©2017 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
This Saturday, the trail to classic glory takes us to Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, where Irish War Cry will go the starting gate as the lukewarm 7-2 morning line favorite in the 149th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) which is the last jewel of the prestigious American horseracing Triple Crown.
Prerace television coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network with race coverage switching to NBC at 5 p.m.
Knowing as much as possible about the Thoroughbred and what it takes to produce a classic champion has been a passion of mine since the early 1990s and my research and study led to the creation of the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® which is an analytical tool I use to measure the graded stakes and classic potential of young horses.
In 2014, the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® was developed into a software program by my brother, Dallas, and it assigns each horse a numerical score which is the indicator of that horse’s potential. The higher the score, the more potential that horse has to become a quality stakes horse or classic champion.
Let’s take a look at the profiles of the horses in Belmont Stakes 149:
In addition to Irish War Cry, Patch, Lookin at Lee, Tapwrit and Epicharis are horses that I like in this race.
Classic Empire probably would have been favored in Belmont 149 but he was removed from contention due to a foot abscess. Also, a recent Bloodhorse story reports that the status of Epicharis is also in question as he was treated on June 7 for lameness in his “right front, possible hoof” and did not train on June 8 (see write up below).
Our research which is documented in my numerous blogs and website, shows that a majority of horses run close to their Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® score which is a measurement of the breeding influences found in the five-generation pedigree. In addition to the profile score, the Behavior Index and Data Mining are important tools I use to determine horse potential.
As you can see in the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® chart above, 75 percent of the horses in Belmont 149 have a profile grade rating of C or better.
In the Behavior Index chart, some horses that have a B or C profile grade rating like Epicharis, Irish War Cry, Lookin at Lee and Twisted Tom can be moved up because their Behavior Index makes them competitive, enabling them to sometimes win races that are shorter than the classic 10 furlong distance.
For example, in my blog about the nine-furlong 2016 Wood Memorial Stakes (G1), I noted that Outwork, who had an E grade rating, was a horse I liked because his Behavior Index showed me he had the potential to be competitive. Indeed, he went on to win the Wood. However, in the Kentucky Derby (G1) Outwork’s grade rating had him ranked sixteenth and he finished fourteenth.
In addition to moving some horses up, the Behavior Index can also move some horses down like J Boys Echo, Gormley and Tapwrit. I’ve liked Gormley since last fall and he was my upset pick in the FrontRunner Stakes (G1). Since then, he’s had issues and he’s not fully lived up to his breeding.
When horses like Gormley, J Boys Echo and Tapwrit fail to run close to their profile score, then the issue[s] preventing them from reaching their full potential needs to be investigated. And there can be many contributing factors for a horse not running to his profile score – Effinex is a good example of that.
Data Mining variables are another tool for analyzing classic potential and when added to the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® and Behavior Index, they can also move some horse up like Lookin at Lee who’s a proven competitor on the classic trail. He’s the only horse in this race that has been moved up with Data Mining and time will tell if that was justified.
In addition to the top five horses listed in the Data Mining chart honorable mention goes to Gormley, J Boys Echo and Twisted Tom who could, perhaps, be factors in the exotics.
In the final analysis, the Behavior Index and Data Mining variables are applied to a select few horses while the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® is the standard of measurement for the rest of the horses in the race.
Let’s take a look at the horses I like in Belmont 149:
PATCH (12-1) is a sire-line descendant of the Northern Dancer Ancestral Herd and he comes into this race for trainer Todd Pletcher with 1-2-0 record in four starts including a nice second-place finish to Girvin in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and a fourteenth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Here’s the video and chart call of his Derby finish:
PATCH chased off the rail, edged up between rivals leaving the far turn, was checked and bounced around with GIRVIN near the five sixteenths causing him to lose any chance and came up empty.
Patch was my long shot pick in both the Louisiana and Kentucky Derbies and, despite his poor showing last out, I’m willing to overlook that race.
Union Rags, the sire of Patch, was a competitive colt on the trail to the 2012 Kentucky Derby (G1), compiling an overall 5-1-1 record in eight career starts with $1,798,800 in earnings.
As a two year old, he won the Three Chimneys Saratoga Special (G2) and Champagne (G1) stakes and finished second in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) stakes.
At the age of three, Union Rags won the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) stakes and finished third in the Florida Derby (G1) en route to a seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He finished his career with a narrow win by a neck over Paynter in the Belmont (G1) stakes.
I like it that veteran and classic-winning jockey John Velazquez picks up the mount on Patch. I look for him to have Patch more engaged early on in the race and with an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® ranking Patch has the breeding to win.
Another move forward could make Patch very competitive and, perhaps, upset at a nice price.
LOOKIN AT LEE (5-1) is a sire-line descendant of the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd and he comes into this race for trainer Steve Asmussen with a 2-3-2 record in eleven starts including a second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and a fourth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes (G1). Here’s video and chart call of the Preakness:
LOOKIN AT LEE leaned in causing an awkward break, dropped in early and lagged well back, was under pressure near the far turn, angled five wide for the drive and kept trying to the wire.
Lookin at Lee is proven competitor on the classic trail. He likes to run at the back of the herd and that running style has enabled him to close with good energy to finish second in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and fourth in the Preakness Stakes (G1). And it could bode well for him in the Belmont, too.
Lookin at Lucky, the sire of Lookin at Lee, was an exceptional two year old who was undefeated in four starts, including victories in the Best Pal Stakes (G2), Del Mar Futurity (G1) and Norfolk Stakes (G1), before suffering his first loss by a neck to Vale of York in the 2009 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1).
