distance is 296, DI 3.21, and CD +0.86.
3. In this final and most demanding leg of the Triple Crown Favorites Rarely Win. In fact, the last favorite to win the Belmont was in 2005 with Afleet Alex. Beware of the betting public, they can steer you in the wrong direction!
- ***Understanding that most Belmont Stakes winners are Presser or Off the Pace types that sit 1-4 lengths off the lead in the early stages of the race
- ***The only “deep” closer that managed to win in the last 13 years was Jazil and he sat about 8 lengths off the lead early on
- ***Going back 10 years, there has been only 1 “wire-to-wire” type horse to win the Belmont. Da’Tara in 2008 at odds of 38/1
So it’s been proven once again that statistics, and numbers do matter when handicapping a race like the Belmont Stakes. Being able to understand important factors within this race can help you choose the right contenders. There are also other factors to consider like the weather, but the use of the Tomlinson Figures will assist in helping you pick out the horses whose pedigree will favor a wet track. You can incorporate your other handicapping strategies along with these important factors to solidify your final picks.
Before we close the doors on this year’s journey for the Triple Crown, I must address the only three horses that ran in all three legs of the races – Oxbow, Orb and Will Take Charge. There were memorable moments of glory; as well as the sadness of defeat, but despite the various outcomes to all three races Orb, Oxbow and Will Take Charge deserve much respect for their commendable efforts. Orb went off to win the Kentucky Derby on a sloppy track with the second fastest quarter and half-mile fractions set in Derby history. Two weeks later we patiently waited with anticipation for a Triple Crown candidate, but our hopes were shattered when out of nowhere Oxbow was guilty of stealing the 2nd jewel of the crown. He won going wire to wire, in what was the slowest fractions set in Preakness Stake’s history. Orb was sadly defeated, but managed to come in 3rd in both the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont. Three weeks later, a fresh horse emerged as suicidal fractions were set in the Belmont Stakes. Palace Malice won by 3 1/4 lengths over Oxbow, with Orb beaten five lengths, Incognito six lengths and Revolutionary 6 1/2 lengths. What can I say about Will Take Charge? He had a disastrous trip in the Kentucky Derby when he ran into tiring Verrazano, and he never really had a chance to regain momentum and managed to come in 8th out of 19 horses. Although it seems “bad derby luck” could have been his excuse in the Derby, Will Take Charge was never a major factor in the remaining legs of the Triple Crown.
So as the quest for the Triple Crown ends, a few of these talented three year olds will eventually find their places in racing history. Some will move on and become remarkable turf horses, others will become unbelievable sprinters and maybe one of these horses may even go off to win the Breeders Cup Classic. What the future holds for each of these amazing three year olds will be a new journey with unlimited possibilities. Soon a new Spring will arrive, and a new cast of super-stars will create new excitement and the quest for the Triple Crown will start all over again.
It takes a lot out of a horse to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown so it’s no big surprise that it’s been 35 years since our last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed nipped Alydar by a head to claim his stake in horse racing history.
The 2014 Belmont Stakes will be run on Saturday, June 7, 2014.
**In the last 75 years, no horse who ran 3 races or less has won the Belmont Stakes
***Courtesy of Super Screener, Belmont Stakes