Cloud Computing’s triumph in the 2017 Preakness Stakes was unusual in that he was just the eighth winner in the last 50 years not to have contested the Kentucky Derby.
However, new shooters to the U.S. classics have found more success in the Belmont Stakes – perhaps not surprising given that its 1-1/2-mile trip is quite a different test to the 1-1/4-mile Derby and the 1-3/16-mile Preakness.
Of the past 10 winners of the Belmont Stakes, five hadn’t contested any Triple Crown races. One – the filly Rags to Riches – did win the 2007 Kentucky Oaks a day before the Kentucky Derby.
Two of the other successful new shooters would prove to be top-quality horses. Tonalist, winner of the Peter Pan Stakes prior to the 2014 Belmont, would go on to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup twice and the Cigar Mile as a 4-year-old. Drosselmeyer, who won the 2010 Belmont Stakes after a second-place finish in the Dwyer Stakes, won the Breeders’ Cup Classic the following year.
The 2011 winner Ruler On Ice won the Belmont after finishing third in the Sunland Derby and second in the Federico Tesio Stakes. His future career wasn’t as distinguished as Tonalist or Drosselmeyer, but he finished in the first three in the Haskell Invitational, the Pennsylvania Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic later that year.
The other successful new shooter, 2008’s 37-1 winner Da’Tara, contested the race after finishing second in Pimlico’s Barbaro Stakes. He didn’t win another race in 11 attempts.
The most notable new shooter for this year’s Belmont Stakes is the Japanese contender Epicharis, whose connections saved him for this race after his hard race for second in the UAE Derby. Other possible new shooters include Peter Pan Stakes runner-up Meantime and Federico Tesio Stakes winner Twisted Tom.
Perhaps a little more surprising historically is that Preakness Stakes runners don’t have a great record in the last 10 years in the third jewel of the Triple Crown. In that time, American Pharoah is not only the sole Triple Crown winner, he’s also the sole Belmont Stakes winner to have even started in the Preakness Stakes.
During that time, six other Preakness runners finished second or third in the Belmont Stakes. Of those six, five (Lani, Oxbow, Orb, Mine That Bird, and Curlin) also ran in the Kentucky Derby. The one that didn’t was 2010 Belmont Stakes third-place finisher First Dude, whose start prior to being runner-up in the Preakness Stakes was a third-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes.
Preakness Stakes runners that are likely to return in the Belmont this year include likely favorite Classic Empire, Senior Investment, Lookin At Lee, and Conquest Mo Money. Preakness winner Cloud Computing hadn’t been ruled out at the time of writing, and nor had sixth-place finisher Multiplier.
The other four winners of the Belmont Stakes in the past 10 years entered the race directly after failing to win the Kentucky Derby. All four had finished off the board in the Kentucky Derby (Creator was 13th at Churchill Downs, Palace Malice 12th, Union Rags seventh, and Summer Bird sixth), though all three had finished in the top three in their Derby lead-ups.
Perhaps the best thing to look for is a horse whose pedigree or style of racing has shown stamina, one that either looks to enjoy plenty of racing, or that’s on the way up and peaking at the right time. It makes the Belmont a great betting race.
(Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins Photo)