After Drosselmeyer captured the 1 1/2 miles Belmont Stakes on Saturday, the Triple Crown Trail has finally ended with a resounding THUD (or should I say Dud!). Although always know for having potential with his breeding (I even had Drossel as high as #6 in my earliest Polls), it's clear to me that this unique distance was the only reason Drosselmeyer was able to notch this Grade I victory. He was soundly defeated by Belmont runner up Fly Down by six lengths in their local prep (Dwyer Stakes) for the Belmont -- which was run in a pedestrian 2:31.57. This year's Belmont time came in a full FOUR seconds slower than last years (granted, last year's winner Summer Bird was a better than average winner).
First Dude's show spot gave him the distinction of being the only colt to hit the board in more than one Classic race, a rarity from a historical perspective. Based on his tactical speed of going to the front (and being able to hang on after fast fractions - see Preakness Stakes) he should prove tough in the summer and fall races, which distances are usually 1 1/8 miles - other than the classic distance 1 1/4 miles of the Travers Stakes. But if I had to choose a three year-old colt at this date I would easily pick Fly Down. The son of Mineshaft (grandson of A.P. Indy) was a steal for only $80,000 at the 2008 Keeneland Yearling Sale. At the 9 furlong distance he previously trounced Drosselmeyer in the Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park and now has defeated (all very narrowly) First Dude on three separate occasions! His lone poor performance this year came in the Louisiana Derby, in which Drosselmeyer also ran a disappointing third. Finally, Fly Down was a late foal being born April 19th, so I feel he will only improve as he continues to physically mature.
In going over my "2010 Triple Crown notes" folder, yet again I am befuddled over how I didn't cash more tickets this spring! The three winners of Triple Crown races were ranked #1, #2 and #6 in my earliest Top 10 Poll. Even veteran turf writer Steve Haskin, who publishes more blogs than anyone on the subject during the spring, could only muster 'Lucky at #2 and Super Saver at #6, with Drosselmeyer not making his "Derby Dozen" at a comparable point in time. Yet I only cashed a $5 futures bet on Super Saver at 23-1 and a small exacta backup bet (I liked Paddy for the win at juicier odds) in the Preakness. Most recently in the Belmont, I was essentially out of my allotment of "dry powder" for the Triple Crown series and thus keyed Fly Down in a few trifecta tickets. Had he passed Drossel for the win, I would have had the tri, but it likely would have only paid a couple hundred bucks even with Drossel in the mix.
Oh well, at least I felt vindicated with Ice Box finishing up the track in 9th. If you go back and lood at his odds progression from his last few races, you'll see that this horse had no business being under 2-1 in a Belmont field that clearly lacked any significant pace. He went off at 46-1 in the FOY and finished 5th, beaten 12 lengths. With those top three defecting for other preps, his odds lowered to 21-1 in the Florida Derby where he won by a nose after sizzling splits. Then he again goes off around 20-1 in The Kentucky Derby and gets the wet-sealed track and fast pace to run into the money. But 9-5 at Belmont at a mile and one-half? As Lleyton Hewett used to say... C'mon! We'll see how Super Saver and Lookin At Lucky take to their freshening period and come back in the summer series (Haskell, Jim Dandy - Travers, etc.) and possibly against older horses in the fall leading up to the Breeders' Cup, which is back at Churchill Downs, yeah!
Several of my work friends have asked what I'm going to do now that the Triple Crown is over (as if there are no more races beyond the Belmont!). I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but the two biggest names in racing are both going to the Post this coming weekend. Zenyatta will be going for an historic 17th consecutive victory at her home course of Hollywood Park (where I believe they deserve this race - unlike other critics of her racing in Cali) and Rachel Alexandra will be running -- but in typical Jess Jackson fashion they won't say where until the last second. Thus, they'll probably choose the softest field to build back Rachel's confidence.
So yes, I will have periodic posts throughout the summer doldrums, so please stay tuned!!