The Belmont Stakes is about two weeks away, but already it's obvious to me. The best three-year old this year, I have no doubt, will come out of the Belmont Stakes.
This year reminds me of 2000 when Tiznow, a late-blooming three-year old, went on to capture the Breeders' Cup Classic after finishing second in the Pacific Classic that summer. Tizzy didn't run in a single 3-year old Classic race, but that's okay because sometimes it makes more sense to let time do it's thing. That appears to be the case with this group of 3-year olds although as opposed to Tizzy, the Belmont Stakes will prove to be the race from where the 2010 champion 3-year old emerged.
Just a few weeks ago it looked like Super Saver had taken a huge step forward ala Charismatic in 1999 when he won the Lexington Stakes and the Kentucky Derby. For Super Saver, the step forward appeared to be in the Kentucky Derby. Another step forward in the Preakness looked possible, but instead of moving forward in the Preakness, Super Saver moved backward, losing by 11 1/2 lengths.
The horse that appeared to take a step forward in the Preakness was Lookin' At Lucky, the failed Kentucky Derby favorite. Lucky, however, only produced a 102 Beyer Speed Figure. Although wrought with inexplicable failings, the Beyer Speed Figure is still a nice barometer of how fast Lookin' At Lucky is capable of running because his Beyer numbers, surprisingly, have never really "jumped". Lucky has been a rather "blah" performer as a 3-year old. He almost let First Dude beat him at Pimlico after First Dude ran the first quarter in 22 and change.
In 2000, Fusaichi Pegasus won the Kentucky Derby. There was an expectation that he would improve in the Preakness after winning the Kentucky Derby, but he didn't. He regressed. The winner of that year's Preakness, Red Bullet,never did much after the Classic victory, the Foggy Road Stakes being the highlight of his post-Preakness career. The winner of the Belmont Stakes was Commendable, who took the lead shortly after the gates opened and never looked back. Commendable won the Belmont by default.
Tiznow was the horse that took that all important step-forward but it wasn't in a Classic race. It was in the Affirmed Handicap. This year, "Tiznow", in my opinion, will run in the Beelmont Stakes. Who is this year's "Tiznow"? There are two possible candidates.
The first is FlyDown, Nick Zito's other entrant in this year's Belmont. Fly Down's stablemate, Ice Box, is going to be the morning line favorite for the Belmont Stakes if all goes well but Fly Down is in line to be the best 3-year old in the country. Flydown has a huge upside and should get the distance of the Belmont without any trouble at all. His Dwyer victory was awe-inspiring.
The second candidate for best 3-year old in the nation is the aforementioned First Dude. The Bob Baffert trained Game On Dude will pressure First Dude in the Belmont Stakes, but the other "dude" can't put too much pressure on First Dude or else he's going to get cooked. First Dude ran 6 furlongs in the Preakness in 1:11 and 1. He actually came back on after Lookin' At Lucky passed him in the stretch showing the type of gameness missing in Super Saver. Any more improvement and First Dude could wire the Belmont Stakes field. First Dude can also rate if his other "dude" rival decides to take the lead.
Both First Dude and Fly Down present to very possible, I would venture to say likely, 3-year old of the year candidates. With Super Saver proving to be a super dud, and Lookin' At Lucky appearing to be nothing more than a good but not great horse, the 3-year old title is up for grabs. My money will be on that horse either being First Dude or Flydown.
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