I've always been a fan of horse racing despite never seeing a Triple Crown in my lifetime. It started when I use to visit my grandmother in England. She kept me entertained in the same way anyone would entertain a child: she told me to look at the day's races and pick the horses whose names I liked the best. We'd then go down to the local bookie (legal in England and not in America for some reason, but that's a story for another day), bet the races with small amounts of money, and then watch the races on tv. Sounds normal enough, right?
My roommate in college owned race horses. One of our favorite professors used to work in the industry. The interest in the sport continued to grow. It peaked when I spent one summer in college interning for a company that created speed figures (a system where you grade a horse's performance with one overall number so as to easier compare it to his other races and other horse's races). It was a fun summer that fully exposed me to the world of horse racing and I've been rooting for the sport ever since.
Today is a really sad day for horse racing. I'll Have Another had the best chance to win a Triple Crown of any horse in recent memory. He had less competition than Funny Cide, wouldn't be aggressively attacked on the front end like Smarty Jones, and had the fortune to have the pedigree of being able to run all day. Horse racing more than anything needs a Triple Crown winner to keep the sport alive. Belmont Park will more than likely see an originally projected crowd of 120,000 cut in half. It is better that the horse didn't run because of the risk of further injury, but the fact that happened is truly unfortunate.
On to the race itself, the whole dynamic obviously changes without the original favorite. Union Rags and Dullahan will battle for top betting honors, but neither has proven deserving of being a clear favorite. There's no jack rabbit to push the pace, so expect a moderately paced race. The biggest issue with the Belmont is can a horse sustain that moderate pace over 1 and a half miles, which is the longest of the triple crown distances. The race obviously lacks the excitement of what it could've been, but it's still a Triple Crown race. Here's what to expect from all the horses:
1 - Street Life - 8/1
He's got a no name trainer and a no name jockey, but he's got the distance pedigree. There's a chance he could hit the board.
2 - Unstoppable U - 20/1
He's undefeated in two starts, but they were both very low quality races. Don't expect much from him here.
3 - Union Rags - 3/1
Union Rags was screwed by jockey Julien Leparoux in his last two races. The switch to Johnny Velazquez for a jockey will massively improve Union Rags' chances. There are no excuses to be made after this one.
4 - Atigun - 15/1
Leparoux now finds himself on Atigun, who won a crummy race at Churchill Downs after being quite miserable in the Arkansas Derby (won by Bodemeister). He should deal with the distance better, but expectations are quite low.
5 - Dullahan - 9/5
The new favorite shows plenty of stamina upon winning Blue Grass and finishing third at the Kentucky Derby. He's the one to beat and will likely finish in the picture, but I'm not completely convinced. As always, you have to take a stance in these races and I'm standing against him.
6 - Ravelo's Boy - 30/1
After a three month layoff Ravelo's Boy returns in a race no one expects him to compete in.
7 - Five Sixteen - 30/1
His name is fitting. We expect to see him for five sixteenths of the first mile and then he'll drop off into obscurity.
8 - Guyana Star Dweej - 30/1
Kent Desormeaux gets the mount despite his recent alcohol issues. He should've gone to the bar instead of taking the mount because this is a waste of his time.
9 - Paynter - 8/1
Trainer Bob Baffert left Bodemeister at home to saddle Panyter. He may not be Bodemeister, but he's capable of a decent performance. He's put up quality speed figures in his last two races and has a good shot to be a spoiler.
10 - Optimizer - 15/1
After coming up very short in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, D. Wayne Lucas thinks Optimizer will be more successful here. Lucas expects Optimizer to handle the distance. I'm not as optimistic as Optimizer.
12 - My Adonis - 15/1
He was a surprise entry into the race and it wouldn't surprise me if we didn't even notice him racing.
Predicted Order of Finish:
1 - Union Rags
2 - Panyter
3 - Dullahan
4 - Street Life