Belmont Stakes Countdown–May 27, 2015

Belmont Stakes Countdown–May 27, 2015

With Triple Crown hopeful American Pharoah taking a break this morning after his big workout yesterday, the major news of today surrounded Keen Ice and Mubtaahij, who posted timed workouts at Churchill Downs and Belmont Park today.

Keen Ice, a son of Curlin trained by Dale Romans, breezed six furlongs in 1:13 3/5 after starting off with fractions of :12 2/5, :24 2/5, :36 1/5, :48 3/5, and 1:00 3/5. He galloped out seven furlongs in a solid 1:27 4/5.

The workout was very similar to Keen Ice’s breeze prior to the Kentucky Derby, as the colt was urged lightly throughout while staying near the rail and racing straight as an arrow down the homestretch. According to the Churchill Downs Barn Notes for May 27th, Dale Romans was pleased with the workout: “He’s doing well,” Romans said. “He’s picking it up every pole and had a lot of energy galloping out. He has just been so good even before the Derby and he just keeps on improving. I think the further the better. A mile-and-a-half shouldn’t be a problem. I really like my chances. “American Pharoah is definitely head and shoulders above the rest of them in class, but I know we do want to go a mile-and-a-half. I know he’s feeling good; he’s sitting on all cylinders. It’s just a matter of if he’s good enough to beat him.”

It’s hard to believe how frequently UAE Derby (UAE-II) winner Mubtaahij has been posting timed workouts at Belmont Park, but the colt seems to be thriving on frequent exercise! The son of Dubawi breezed three furlongs in :38.05 seconds this morning, the fifth-fastest of seven workouts at that distance. Remarkably, the workout was his fourth in the last eleven days, and his fifth since May 10th. Wow!

Another colt turned in a solid piece of exercise at Belmont this morning, although his breeze wasn’t officially credited as a workout. According to a report on DRF Live, Preakness Stakes (gr. I) runner-up Tale of Verve breezed three furlongs in a solid :38.21–only slightly slower than Mubtaahij–before galloping out another furlong in :13.54 for a half-mile time of :51.75.


Time for a bit of trivia! Which Triple Crown winner won the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont by the most combined lengths? The natural first guess would be Secretariat, given that he won the Belmont Stakes by a record-setting 31 lengths, and that answer is correct–he won the three races by the combined margin of 36 lengths. But actually, Secretariat is only tied for the record with 1943 Triple Crown winner Count Fleet, who also won the three races by the combined margin of 36 lengths.

Count Fleet leading the way in the 1943 Kentucky Derby
Count Fleet leading the way in the 1943 Kentucky Derby Picture courtesy of the Library of Congress

Really, there may be no Triple Crown winner that won the Triple Crown more easily than Count Fleet. Whereas Secretariat had to work a bit to defeat Sham in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Count Fleet won each of the Triple Crown races in remarkably dominating fashion. In the Kentucky Derby, he went straight to the lead and easily defeated the talented Blue Swords by three lengths, then shipped to Pimlico and defeated that same rival by eight lengths in the Preakness, at the time held just one week after the Derby. To stay sharp in the lead-up to the Belmont, Count Fleet scored a five-length victory in the one-mile Withers Stakes at Belmont two weeks after the Preakness, then conquered two overmatched rivals in the Belmont Stakes by 25 lengths. Thus, not only did Count Fleet win the three Triple Crown races in the span of five weeks, he threw in a fourth race as well!

Also impressive is the fact that during that four-race streak, Count Fleet was never sent off at odds higher than 2-5, and in the Withers and Belmont, he was sent off as the minimum possible odds of 1-20.

Count Fleet in the Preakness winner's circle
Count Fleet in the Preakness Stakes winner’s circle. Picture courtesy of the Library of Congress

Reflecting Count Fleet’s domination of the Triple Crown races are the footnotes in the Daily Racing Form result charts of the races. The chart of the Preakness states that “COUNT FLEET outran his field from the start, opened up a safe lead, came slightly wide entering the stretch and finished with speed in reserve.” The chart of the Belmont Stakes paints a similar picture of domination: “COUNT FLEET outran his opposition from the start, drew into a long lead, was steadied along and was galloping through the stretch run.”

Sadly, Count Fleet injured an ankle during the running of the Belmont and never ran again, although attempts were made to bring him back to the races in 1944. With time, the name Count Fleet has faded a bit, and he is not remembered as vividly as some of the other Triple Crown winners, such as Secretariat, Affirmed, Seattle Slew, and Citation. But in the opinion of this writer, Count Fleet was as impressive and as talented as any other Triple Crown winner in history… and his total margin of victory in the three races supports that belief! :)


With eleven days 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

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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 blog Unlocking Winners.

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