©2016 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
This Saturday, the trail to classic glory takes us to Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, where Exaggerator will go the starting gate as the 9-5 morning line favorite in the 148th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) which is the last jewel of the prestigious Triple Crown of American horseracing.
Prerace television coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network with race coverage switching to NBC at 5 p.m. Post-race coverage will be on the NBC Sports Network from 7 to 7:30 p.m. ET.
In addition to Exaggerator, Suddenbreakingnews (10-1) and Lani (30-1) could be solid competitors if they live up to their breeding. Other horses that could, perhaps, be factors are Stradivari (5-1) and Governor Malibu (12-1).
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 (G1) 148:
As you can see in the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® chart above, the quality of breeding is much better than in the previous two classic races and there six horses with an A+ grade ranking: Suddenbreakingnews, Lani, Trojan Nation (30-1), Brody’s Cause (20-1), Seeking the Soul (30-1) and Destin (6-1).
Governor Malibu and Forever d’Oro (30-1) both have an A profile rating while Stradivari and Creator (10-1) have B rankings. Gettysburg (30-1) and Exaggerator have C profile rankings.
Suddenbreakingnews and Lani have the best breeding and they rank in the top four in the three charts above. However, they have yet to fully live up to their breeding and there can be many contributing factors for horses like those two not running to their profile score – Effinex is a good example of that.
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. If horses like Suddenbreakingnews and Lani are not running close to their profile score, then the issue[s] preventing them from reaching their full potential needs to be investigated.
Horse behavior is also vitally important for an Equine athlete to have success on the racetrack and one of the biggest changes that have been made to the software is the addition of the Behavior Index which I wrote about in my wrap up for the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2).
The Behavior Index is proving to be a very valuable analytical tool, and, with its addition to the software, Dallas and I are now able to add behavioral analysis to the final equation of what it takes to produce a Classic Champion Thoroughbred or top quality graded stakes competitor.
In addition to the Behavior Index, Data Mining is also a valuable analytical tool that helps to improve the result of a horse with a low profile score. For example, in the last chart above, when Data Mining is applied to Exaggerator and Stradivari, they move up into the top four and Cherry Wine also moves up in the ranking.
Other horses that perhaps should receive Data Mining are Governor Malibu and Creator. When that variable is added to those two, Governor Malibu is tied with Stradivari in fourth and Creator moves up to sixth in the ranking.
There’s no doubt about adding Data Mining to Exaggerator and time will tell if it was justifiable to add that variable to Stradivari, Governor Malibu, Creator and Cherry Wine.
Some horses that have low profile scores, like Nyquist and Exaggerator who have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, can be moved up because their Behavior Index and Data Mining makes them competitive, enabling them to sometimes win races that are shorter than the classic 10 furlong distance. However, only a few horses with low profile scores, like Nyquist and Exaggerator, can go on to win races at the classic distance.
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 Stakes (G1) 148:
SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (10-1) is sire-line descendant of the A.P. Indy, Bold Ruler Ancestral Herd and with an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® he’s the best bred horse in this race.
I’ve liked Suddenbreakingnews since last fall and I wrote about him in my 2016 Kentucky Derby Outlook. At that time, he was ranked number one on my list of horses that had yet to qualify for the Derby.
To date, Suddenbreakingnews has compiled a 3-4-0 record in nine starts including a troubled trip in the Rebel Stakes (G2) where he finished a disappointing fifth to Cupid. Suddenbreakingnews improved off of that run to finish second in the Arkansas Derby (G1) and he came from almost dead last in the Kentucky Derby (G1) to finish a respectable fifth. Here’s a look at the video and chart call of the Derby as well as an interactive race sequence from the Blood Horse.
SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS was jammed up just after the start, steadied nearing the wire the first time while saving ground, leveled into stride along the rail, altered out and around a tiring rival leaving the far turn, dropped back to the inside cutting the corner into the lane, was maneuvered out sharply inside the three-sixteenths pole, straightened away and finished with a burst.
Like his previous races, Suddenbreakingnews was running in “race horse” time at the end but he was too far back when he started his run to finish in the money. Hopefully the switch to jockey Mike Smith in the Belmont will have him closer to the pace in the so that he can finish in the top four or, perhaps, upset at a nice price.
Mineshaft, the sire of Suddenbreakingnews, was an outstanding route racer who compiled a 10-3-1 record in 18 lifetime starts. He began his racing career in England at the age of three, winning a maiden weight for age race at Newmarket. In November, Mineshaft was shipped to America where he won two more races to close out the season with a 3-1-1 record in nine starts.
