Only the dirt races will be evaluated as we will attempt to get a crystal ball look at how the surface may play this year when American Pharoah attempts to become the 12th runner to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
Belmont Stakes Racing
The main Belmont track is nicknamed ‘Big Sandy’ and is the longest dirt track in North American at a mile and a half. From the top of the stretch to the finish line runners have to negotiate 1,097 feet.
The track is always well sported but when an event like a possible Triple Crown winner is in prospect, the people will come.
When Smarty Jones was trying to win the Belmont and complete the Triple Crown in 2004 over 120,000 people witnessed his defeat at the hands of Birdstone.
Belmont Stakes Racing
In the first race on Belmont Stakes day last year, the racehorse Jimmy Connors was stretching out from 7 furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth and he made the lead rather easily. The eventual 5-2 winner Wabbajack sat 2 and a half-lengths off the lead early before winning going away.
The second race was run at the same 8 and a half furlongs and a deep closer prevailed. Kid Cruz was dead last early at 3-1 but he got into contention at the top of the land and drew off to win by over 3 lengths.
The Brooklyn Invitational was next and it was run at the exact same distance of the Belmont Stakes so there is a good gauge there.
The third choice in the race Ground Transport made the lead but Joel Rosario aboard Norumbega had his measure all the way. That eventual winner was 5th early, was a length off the lead with a furlong to go and got up by a neck at 10-1. He was timed in 2.27.13 compared to the winning Belmont Stakes time of 2:28.52.
Sprinters were in the spotlight next in the 7-furlong Woody Stephens and Bayern got the ideal 2-hole trip and he drew off to win by 7 and a half-lengths.
Sophomore fillies went a mile in the next race, the 6th, and the winner Sweet Reason was 11th of 13 early, rallied to get within a length of the lead at the top of the lane and cashed by a half-length.
Older fillies and mares competed next in the Ogden Phipps Stakes and champion Close Hatches was in the garden spot early sitting third and won by a head when 3 horses were on the line together.
The 8th race was on grass, the 9th was the Met Mile and again the winner Palace Malice got a perfect garden trip and got up by a length.
The Manhattan on grass set up the stage for the Belmont Stakes. In the Classic last year Commissioner went to the lead at 28-1 and he almost pulled it off. He had a length and a half lead at the top of the lane but once again, the horse that sat third early, Tonalist, won a stirring stretch battle to get up by a head at 9-1.
All in all, the Belmont surface last year played fair, but runners that had tactical speed, seemed to thrive.