First things first, while I’m happy that “New York, New York” is back rather than the train wreck of an experiment last year, I still miss “Sidewalks of New York”. Call me old school, but I really liked that and it was a bit different than every other event in New York that has to play NY, NY. It’s a field of 12 that will go to the post in the oldest of the Triple Crown races tomorrow, but no more than a handful have a real shot. Here is my take:
1 Master of Hounds (O’Brien/Gomez): Better suited for this distance than just about any other contender. A respectable 5th in the Derby working his way from 15th early on. Smaller field and a larger track could be just what the doc ordered after wisely sitting out the Preakness.
2 Stay Thirsty (Pletcher/Castellano): Two Grade Is since the Gotham were miserable with no real excuses.
3 Ruler on Ice (Breen/Valdiva): Only non-maiden win was a first level allowance in Philly. Seems like an awfully huge step for his first stakes race.
4 Santiva (Kenneally/Bridgmohan): Still looking for that first win of 2011. Was still closing in the Derby just behind Master of Hounds. With the right pace set up he could be there in the end.
5 Brilliant Speed (Albertrani/Rosario): The distance isn’t a real issues but I do think that the surface is. As much as I would love to see him win for the folks at Live Oak, I don’t see it here. Should be solid in the future on turf and synthetic.
6 Nehro (Asmussen/Nakatani): Everyone’s favorite Belmont horse. “Just wait until the Belmont” we heard after the Derby. Still eligible for a NW1 allowance, the colt seems to have a real case of seconditis to me. Close but no cigar horses always make me nervous and while the distance won’t be a real issue, there are better horses that are better suited to it than Nehro.
7 Monzon (Correas/Lezcano): Had a tough trip in the Peter Pan, but there is still nothing in his past that suggest he can step up into Graded Stakes company. The three times he has tried he’s been soundly defeated.
8 Prime Cut (Howard/Prado): Nice finishes in the Lexington and the Peter Pan earned him entry in here. I think that the distance may end up being problematical for him, however.
9 Animal Kingdom (Motion/Velazquez): Derby winner and Preakness runner up has the pedigree to go the distance and may be the most talented horse in the race. Not a great deal of speed to run at, but besides Shakleford, I can imagine that some of the destined-to-be-also-rans are going to contest that early lead. A mile and a half is a long way and of the horses in here that should be able to get the distance, AK is the most accomplished. While his long term future is apparently on the turf, his short term future is winning the Belmont.
10 Mucho Macho Man (Ritvo/Dominguez): I know his connections are a great story and I keep hearing how the distance isn’t going to be an issue, but when I see a 188 Tomlinson for this distance, I think that’s a pretty solid indication that the distance IS going to be an issue. After a very disappointing effort in the Preakness, the horse gets Dominguez and while I hate to count such a hard trier out, I don’t see him there at the end.
11 Isn’t He Perfect (Shivmangal/Maragh): Ah, no…he’s not. The 30-1 in the Morning Line may be generous.
12 Shakleford (Romans/Castanon): Preakness winner is peaking at the right time. Obviously he’ll want the lead and with not a ton of early speed, he may just get it – but it won’t be without a price. Out in the 12th position he may need to get used early to get to the top, especially if one of the 30-1s decides to try and steal it from the inside. The distance is going to be an issue – I know he galloped out well in the Preakness, but he certainly didn’t in the Derby. I think he’s going to take a lot of dough and that should help the exotic payouts.
1. Animal Kingdom
2. Master of Hounds