As a four year old, Mineshaft really proved himself as a champion and compiled a 7-2-0 record in route to earning Horse of the Year and Champion Older Horse honors. In nine starts, Mineshaft won the New Orleans Handicap (G2), Ben Ali Stakes (G3), Pimlico Special Handicap (G1), Suburban Handicap (G1), Woodward Stakes (G1) and the Jockey Club Gold Club Stakes (G1).
Suddenbreakingnews is bred on the nick of the A.P. Indy, Bold Ruler Ancestral Herd over the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd which is the same nick as Nehro who finished second in the 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) to Animal Kingdom.
However, Suddenbreakinnews has much better breeding than Nehro and if he lives up to that breeding he has the potential to be a Classic Champion Thoroughbred.
LANI (20-1) is a sire-line descendant of the A.P. Indy, Bold Ruler Ancestral Herd and with an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® he’s another example of a horse with a high profile that has not lived up to his breeding. He finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and fifth in the Preakness Stakes (G1). Here’s the video of the Preakness Stakes (G1), chart call and interactive race sequence from the Blood Horse:
LANI bobbled at the break and was away last, dropped far back early and raced off the rail, began a run leaving the three eighths, steadied off heels soon into the lane, angled out to split rivals, lugged in briefly near the eighth pole, corrected and kept on with good energy.
Despite finishing off the board, Lani made up a lot of ground over a sloppy track to finish a respectable fifth and appears to be a horse that is improving and getting more acclimated to racing in America.
“He likes his surroundings here at Belmont Park,” said trainer Mikio Matsunaga in a Blood Horse news story. “He’s been having a good time in New York and we’re looking forward to running Saturday...He was very controllable, according to the rider. And he showed good acceleration coming out of the turn and he had great strides,” added Matsunaga.
In the UAE Derby (G2), Lani and Polar River were the two horses I liked and his victory in that race earned him a spot in the starting gate of Kentucky Derby 142. Here’s the video and Racing Post chart call of his run in the UAE Derby:
[LANI] broke awkwardly, chased leaders 4f out, led 110 yds out, ran on well.
Lani recovered well after the horrible start to get up and secure the win over a very good Polar River who was undefeated in four starts going into that race.
To date, Lani has compiled a 3-1-0 record in eight starts. His other significant races include a win in the Cattleya Sho Stakes and a fifth-place finish in the one mile Hyacinth Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse. Here’s the video of Hyacinth Stakes.
Despite the fifth-place finish in the Hyacinth Stakes, Lani only lost by 2¾ lengths and the final time of 1:35.40 is what I like to see colts run on the Derby Trail.
Tapit, the sire of Lani, was undefeated in two starts as a 2-year-old including a win in the Laurel Futurity (G3). As a 3-year-old, Tapit was troubled by a lung infection for much of the season but did win the nine-furlong Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) in route to a ninth-place finish in the 2004 Kentucky Derby.
Much was made about the quirky behavior of Lani leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Here’s what Bloodstock agent and clocker Gary Young had to say about Lani in his last work out on May 3:
The “Iron Horse” with a mind and a will of his own entered the building at 8:35 a.m. He had the same look on him as Russell Crowe in “Gladiator” as he entered the Coliseum. The plan was to break off at the 3/4 pole if the beast so desired. He declined. This is a prime case of the inmates running the prison but by the time he saw the 5/8 pole he decided to work. He went smoothly throughout in :24.40 and :36.60 and got to the wire under light coaxing in 1.01. He may lose the Derby but it won’t be because he’s undertrained. After he pulled up from his work, he came to a walk and was asked to walk another lap around the main track. I’m starting to believe his toughness and attitude is the stuff Godzilla was made of.
As a student of Life, I’m always interested in learning why individuals, be they human or one of God’s Equine creations, fail to live up to their full potential. Lani has yet to live up to his potential, but, since coming to America, he now appears to be well adjusted in his training at Belmont Park.
If Lani returns to his previous form in the UAE Derby and runs much closer to the pace, I look for him to be competitive and, perhaps, upset at a nice price.
EXAGGERATOR (9-5) is a sire-line descendant of the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd which has been a powerful influence in American classic racing. Since 1990 descendants of that herd have sired 30 Classic Champion Thoroughbreds who have won 41 of the past 78 Triple Crown races for a 53% strike rate.
Exaggerator comes into this race with a 5-3-1 record in 11 starts for trainer Keith Desormeaux including a fast closing second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and a win in the Preakness Stakes (G1). Here’s the video of the Preakness Stakes (G1), chart call and interactive race sequence from the Blood Horse:
EXAGGERATOR dove toward the fence in the initial furlong as the leaders were content to contest the pace off the inside, quickly gained along the rail nearing the half marker and took measure of the leaders, was patiently handled leaving the three eighths, angled out to be six wide entering the stretch, forged past NYQUIST with three sixteenths remaining, kicked clear then lugged in despite left-handed rousing in mid-stretch, kept on after his rider switched to the right stick and held firm.
