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Blog - GAMBLING

Oxbow (inside) won the Preakness after finishing sixth to Orb in the Belmont Stakes (Photo courtesy Eclipse Sportswire).

There’s nothing in horse racing that can compare to a Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes.

Not even the thrill of the Kentucky Derby can match the excitement and sense of anticipation that grip Belmont Park when a horse bids for a sweep of the Triple Crown.

At the other extreme, a Belmont without a Derby or Preakness winner can be as a compelling as a day of watching grass grow.

In the middle and hovering toward the top of that scale is what should be awaiting racing fans on Saturday: A rubber match between the Derby and Preakness winner.

By providing round three between Derby winner Orb and the horse that beat him in the Preakness, Oxbow, most of the blanks about the Triple Crown chase should be filled in.

We might find out which one of them had the bad day, Oxbow in the Derby or Orb in the Preakness.

Perhaps we’ll learn that parity is once again the order of the day and that someone else will take center stage in the Belmont, forcing a three-way division of the Triple Crown for the fourth time in five years.  It’s quite possible given the expected super-sized complexion of this year’s field.

Yet if recent history is any indicator, the Belmont just might mirror the Preakness … or perhaps the Derby.

Going back 50 years to 1963, there have been 14 times when the Derby and Preakness winners have squared off in the Belmont, and the Preakness victor has been on quite a roll. He finished in front of the Derby champ in six of the last seven instances – and that one triumph for the Derby winner came in 1993 when the Preakness winner, Prairie Bayou, broke down. Beyond that, to find a good June day for the Run for the Roses camp you have to go back to 1984 when Swale won the Derby, was a shocking seventh in the Preakness and then romped to a four-length triumph in the Belmont.

The six Preakness winners we’re talking about are Shackleford in 2011, Afleet Alex in 2005, Point Given in 2001, Tabasco Cat in 1994, Hansel in 1991 and Risen Star in 1988, all of whom avenged a loss in the Run for the Roses and got the better of the Derby winner at both Pimlico and Belmont Park.

SHACKLEFORD IN THE 2011 PREAKNESS

Shackleford Preakness

Photo courtesy Eclipse Sportswire

Interestingly, of those six times when the rubber match in New York went to the Preakness winner, in five of them that horse also won the Belmont. The exception was in 2011 when Shackleford was fifth and Derby winner Animal Kingdom was sixth.

Clearly those are numbers that might explain why trainer D. Wayne Lukas needed about 30 seconds after the Preakness to commit Oxbow to the Belmont – not that “The Coach” ever needs much of a reason to run in a Triple Crown race.

Overall, of those 14 times the Derby and Preakness winners faced off, the edge went to the Preakness victor eight times and in most of that baker’s dozen plus one at least one of the two Triple Crown race winners played a key role in deciding the outcome of the Belmont.

From the 14-race sample over 50 years, the Derby or Preakness winner won nine of those Belmonts with the Pimlico victor accounting for seven of those victories. Beyond that, in the 14 of them only twice did the Belmont exacta fail to include either the Derby or Preakness winner (2011 and 1993).

History says it might not be wise to box the Derby and Preakness winners in the exacta on Belmont Stakes Day – they’ve finished 1-2 in the Test of the Champion on just three occasions, 1994, 1991 and 1963. Yet it would be an even greater mistake to leave both of them out of your exotics in the final jewel.

What it all boils down to is that if you liked what you saw in the Derby or the Preakness, then you better keep a close eye on the Belmont. You just might see a replay.

Year

Derby winner

Preakness winner

Best Belmont finisher

Finish

2011

Animal Kingdom

Shackleford

Shackleford

5th

2005

Giacomo

Afleet Alex

Afleet Alex

1st

2001

Monarchos

Point Given

Point Given

1st

1994

Go For Gin

Tabasco Cat

Tabasco Cat

1st

1993

Sea  Hero

Prairie Bayou

Sea Hero

7th

1991

Strike the Gold

Hansel

Hansel

1st

1988

Winning Colors

Risen Star

Risen Star

1st

1984

Swale

Gate Dancer

Swale

1st

1982

Gato Del Sol

Linkage

Gato Del Sol

2nd

1980

Genuine Risk

Codex

Genuine Risk

2nd

1975

Foolish Pleasure

Master Derby

Foolish Pleasure

2nd

1974

Cannonade

Little Current

Little Current

1st

1967

Proud Clarion

Damascus

Damascus

1st

1963

Chateaugay

Candy Spots

Chateaugay

1st               

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

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