Belmont Stakes Countdown–May 23, 2015

Belmont Stakes Countdown–May 23, 2015

Here’s a bit of trivia–how many horses did each Triple Crown winner defeat in their Triple Crown victories? The answers might surprise you. The record for the most horses beaten by a Triple Crown winner is seven–just seven–held jointly by Citation and Seattle Slew. Assault and War Admiral beat six horses apiece. Omaha, Secretariat, and Affirmed conquered four rivals in their Belmont victories. Gallant Fox and Whirlaway? Only three horses lined up to face them. And Sir Barton and Count Fleet? Believe it or not, they beat just two rivals apiece to secure their Triple Crowns.

That’s an average of just over 4.3 rivals beaten in the Belmont by the eleven Triple Crown winners, which is a dramatic difference from the number of rivals that the recent Triple Crown hopefuls have faced. Since 1978, when Affirmed last swept the series, no Triple Crown hopeful has faced less than five rivals in the Belmont Stakes, and nine of them have faced eight or more horses. In fact, the average number of challengers for each Triple Crown hopeful has been 8.5, almost twice as many rivals as the Triple Crown winners had to run against.

In my opinion, there are many factors that have led to the lack of Triple Crown winners since 1978, but perhaps none greater than the increase in the number of horses that challenge potential Triple Crown winners in the Belmont Stakes. This is something to keep in mind when analyzing this year’s Belmont Stakes, in which ten horses are currently scheduled to face Triple Crown hopeful American Pharoah.

Speaking of American Pharoah, he galloped 9.5 furlongs at Churchill Downs today with Bob Baffert’s assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes overseeing the exercise. According to the Churchill Downs Barn Notes for May 23rd, the current plan is for American Pharoah to remain in fairly light training for the next few days: “These are just our easy days, so we’re basically just keeping him happy and keeping some weight on him,” Barnes said. “We don’t get serious until another week or so.”

Bob Baffert is expected to visit American Pharoah on Tuesday, May 26th, to determine when American Pharoah will resume more serious training: “He [Baffert] hasn’t decided whether he [American Pharoah] will have one or two workouts,” Barnes said. “He should be letting me know soon. He’ll fly in Monday evening and will be in on Tuesday morning and I’m sure that’s when he will start deciding.”

In other Belmont Stakes-related news, Frammento breezed a half-mile in :49.30 this morning at Saratoga, his second workout since finishing eleventh in the Kentucky Derby. Trained by Nick Zito, who upset the Triple Crown bids of Smarty Jones and Big Brown with Birdstone and Da’ Tara, Frammento seems to have emerged from the Derby in good shape and is training well in advance of the Belmont. He will be a longshot in the “Test of Champions,” but considering his solid training–and the fact that he will be ridden by Mike Smith, who has won two of the last five Belmonts–Frammento might have a legitimate chance to pull a major upset on June 6th.

*****

With two weeks remaining until the Belmont Stakes, here is the current list of expected starters:

Horse Jockey Trainer
American Pharoah Victor Espinoza Bob Baffert
Carpe Diem Unknown Todd Pletcher
Conquest Curlinate Shaun Bridgmohan Mark Casse
Frammento Mike Smith Nick Zito
Frosted Joel Rosario Kiaran McLaughlin
Keen Ice Kent Desormeaux Dale Romans
Madefromlucky Unknown Todd Pletcher
Materiality Unknown Todd Pletcher
Mubtaahij Irad Ortiz, Jr. Mike de Kock
Tale of Verve Gary Stevens Dallas Stewart
War Story Colby Hernandez Tom Amoss
Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin's quest to become North America's richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners.

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