Exaggerator has a C Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, but his Behavior Index and Data Mining variables make him competitive in this race.
Curlin, the sire of Exaggerator, was an outstanding racehorse that compiled an 11-2-2 record in 16 career starts with $10,501,800 in earnings. Curlin won the 2007 Preakness Stakes (G1), finished second in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and third in the Kentucky Derby (G1). In addition, Curlin won 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.
Exaggerator is the horse to beat and while it remains to be seen if he can win the Belmont Stakes (G1), I look for him to be competitive.
STRADIVARI (5-1) is a sire-line descendant of the Northern Dancer Ancestral Herd and he comes into the Belmont Stakes (G1) with a 2-0-0 record in four starts for trainer Todd Pletcher, including a fourth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes (G1). Here’s the video of the Preakness Stakes (G1), chart call and interactive race sequence from the Blood Horse:
STRADIVARI broke inward and brushed with FELLOWSHIP, corrected then was difficult to settle when rank advancing into the first turn, continued rank heading toward the backstretch, moved with the winner while between horses into the far turn, gave hard chase past the five sixteenths, was carried six wide as the winner angled for room, straightened away to remain a solid presence to mid-stretch then gave way grudgingly.
Despite his light seasoning and stepping up in class, Stradivari ran valiantly and just barely missed finishing second by a half a length.
Medaglia d’Oro, the sire of Stradivari, was a good middle-distance runner that compiled an 8-7-0 record in 17 starts with $5,754,720 in career earnings. Overall, he had seven wins and five second-place finishes in 14 route races.
Medaglia d’Oro finished second in his only start as a two year old but as a three year old he won the San Felipe Stakes (G2) and finished second in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) in route to the 2002 Derby where he finished in fourth place.
In the Preakness Stakes (G1), Medaglia d’Oro finished eighth but rebounded from that run to finish second in the Belmont Stakes (G1). He went on to complete his racing season as a three year old with wins in the nine-furlong Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) and the 10-furlong Travers Stakes (G1).
As a four year old, Medaglia d’Oro won the nine-furlong Strub Stakes (G2), Oaklawn Handicap (G2) and Whitney Handicap (G1). In addition, he finished second in the 10-furlong Pacific Classic Stakes (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
At the age of five, Medaglia d’Oro won the nine-furlong Donn Handicap (G1) and finished second in the 10-furlong Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (G1).
Stradivari’s ranked ninth in the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® chart and when you add his Behavior Index and Data Mining influences he moves up into the top four.
He ran exceptionally well in the Preakness Stakes (G1) just off the leaders who set blistering fast fractions. Stadivari has room to improve in his third start of the season and another move forward would make him very competitive in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
GOVERNOR MALIBU (12-1) is a sire-line descendant of the A.P. Indy, Bold Ruler Ancestral Herd and he has an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®. He comes into this race for trainer Christophe Clemente with a 2-4-1 record in seven starts including a second-place finish in the Peter Pan Stakes (G2) at Belmont on May 14. Here’s the video and chart call of the Peter Pan:
GOVERNOR MALIBU crossed to the two path shortly after the start allowed to settle near the rear early on, remained saving ground unhurried until the five-sixteenths when put to coaxing, continued just off the inside into upper stretch, rallied angling out nearing the sixteenth marker offering up a good finish to threaten late, shied under a near sided stick and was corrected then latched on to the forementioned foe in the final jumps.
The fractions in this race were blistering fast with the mile split at 1:34.46 and the finish time of 1:47.14. That’s the kind of time I like to see in colts on the Triple Crown Trail and Governor Malibu ran just a few lengths off the leaders but came up short to lose by three-quarters of a length to a talented Unified.
Malibu Moon, the sire of Governor Malibu, made only two starts as a two year old, compiling a 1-1-0 record, before a slab fracture ended his racing career.
At stud, Malibu Moon sired the 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb. In addition, he’s sired several horses that have been competitive on the Derby trail such as Danzig Moon, Mr. Z and Stanford. Other nice runners sired by Malibu Moon include Life At Ten, Devil May Care, Declan’s Moon, Ask the Moon, Prospective, Kauai Katie, Moon Catcher and Malibu Mint.
Governor Malibu appears to be an improving colt while his performance in the Peter Pan was his best yet. Jockey Joel Rosario retains the mount on Governor Malibu and another move forward could make him very competitive in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
Honorable mention goes to Brody’s Cause, Destin, Trojan Nation and Seeking the Soul who have an A+ ranking but have yet to live up to the breeding.
I wrote about Brody’s Cause and Destin in my 2016 Kentucky Derby Outlook and a finish in the top four by either of them would be no surprise. In two charts above, Brody’s Cause is ranked in the top four while Destin is ranked in the top four in one chart.