Tired Legs: How Do Preakness Horses Fare At Belmont?

Jun 04, 2018 1:55 PM EDT

The Highlights

  • Historically, horses that competed in the Preakness Stakes tend to come up short at the Belmont.
  • However, Justify is not a normal horse and shouldn’t be discounted just because of potentially tired legs.
  • Where this trend does apply is in building out exactas with other Preakness horses.

The 2011 Belmont Stakes has to be the clearest example of just how hard it is to compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown. That year there were three colts that were clearly above the rest. Animal Kingdom, Shackleford and Mucho Macho Man proved to be at the top of the class in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. They further proved that with many more Grade 1 wins in the years to come. Those three horses loaded into the Belmont starting gate as the principal betting interests. They ran fifth, sixth and seventh.

Harder Than It Looks

Only two of the last 16 Belmonts have been won by a horse exiting the Preakness: American Pharoah and Afleet Alex. And in the last four years, save for American Pharoah (who didn’t play by other rules), there has not been one horse exiting the Preakness to even crack the exacta (first or second) in the Belmont. Last year, Lookin’ at Lee was one of the main contenders in New York coming out of the Preakness and he ran a tired seventh. It was the worst race of his career. Two years ago, Exaggerator was the heavy Belmont favorite coming off a Preakness win. He staggered in for 11th. Very memorably California Chrome took his shot at Triple Crown glory in 2014 only to be vanquished late for fourth.

The recent Preakness bounce stats don’t even apply strictly to horses exiting both of the first two Triple Crown races. The “Preakness new-shooters” who went to Baltimore after not racing in Louisville have been equally disappointing when pushing on to the Belmont. Horses such as Senior Investment, Multiplier and Stradivari have gone to New York with betting interest that didn’t prove to be warranted.

What About Justify?

So are all of these examples an indictment of Justify’s chances? Absolutely not!! Once again, like American Pharoah, he doesn’t play by the rules!! As a matter of fact he looks to be improving through this otherwise grueling series.

These recent findings however do point to your Preakness second- and third-place finishers as big bounce candidates to regress in the Belmont Stakes. Bravazo, who put a scare into Justify late in Baltimore, will surely have some supporters come Belmont day. Yet there is a case to be made that this horse really enjoyed the sloppy tracks that he got in the first two legs. If Belmont Day turns up fast, he’ll have to prove he’s just as good on a different surface and overcome the recent trend of these horses getting tired in New York — all that as one of the top betting choices behind Justify.

Tenfold is a horse with plenty of ability that took third in the foggy, blanketed Preakness finish. Like Bravazo, there will be things on paper to like about him going into the Belmont. He showed that he was very advanced by winning his first two races going long at Oaklawn Park. He was confidently placed into the Arkansas Derby for just his third start. He raced forwardly that day and stayed on for fifth, missing second by less than a length. Then he moved forward when showing up late in the muddy Pimlico strip to finish third to Justify, beaten a length. That was the race of his life so far. He now needs to duplicate that race and then some to be competitive once again in New York.

So to review, recent runnings of the Belmont point us to key our exacta and trifecta plays more toward fresh horses coming from the Derby (Hofburg & Vino Rosso) as opposed to horses just exiting the Preakness (Bravazo & Tenfold). As for Justify himself, rules and trends simply don’t seem to apply — at least not yet. Even with Justify’s superstar ability and quick recovery skills, the Belmont Stakes will be the largest task ever presented to this chestnut wonder they call Big Red.

Preakness Horses in the Belmont Since 2014

2017

Senior Investment – 5th (8-1)
Lookin at Lee – 7th (6-1)
Multiplier – 10th (14-1)

2016

Lani – 3rd (12-1)
Stradivari – 5th (6-1)
Cherry Wine – 7th (10-1)
Exaggerator – 11th (7-5)

2015

American Pharoah – 1st (3-5)
Tale of Verve – 7th (19-1)

2014

California Chrome – 4th (4-5)
General a Rod – 7th (34-1)
Ride on Curlin – 11th (8-1)

Credit:

Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

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