Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!! to all the connections of 2011 Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice.
“I liked the way Stage Door Johnny progressed rapidly at three and won the Belmont in his very first start in a stakes race. Three-year-olds are still immature at this stage. It is a reminder that anything can happen in tomorrow’s Belmont Stakes.”
“Anything can happen in tomorrow’s Belmont Stakes.” It SURE DID. I am not going to anoint Ruler On Ice as the next coming of Stage Door Johnny. The only similarity is that they both won their first stakes victories in the Belmont (numerous other nags have won their first [and sometimes ONLY] stakes victories in the Belmont). SDJ had not even contested a stakes race before the 1968 Belmont. Ruler On Ice had contested two and had finished third in the Sunland Park Derby (G3) and second in the Federico Tesio Stakes.
“Three-year-olds are still immature at this stage.” You can say that one again after today’s result. Of course today’s result was affected by a sloppy track. Some of the Belmont starters liked it. Some did not. Other than that the race went pretty much according to Hoyle. Shackleford went to the front and tried to control the pace. The half went in about :49. He should have been able to win the race off that fraction if he was good enough. He did not appear to be good enough (and finished fifth).
Animal Kingdom did have a pretty severe problem at the start and probably lost all chance as a result (and finished sixth). I would expect him to come back and prove that he is a much better horse than today’s result indicates.
On the other hand, I am GENERALLY skeptical about complaints that the horse lost all chance at the start of a race at a mile and a half. I remember back in 2002 when War Emblem was bidding for the Triple Crown. His supporters claimed that he “lost all chance” when he broke poorly (not NEARLY as much of a problem as AK encountered). That was a total BS excuse. The race was a mile and a half. If War Emblem was good enough to be a TC winner, he would have overcome that problem. He DID not, and he WAS not. As a matter of fact, he was a pretty PATHETIC excuse of a three-year-old “champion” that year.
The problems that AK had at the start today were a lot more severe than the problems War Emblem had. Speaking of problems at the start, go back and look at the start of the 1997 Preakness. Tell me that Touch Gold would NOT have won that race with a decent start. He proved it in the Belmont (although alas, Silver Charm would have been a lot more deserving of being a TC winner than War Emblem ever was).
On a personal note, I was pleased to see that Brilliant Speed ran a good race today (third). I actually thought that he was gonna win at the quarter pole. I thought that he would have to be a lot closer to the pace today than he was in the Derby to have a chance to win. He WAS a lot closer to the pace today. He looked like he was making a good move at the quarter pole. Then he hung like a DEAD PIG. The closer you are to the pace (no matter how fast or slow it is), the less KICK you have at the finish. Shit happens. He ran a good race. Can’t complain.
Perhaps the overall lesson to be learned here is that horse racing is a matter of probabilities, and definitely NOT of certainties. What happened today in the Belmont Stakes was VERY UNEXPECTED and VERY UNLIKELY but NOT TOTALLY BEYOND the realm of probabilities. And it was definitely NOT the FIRST time that has happened in the Belmont Stakes (or any other horse race).