Recent Pace History of The Belmont Stakes - 06/03/13
Belmont Stakes From The Past
It's Monday so that means it's officially Belmont Week. The Chalk has been hard at work trying to figure out this final leg of the Triple Crown. It has not been an overly successful Triple Crown campaign thus far, but the right moves on Saturday could atone for all of that. After pouring over the results charts from a few years back one thing is evident. The pressing style runners have been largely successful and the frontrunners don't fall off as much as you or I might think.
I went back to 2007 and looked at each race until now. When Rags to Riches won the Belmont in 2007, becoming the first filly to win the Belmont in more than a century, she was never more than three lengths off the lead before going to the front after 10 furlongs. The frontrunner that year was C P West. He set average fractions (:24.74, :50.14, 1:15.32) before tiring to finish fifth. C P West along with Shackleford in 2011 finished fifth in the Belmont. All the other frontrunners since 2007 have performed better.
In 2008, 38-1 Da'Tara took the Belmont wire-to-wire. It was an honest pace throughout (:23.82, :48.30, 1:12.90, 1:37.96, 2:03.21, 2:29.65). Summer Bird won the 2009 Belmont from six lengths back after the first mile (1:12.43). Dunkirk had the lead through that first mile before nosing out Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird for place. In 2010, Drosselmeyer was five lengths off the lead after the first quarter mile, then slowly inched his way closer to the front throughout. Front-running First Dude was first to the far turn and held on into the deep stretch before finishing third. The fractions in 2010 were fair at :24.15, :49.19, 1:14.94, 1:40.25, 2:04.97, 2:31.57.
When Ruler On Ice won the Belmont in 2011, he ran just behind pace-setter Shackleford before taking over down the stretch. Shackleford finished fifth as I mentioned above after setting a modest pace. Last year, Union Rags was only four lengths from the front early and then wore down Paynter in the lane. Paynter lead from the gate to a few feet from the finish. The final time of 2:30.42 is the mean finishing time since 2007. The fastest was Summer Bird in 2009 at 2:27.54 while the slowest was Drosselmeyer at 2:31.57 in 2010.
So what does this all mean? In the grand scheme of things, probably not a whole lot. It is interesting to think about though. Belmont winners typically run off the pace, but those front-running speed horses tend to hang around. Given that, one might suspect Freedom Child, Giant Finish, Oxbow, Palace Malice, Unlimited Budget and Vyjack to be in the thick of things. This by no means is an endorsement of all these horses as potential winners. Looking at it right now you could trim that list in half almost to say who has a legitimate chance on Saturday.
The bigger names like Orb and Revolutionary and Overanalyze will be coming from the back. The pace should fall somewhere between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. I doubt Palace Malice wants the lead again after setting that suicide pace at Churchill Downs. I see the front-runner being Freedom Child or Oxbow leaning more towards the former to get to the far turn first. That is how I see at least the first part of the race shaping up and where some of the other players might fall. There will be plenty more during the week as we prepare for "The Test of the Champion".