Had Orb won the Preakness three weeks ago the nation would focus on Belmont Park today hoping to see the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. When Oxbow crossed the finish line at Pimlico first, with Orb nine lengths behind, it made the Belmont a great test, but without the sizzle. Both Orb and Oxbow will try the mile and a half challenge today. Twelve other horses go to the gate as well seeking their part of history and the $1 million dollar prize.
A winner of five straight before his Preakness dud, Orb will be the favorite today. Did he just respond well to the Churchill slop? Was he tired or otherwise bothered at Pimlico? His five wins are the most in the field. His $2.4 million earnings are double anybody else in the race. It has been 18 years since a Derby winner won the Belmont.
It was hard to handicap Oxbow to win the Preakness. Among the handful of speed horses, who all faded at the Kentucky Derby, he held on the best finishing sixth. When Orb ran poorly in Baltimore, veteran Gary Stevens was able to go wire-to-wire with Oxbow in far and away his best career race. One time in the last dozen running’s of the Belmont has the Preakness winner triumphed.
Freedom Child ran like the best horse on planet earth May 11. On the same track he will run on today, perhaps on the same sloppy surface, he won the Peter Pan Stakes by more than 13 lengths. In his previous effort he got off very poorly and was never a factor in the Wood Memorial. By not placing well in that race he failed to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. He lost to Orb in a maiden race back in November but did finish second, ahead of Revolutionary.
The third place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, Revolutionary rested three weeks ago when Orb and Oxbow ran in the Preakness. Revolutionary got in a bit of racing trouble in the stretch of the Derby and never reached his peak stride until too late. He had won three straight races leading up to the Derby, and has raced well under wet conditions.
Unlimited Budget will be the “in” horse. Trying to become just the second filly to win the Belmont since 1905, she has won four of five career races but never faced the boys. Rosie Napravnik will become the first female jockey to ride all three Triple Crown races in the same year. She was third in the Kentucky Oaks on May 3. Trainer Todd Pletcher prepared filly Rags to Riches when she captured the Belmont in 2007.
Overanalyze made a bold move to win the Arkansas Derby. That explosion never came down the stretch in Louisville. He's won four of eight career races and is one for one at Belmont Park.
Palace Malice takes the blinkers off today after he ran poorly in the Kentucky Derby. A winner of just one career race, he has the ability to make one run down the stretch if he doesn't fall behind too far. Jockey Mike Smith has won a lot of big races.
If you can throw out the Derby for some reason, Vyjack won four of five races prior to the first Saturday in May. He was not embarrassed on the Belmont track April 6 in the Wood Memorial. He should be closer to the lead today than he was dropping back out of the 19th post position in Louisville.
The Pick: Revolutionary is well rested, had an excuse and still ran well in Kentucky, and is proven over a wet track. He offers much greater value than Orb.