In a response to last week’s piece on Drosselmeyer, Michael N asked:
How much is there in the fact this Belmont was among the slowest?
As Lukas is fond of saying, ‘They can all get the distance…’
There are several factors that go into evaluating the time that Drosselmeyer and company took to run the Belmont, which was the first one run slower than the corresponding year’s Derby Stakes at Epsom and which was one of the slowest on record.
But as Woody Stephens would say (and he knew a few things about winning Belmonts), time only matters when you’re in jail.
In evaluating this year’s winner and compadres in the last Triple Crown classic, the shape of the race and the weather conditions seem to have had a compounding effect in slowing the time.
The Belmont would have been run much differently if Lookin at Lucky had been in the field. Most of the other trainers’ efforts would have been focused on making sure that Lookin at Lucky didn’t get loose on the lead in 1:15 or something crazy, right?
‘Cuz then he could get out of his two-minute lick and bring ’em home in 1:13 and win by 10 or so. At least he could if he truly stayed 12 furlongs run at that pace. Could he do that?
Instead of making sure the early pace of the Belmont was fairly stiff with the goal of taking the starch out of a fast colt like Lookin at Lucky, however, the opposing trainers’ attention was focused on slowing down the pace as much as possible to blunt the finishing speed of race favorite Ice Box.
The riders did a great job of slowing the race down, and Ice Box (ridden by Jose Lezcano) fell right into the trap, choked back in the ruck behind a doodle of a pace. Not surprisingly, Ice Box had nothing to do with the finish.
In addition to the shape of the race (slow early, slow late), the wind and humidity at Belmont seem to have played a role in making the track duller and possibly more tiring as the race card went on.
At least that is the opinion of some of the better trip and pace handicappers at DRF, who are better judges of that arcane element than I am.
So, given that Drosselmeyer and Fly Down were following a very soft pace on a possibly quite tiring track, they had the good fortune to be in close proximity to the leaders. As a result, they didn’t have to make up many lengths as the leading group tired slightly more than Drosselmeyer and Fly Down.
If anything, Drosselmeyer was very fortunate to have poached a length to length and a half advantage on Fly Down without expending any unnecessary energy in the shifting of positions from the backstretch to the homestretch, and that, in itself, gave the lead and victory to Drosselmeyer, who stayed on with great determination.