Tuesday, June 7, 2005
Updated: June 8, 12:52 PM ET
Belmont horse-by-horse analysis
By Ed McNamara
Special to ESPN.com
Unquestionably the best of the 3-year-olds, and making a case against him here requires a major leap of faith as well as great perversity. Ran big in all-out efforts in the Derby and Preakness, and reportedly continues to train well. Like Funny Cide and Smarty Jones, he ran a career top in Baltimore, and both of them regressed at Belmont. Will the pattern repeat? Smarty looked a lot more formidable last year heading into the Belmont, and look what happened to him. Trainer Tim Ritchey points out that Alex will relax, and that Funny Cide and Smarty were too wired up in the Belmont to stay 1? miles. Yes, but sooner or later Afleet Alex has to toss in a bad one, and will it be here?
If you're a big fan of Afleet Alex or were all over him at Pimlico, then taking very short odds (maybe as low as 6-5) might suit you. If not, try to find a longshot with some resources or consider playing Alex on top in the exotics.
He's 0-for-3 in graded stakes, with his lifetime claim to fame a win over a lousy field in the 1 1/16-mile Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in February. Nick Zito won't work his Birdstone magic with this regally bred also-ran.
He just broke his maiden in slow time in the slop at Churchill, so why not try the Belmont Stakes in his fourth start? Wayne Lukas isn't running Going Wild, the pace casualty of this Triple Crown series, so he's firing this Arrow into the air. He won't find the bull's-eye. No, not even close.
Like A.P. Arrow, here's another one with only a maiden win to his credit. Ran terribly as the wildly overbet 3-2 favorite in the Peter Pan and can't see him bouncing back and doing a 180 to win the Belmont. His lack of early speed is another problem. Pass.
Always runs his race, and when the pace is hot and the race falls apart in midstretch, he has a chance. His grinding/plodding style doesn't win Belmonts, though, and he'll be overbet as the "most logical" alternative (not really) to Afleet Alex. He'll offer poor value at 4-1 or so, so forget a win bet. He'll probably plunk along near the back of the pack for 9 furlongs and then grind past exhausted horses. Fits underneath in trifectas and supers, but not on top.
Even after going 0-for-5 in the Derby and 0-for-3 in the Preakness, Nick Zito hasn't become gunshy and will be taking three more shots in the Belmont. This colt has a great distance pedigree (by 1992 Belmont/Breeders' Cup Classic winner A.P. Indy out of a mare by 1990 Derby/Classic winner Unbridled). He's only 2-for-7 lifetime, however, having broken a five-race losing streak in an allowance race at Pimlico last out. Should handle the distance better than most but finished last in his only stakes attempt in a very weak Louisiana Derby. Hard to recommend, as they say in the Form.
He's winless in five starts, with earnings of $26,450, so why not try to win "The Test of the Champion" instead of a maiden race at Churchill Downs? Makes no sense to me. Why bother?
Sounds as if this guy will be the Belmont's consensus wise guy horse, and those critters rarely win. Some reasons why he'll get play: Nick Zito trained Birdstone, who knocked off the seemingly invincible Smarty Jones last year; Pinpoint has solid early speed and went wire to wire on the Preakness undercard in the 1 1/16-mile Sir Barton Stakes, the race that 2002 Belmont upsetter Sarava won. He'll be in good position early and will be one of the more realistic stabs if you're trying to beat Afleet Alex.
Makes third start of form cycle after running a solid second with a strong final time and late-pace figure in the Peter Pan. His last two races have shown improvement, and he might be live. At least he has a strong distance pedigree, being by 1995 Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch out of a mare by Proud Truth, winner of the 1985 Breeders' Cup Classic. Negatives: He's 0-for-3 beyond 1 1/16 miles, 0-for-2 in stakes and was up the track behind Noble Causeway and Bandini, horses that Afleet Alex blew away. Yet if you're looking for a bomber with upside, Reverberate could be where you end up. Very difficult, but not impossible.
After two strong efforts in minor 3-year-old races in New Mexico and Texas, he gets his shot at the big time. His figures aren't much and he doesn't look as if he belongs in the Triple Crown finale. Seems better suited for shorter distances against weaker.
He's still eligible for a non-winners-of-1 allowance, so why get delusions of grandeur and try a 1-1/2-mile Grade I? Root for him to stay in the barn.