The draw for the 143rd Belmont Stakes took place on Wednesday morning and there appeared to be some interesting developments out of the pill pulling. The thing that stands out immediately is the Preakness winner, Shackleford, getting the outside post position. He is stuck out in the twelve hole. This is not the same deal as the Derby, where he drew fourteen and was able to get to the front easier through the long stretch at Churchill Downs before the field got to the first turn. No, this time the run to the sweeping first turn at Belmont Park is much shorter and if Shackleford is to get to the front, he is going to have to work much harder than he did to do it in either of the previous two races. This apparent complication to his chances is evident with the morning line of 9-2, making him the third choice.
The Kentucky Derby runner-up, Nehro, drew post position number six for Saturday's Belmont Stakes. He is second choice at 4-1. What will be most interesting about Nehro is what running style will be employed by his connections, trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Corey Nakatani. Will he take back and make one big run, as he did in his second-place finishes in the Louisiana and Arkansas Derbies, or will he be much closer to the pace than we all expected, as happened in Louisville? He certainly looked to be the winner of the Kentucky Derby at the top of the stretch before Animal Kingdom did his thing. Keep in mind, however, that big closers usually don't fare too well in the Test Of Champions.
Speaking of Animal Kingdom, he drew post position number nine and I don't really think where he drew will matter to his connections at all. Again, the question here will be position for the Derby winner. In the Kentucky Derby, he got a dream trip every step of the way under John Velazquez and laid relatively close to a relaxed pace and was able to make his move at the right time. However, in the Preakness, Shackleford and Flashpoint went much faster early on before things settled down and Animal Kingdom was much farther back than he had been in the Derby and he came up very narrowly short. Again, remembering that deep closers are the exception rather than the norm in the Belmont, the guess here is that he will be closer to the pace as things develop.
As for the others in the twelve-horse field, I think the most interesting horse of the lot is down on the rail. Master Of Hounds ran fifth in the Derby and was among a cluster of horses at the end that included Santiva and Brilliant Speed (both present here also). Master Of Hounds ran like he would be craving the extra distance the Belmont offered and would be well-suited to the race. Did drawing the rail compromise his chances? It remains to be seen, but I think the inside might be the spot to be, especially if he is able to sit mid-pack and Garrett Gomez is able save all the ground and have him positioned well for the final four furlongs.
Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!