Friday, June 08, 2007


Curlin comes to tomorrow’s Belmont Stakes the very solid favorite: 6-5 on the morning line and probably 4-5 when they get around to putting this field of seven actually in the gate. He is, right now, clearly the fastest thing on four legs- boasting the best set of speed figures coming into this race since the liquid quick Smarty Jones.

But horse racing is never just about who you think is going to win- but rather the best risk-reward payout. Curlin is the best on paper- and all indications are he’ll be a popular choice. So the public will be giving up return in bunches for agreeing with the status quo. That is a big price to pay considering three good angles working against him here.

First of all, the Belmont is far. Far, far, far. No one in this race has ever run this distance or ever will again- and the extra two furlongs makes it a different sort of animal than the rest of the classics. At a minimum, Curlin is a solid classic distance horse- but he probably isn’t a Grade I caliber miler or sprinter- and he might not be a super 12 furlong horse either. We just don’t know. A difference of two furlongs is a lot in horse racing.

Second, this Triple Crown is tough stuff. Just recently War Emblem, Smarty Jones and Funny Cide came in here with short prices- and got beat by horses that in no way could run with them most days. The grind got to all of them. I’m not willing to take even oney that it won’t happen to Curlin either.

Lastly, there are two other candidates here that clearly have enough talent to win should Curlin regress back a few lengths. Hard Spun (second in the Derby, third in the Preakness) and Kentucky Oaks winner Rags to Riches bring good things here: speed, recent form, fire each time out, everything.

Now, Curlin has beaten Hard Spun twice in these classics- so if you are going to argue Curlin is worn down, you gotta sort of dismiss Hard Spun too- which brings us to Rags to Riches.

Do you know who Ruthless and Tanya are? Ruthless won this thing in 1867 and Tanya in 1905- and like Rags to Riches- they are all fillies.

So, no filly has gotten this done since 1905. So sure, they are stretching a little here. I mean, I doubt she would be here if Todd Pletcher had one of his umpteen Derby and Preakness male entries to fire. I guess he’s not the first man to reach for a girl when flailing. But her regular jockey was named to ride Hard Spun- until he found out she was entered, and he went crazy trying to scratch off his mount and move over to his girl (he couldn’t).

She is fresh, will be at a fair price (not too generous, say 3-1, I’m not the only one who thinks she is in this to win this) and can run all day. The boys have been campaigning, the extra distance probably doesn’t help and they won’t offer much pay back in return. I can’t believe I’m writing this- but I am taking Rags to Riches, a filly, straight up to WIN the Belmont Stakes in New York.

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