As a three year old, Lookin at Lucky won the CashCall Futurity (G1), Rebel Stakes (G2) and he finished third in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). Lookin at Lucky finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby and he earned the title Classic Champion Thoroughbred with a three-quarter length victory in the Preakness Stakes (G1).
Jockey Irad Ortiz rode Creator to victory in the 2016 Belmont Stakes (G1) and he picks up the mount on Lookin at Lee.
I look for the pair to run a good race.
IRISH WAR CRY (7-2) is a sire-line descendant of the Mr. Prospector herd and he’s compiled a 4-0-0 record in six starts for trainer Graham Motion with wins in the Marylander Stakes, the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) and the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2). He comes into the Belmont off of a tenth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
IRISH WAR CRY bore in at the break initiating a chain reaction of trouble, straightened and relaxed four wide stalking the pace, edged closer nearing the half, was a daunting presence three deep to the quarter pole, failed to go on with the winner and weakened in the final three sixteenths.
Irish War Cry, like Gormley, has been disappointing on the classic trail and I thought he would be among the top finishers in the Derby. Despite his good breeding, he’ll need to improve his game considerably in order to make it into the winner’s circle.
Curlin, the sire of Irish War Cry, was an outstanding racehorse that compiled an 11-2-2 record in 16 career starts with $10,501,800 in career earnings.
Curlin did not start as a two year old. But, at the age of three, Curlin was 6-1-2 in nine starts with $5,102,800 in earnings including wins in the Rebel Stakes (G3) and Arkansas Derby (G2) en route to a third-place finish in the 2007 Kentucky Derby (G1). He went on to win the Preakness Stakes (G1) and he finished second in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
Other important stakes wins include the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), twice, Dubai World Cup (G1), Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), Woodward Stakes (G1), and the UAE Jaguar Trophy Handicap.
With a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® Irish War Cry has the breeding to be competitive in this race. It remains to be seen if he can rebound off of his poor Derby finish to take another step forward and earn classic stakes honors.
TAPWRIT (6-1) is a sire-line descendant of the A.P. Indy, Bold Ruler Ancestral Herd. He’s compiled a 3-1-0 record in seven starts for trainer Todd Pletcher with a second-place finish in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) and wins in the Pulpit Stakes, and Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2). He comes into this race off of a sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
TAPWRIT was forced into tight quarters by IRISH WAR CRY at the break, steadied off heels in the opening furlong, gained while being brushed between foes near the five sixteenths, altered to the fence in the lane and kept trying.
Tapwrit finished a respectable sixth in this race and was improving his position at the end.
Tapit, the sire of Tapwrit, was a multiple graded stakes winner that compiled a 3-0-0 record in six starts with $557,300 in career earnings.
As a two year old, Tapit was undefeated in two starts including a win in the Laurel Futurity (G3). Tapit was troubled by a lung infection for much of his three year old season but he did win the nine-furlong Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) in route to a ninth-place finish in the 2004 Kentucky Derby.
At stud, Tapit has been America’s leading sire for the past three years and he’s the sire of the Belmont Stakes (G1) winners Tonalist and Creator.
With an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® rating Tapwrit is one of the best bred colts in this race but he’s yet to fully live up to his breeding. Another move forward could make him very competitive in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
EPICHARIS (4-1) is a sire line descendant of the Sunday Silence Ancestral Herd and he comes into this race with a 4-1-0 record in five starts for trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara.
Epicharis is one of the most accomplished runners in this race. As two year old, he won his first three races by a combined 25 lengths and I especially like the way he won with ease by 12 lengths in the nine-furlong Hokkaido Nisai Yushan.
As a three year old, his victory in the Hyacinth Stakes and second-place finish in the UAE Derby (G2) qualified him to run in the Kentucky Derby (G1) but his connections passed on that race. Here’s the video of the UAE Derby.
Epicharis broke alertly and led for most of the race until Thunder Snow beat him by a head at the wire.
Gold Allure, the sire of Epicharis, was a multiple graded stakes winner in Japan that compiled an 8-1-1 record in 16 starts. As a two year old, he was 1-1-0 in three starts with a fourth-place finish in the Hopeful Stakes.
As a three year old, Gold Allure was 5-0-1 in 10 starts with wins in the Tango Stakes, Japan Dirt Derby (G1), Derby Grand Prix (G1), Japan Cup Dirt (G1), Tokyo Daishoten (G1) and he finished fifth in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby).
At the age of four, Gold Allure was 1-1-0 in three starts with wins in the February Stakes (G1) and Antares Stakes (G1).
As a stallion, Gold Allure is currently ranked ninth in the Japan Racing Association Sire Ranking.
Christophe LeMaire has ridden Epicharis in all of his previous starts and he’s the leading jockey in the Japan Racing Association Jockeys Ranking.
With a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® rating, Epicharis has the breeding to win this race. However, with the recent treatment for lameness a lot will depend on if he goes to the track to train on Friday.
"He looked a little different favoring his right front [Wednesday] afternoon, so we treated his hoof and gave him Bute," said trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara in a Jay Privman news story. "It looks like it is getting better and I think there is no problem with him running in the race. We still have time, so we will give him the best care we can."
On Friday, a Jay Privman story noted that Epicharis was fitted with a glue-on horseshoe and that he would not go to the track but would walk at the barn.
Currently, Epicharis is ranked first in the Data Mining chart and I really liked his chances in this race. However, due to the events of the past couple of days his status is questionable and I’ll watch him closely leading up to the race.