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Jun 01, 2012

Analyzing the lower-level Belmont Stakes runners

By: By Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - All eyes will be on I'll Have Another June 9 to see if he can become the 12th Triple Crown winner in racing history. Ten other colts and geldings have other intentions to try to keep that number at 11 in the 144th running of the Belmont Stakes.

I'll Have Another is expected to be the favorite for the first time in eight career starts. Unfortunately for the chestnut colt, the betting choice has not won the Belmont Stakes since Afleet Alex prevailed at even-money in 2005. In fact, that Preakness-Belmont winner has been the only favorite to win the third leg of the Triple Crown in the last 10 runnings.

Since Point Given strolled to his 12 1/4-length score in 2001, eight of the last 10 winners paid more than $10 to win and the average odds of all winners were 20-1. Moreover, four of those horses paid over $50. Finally, the favorite has hit the board in just five of the last 10 runnings with four eighth- or ninth-place finishes!

Based on all those numbers, plus the fact that the last 11 colts in position to win the Triple Crown all lost, the odds are firmly against I'll Have Another to become the first to complete the trifecta since Affirmed in 1978.

It is also important to note that only two second choices in the wagering have won the Belmont over the last 10 years as well so one must not discount the chances of any 11 horses in the field.

Given that, let's run down six colts and geldings that realistically have zero chance of winning the Belmont Stakes but could surprise given the right scenario.

Ravelo's Boy hasn't raced since March 10 when he finished fifth in the Tampa Bay Derby at 18-1. It was his 13th career start and the third straight race he finished out of the money. The son of Lawyer Ron, who has never raced farther than 1 1/16 miles, has not even won a race this year.

His best effort in 2012 came two races back in the Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 4. That day he rallied strongly to finish fourth, losing the third spot to Reveron by a nose.

Despite his lack of success, Ravelo's Boy won't even be the longest shot on the board. That honor is up for grabs between Guyana Star Dweej and Five Sixteen.

Guyana Star Dweej has one win and five seconds in nine lifetime starts. Not a bad record on the surface. However, eight of those races came against maidens, meaning it took him that long to win his initial race. In his only start since reaching the winner's circle, the chestnut colt was soundly defeated by Unstoppable U in an allowance race at Belmont Park on April 27.

Making matters even worse for the son of Eddington is his lack of effort in a recent workout over the track. The colt had to be pulled up by his jockey before completing the scheduled training session.

Five Sixteen also ran in allowance conditions last time out, finishing fourth, beaten over 11 lengths by Eye On Jacob. The gelding's lone win came the race before by a head over Suns Out Guns Out, a colt that ran next-to-last in the Gotham Stakes in early March.

Even though the Belmont Stakes has produced huge payouts in the past 10 years, don't look for either of these colts and geldings to follow suit.


Unstoppable U has raced just twice in his short career but the gray colt has won them both by a combined nine lengths. Still, it's highly unlikely a horse with only two lifetime starts at one mile or less will step up and win the Belmont Stakes.

His last victory was a gate-to-wire job over the previously mentioned Guyana Star Dweej and the other win came in the slop at six furlongs at Aqueduct on March 31.

Summer Bird won the Belmont Stakes in his fifth lifetime start three years ago, but at least he had run in the Kentucky Derby as well as the Arkansas Derby after breaking his maiden.

Unstoppable U will not only need to jump up in class from a first-level allowance race, but he also won't be able to steal it on the front end with Paynter in the race.

Optimizer has danced all the dances since winning first time out on the turf last summer at Saratoga. He's raced in nine graded stakes events with two seconds and a third. Nevertheless, he's been beaten a combined 48 lengths in the Arkansas Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas pulled off the 18-1 Belmont Stakes upset in 2000 with Commendable after the colt finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby. However, that year's field was lacking the star power this race possesses.

The final horse that has little chance to finish first, second or third is Atigun. Trained by Kenneth McPeek, who also has Unstoppable U in the field, Atigun will look to make it back-to-back wins after nailing down an allowance victory on the Derby Day undercard.

The track was listed as muddy for his race that day and the son of Istan ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43 seconds. He also tied his career-high Beyer number with an 89. Unfortunately, he has never finished better than fifth in three graded stakes attempts.

Atigun does have one thing going for him that none of the others on this list have and that's a pedigree to excel at 12 furlongs. His sire Istan comes from a Mr. Prospector line that has been extremely successful in Triple Crown races, and his damsire is the recently deceased Dynaformer, one of the top broodmare sires in the world.

Ken McPeek also has a Belmont Stakes victory under his belt. He trained 70-1 shot Sarava in 2002, the year War Emblem needed a Belmont win to sweep the Triple Crown. Could McPeek pull off another magical win 10 years later?

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