Tag Archives: Bob Baffert

PREVIEW: Belmont Stakes – Justify a Triple Crown Winner?

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An almighty task on hand, the chance to become an equine legend beckons at the end of it – Justify has to defy history one more time to land the Triple Crown!

Still unbeaten, the Scat Daddy colt only started his racing career in February this year. He’s come a long way since then. Memorable victories in the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes bring him here to this day, the day where it’s all on the line.

We all want to see a Triple Crown winner. And we may do so today. It’s so difficult to achieve, such a tremendous ask for a three year old colt who’s still learning his trade. Three grueling races within four weeks; different trips, tracks, underfoot conditions, going against some fresh and not so fresh, inexperienced and race hardened rivals.

If history tells us how difficult it is to win the Triple Crown then we must saviour the opportunity to witness the second one of these historical achievements within three years. Amercian Pharoah broke through this barrier that latest decades. Who’d have thought we might see one again so soon after?

So, the question everyone is asking: can he do it???

No. He can’t. My heart wants it. My head disagrees.

There are a few much smarter brains than I am out there who brought compelling arguments forward for and against. What sticks out for me personally is Simon Rowlands take on the race as he uses striding analysis to understand how Justify’s performances to this date compare to other notable Triple Crown winners.

His comparison and the facts uncovered are comprehensive. They tend to agree with my less so analytical thoughts: Justify is all speed. Or mostly speed. His pedigree doesn’t scream “I want a trip” either.

Don’t get me wrong, he impressed me in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, no doubt. The way he looks, the way he moves, the way he goes about his business.

Today is an entirely different race, though. Different conditions. An additional two furlongs. Against opposition that didn’t have to compete in all three Triple Crown races. Some of these may have a bit more left in the locker plus a few of the rivals Justify will meet today are likely to appreciate this marathon trip quite a bit more than he likely does.

Lest to forget: Justify needed to go all out for a while now – on the go since February – each month one important race for him to contest and be at his best. That must take its toll.

if it doesn’t- and if Justify can overcome all of these hurdles then he truly is a special horse, one that warrants to be mentioned in line with the best – make no mistake about that.

Okay so, if not Justify, who’s then going to win the Belmont?

Well, I take a punt. He’s not the most obvious one, he may not be good enough after all. Regardless, I do sense that Free Drop Billy is overpriced. He hasn’t won a race this year and only managed to get places in a couple of Grade 2- and 3 contests. He ran in the Kentucky Derby like his price suggested: rotten.

BUT there is a big but: Free Drop Billy is a Grade 1 winner already, nonetheless. He landed the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes at Keeneland as a juvenile. He also was a fair runner-up at this seasonal reappearance this year in February behind Derby third Audible. He clearly has class.

That says he very much looks like a grinder. One who’s always going to get beaten for speed. He’s also one who is likely to get into his own in the second half of the year – so now! Free Drop Billy is May foal; normally these individuals need a bit more time.

Connections clearly felt that way after the Derby. They gave him time off. He bypassed the Preakness and comes here fresher than most. And there is the fact that he is a son of Union Rags – himself a Belmont Stakes winner – while also being a half-brother to multiple 1m 4f Stakes scorer Hawkbill.

Dare I say that Free Drop Billy looked excellent in his work this week leading up to the big race? I start to believe….

In saying all of this, Free Drop Billy needs to improve, needs to step up a good deal to be in with a shout. I feel there is a better chance for him to do exactly that than the betting suggests. I believe he is a lively place chance, at the very least.

Selection:
5pts Each/Way (3 places, 1/5) – Free Drop Billy @ 66/1 VC

……..

Photo: nytimes.com
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Spectacular Arrogate in the Travers!

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ANOTHER spectacular Saturday in the US – European import Flintshire’s stock continues to rise, but it was an underdog who stole the show with a record breaking performance in the Travers!

Formerly trained in France by Andre Fabre, Flintshire finds it much easier to get his head in front since being moved to the US. In top company often found out at the highest level, he’s thriving under US sun where he’s encountering slightly lesser opposition on fast Amercian turf.

Last night he ran out an easy success in the Sword Dancer – a third Grade 1 victory in the US – despite having to delay his run when he found himself short of room on the inside rail when turning for home. But he found away out and surged through the gap as soon as it open up.

In the end a commanding win for a classy middle-distance horse. Flintshire has now five Group 1 victories to his name – certainly not shabby!

Flintshire was impressive, but it was only a harbinger for things to come. The Travers loomed large and clearly promised to be an absolute cracker. It didn’t disappoint!

Preakness and Haskel winner Exaggerator was the logical favourite, but he – and very few others – where able to land a blow as they all where quite literally blown away by what was arguably one the most spectacular Dirt performances we’ve seen in a very long time – Arrogate simply ripped the field to pieces in the home straight!

A rather unfancied 10/1 chance, he had to overcome a tricky draw on inside and was pushed forward right from the start to grab the lead around the first turn. They were flying, setting some frantic fractions, yet Arrogate, despite being pressed for the lead throughout, travelled strongly and kept his rivals at bay.

Only a few horses where even in contention when Arrogate turned for home as the sole leader. Once Mike Smith called on for everything, the three year old son of Unbridled’s Song put the hammer down and blew open a huge gap.

A final winning margin of 13 and half lengths plus a new track record are clear indicators for what sort of special performance Arrogate produced in the Travers. A success that came out of the blue, given the Bob Baffert inmate only won a couple of Allowance Claimers up to that point – what a dramatic improvement!

Arrogate’s odds to land the Breeders Cup Classic subsequently tumbled – he’s now as low as 11/4 in the betting! And that leads to the question: can he re-produce this stunning piece of form in the November 5th showdown at Santa Anita?

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Sunday Selections:

2.40 Beverly:
Dominating @ 9/1 Ladbrokes
Golconda Prince @ 6/1 Betfred

3.10 Goodwood: Fidaawy @ 9/4 Sky

Photo: NYRA