The Most Dominant Horse in the 2023 Belmont

There is an unsung hero in this year’s Belmont Stakes and the race hasn’t even been run. But one horse will have a profound effect on the race regardless of who wins. If you are totally confused by this cryptic intro then just read on and be prepared for a barrage of bloodlines. We are posting this column early because it is dependent on the potential field staying where it is now. Instead of a separate handicapping column being posted on Thursday it will be added to this column following the post position draw. ~ Steve Haskin

The Most Dominant Horse in the 2023 Belmont

By Steve Haskin

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire


Yes, there is a dominant horse in this year’s seemingly wide-open Belmont Stakes. But who can it be? Could it be Forte or Tapit Trice or Angel of Empire or National Treasure? I don’t think anyone would call them dominant. OK, so I admit this is a trick question. The dominant horse actually is an Argentine-bred filly named Papila who was foaled in 1943. As a 3-year-old she placed in a stakes in Chile in her career debut and then the following year was imported to the United States, where she won only three of her 17 starts for earnings of $7,200.

If there was only one thing about Papila as a broodmare that would make her noteworthy it would be that in 1952 she produced a filly named Blue Canary by the Col. E.R Bradley-bred stallion Buy and Sell. Blue Canary won only 13 of 133 starts, but would become the fifth dam of Hall of Famer and Horse of the Year Tiznow, the only horse to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice.

If Papila’s only claim to fame was being the sixth dam of Tiznow, that would secure her place in Thoroughbred ancestry. But her direct line did not end there. In 1960 she produced a filly named Sister Satan, who in turn produced Red Jasmine, who would become the fifth dam of Arkansas Derby winner and Belmont Stakes contender Angel of Empire. To have direct descendants through your daughters as successful as Tiznow and Angel of Empire is impressive enough, but that’s only the beginning.

A deeper look into Papila’s descendants revealed something pretty astounding. Of the 10 prospective Belmont Stakes starters, Papila’s name can be found in the pedigree of nine of them. This is not a sire like Secretariat, Northern Dancer, or Mr. Prospector whose progeny are found in so many pedigrees. We’re talking about one broodmare’s dominance of one classic race.

In addition to having Tiznow and prospective Belmont starter Angel of Empire as direct descendants through their female family, Papila also produced a 1959 colt by Spy Song named Crimson Satan, who won 11 major stakes at eight different tracks across the country from New York to California, while placing in the Belmont Stakes, Santa Anita Handicap, and Woodward Stakes. He also was named co-champion 2-year-old colt.

At stud, Crimson Satan is the broodmare sire of Terlingua, who produced Storm Cat, whose descendants include prospective Belmont starters Forte, Arcangelo, Red Route One, Raise Cain, and Il Miracolo. He also is in the pedigree of Prove Worthy, who had been considered a possible Belmont starter until recently.

To break the Storm Cat connection down further, his daughter Storming Beauty is the granddam of Forte’s and Raise Cain’s sire Violence. Forte has a double dose of Storm Cat, whose son Forestry is the broodmare sire of Forte’s dam Queen Caroline. Storm Cat also is the broodmare sire of Arcangelo’s dam Modeling. Finally, Storm Cat’s son Giant’s Causeway is the broodmare sire of Red Route One’s and Il Miracolo’s sire Gun Runner.

Crimson Satan also is the broodmare sire of Mt. Livermore, whose descendants include prospective Belmont starters Tapit Trice, National Treasure, and once again, Il Miracolo, who has Storm Cat on the sire side and Mt. Livermore on the dam side.

Again breaking it down, Mt. Livermore’s son Orientate is the broodmare sire of Tapit Trice’s dam Danzatrice. Mt. Livermore also is the broodmare sire of National Treasure’s dam Treasure. And Mt. Livermore’s son Peaks and Valleys is the broodmare sire of Il Miracolo’s dam Tapit’s World.

Finally, Crimson Satan is the broodmare sire of Gold Meridian, whose daughter Trithenia is the fourth dam of prospective Belmont starter Tapit Shoes.

So, to summarize, every prospective starter in this year’s Belmont Stakes, with the exception of Hit Show, traces back to the Argentine-bred mare Papila.

We’re actually not even finished with Papila’s influence. We mentioned her daughter Sister Satan producing Red Jasmine, the fifth dam of Angel of Empire. Well, Red Jasmine produced White Jasmine, the fourth dam of Angel of Empire, and White Jasmine is by Whitesburg, a son of Crimson Satan, which means Angel of Empire’s dam, Armony’s Angel, not only has Papila in her female family, she has her twice through her full siblings Sister Satan and Crimson Satan.

So, no matter who wins the Belmont, congratulations to Papila for an unprecedented dominance as a broodmare on her 80th birthday.

Hit Show Enticing Longshot

This year’s Belmont Stakes is divided into three groups. You have the four favorites (Forte, Tapit Trice, Angel of Empire, and National Treasure), two moderately priced upsetters (Hit Show and Arcangelo), and thre big longshots (Red Route One, Tapit Shoes, and Il Miracolo).

I’m not here to give you any of the four favorites, but one each from the other two groups, trying for a big payoff. I will get to Hit Show a little later. But first for the purpose of a solid horse to key in the exotics, no horse fits the mile and a half Belmont Stakes from a mechanics standpoint more than Tapit Trice, who it seems has been called a Belmont horse since the day he stepped off the van from the farm. All he needs is a decent break and clear sailing on the outside. That will allow him to use that huge stride and grinding style that will put him in position to outclose, outgame, and outmuscle any horse.

In the Derby he got swallowed up by the big field and wanted so desperately to get in the clear he eventually wound up way out in the middle of the track all by himself. Finishing seventh was about all you could hope for that would give you confidence in the Belmont. Unfortunately he drew post 2, so if you’re looking for a reason not to bet him that would be it. But it must be noted that the two horses directly outside him, Arcangelo and National Treasure, both will outrun him, giving him a potential path to the outside.

Tapit Trice reminds me in a way of Lemon Drop Kid, a long-bodied, long-striding grinder type who dropped back to 18th in the Derby, then had to go 10-wide turning for home and finished in the middle of the pack. The Belmont was right up his alley and he bounced back with a gutsy neck victory.

Of the other favorites, Forte has had everything go against him, missing the Derby and Preakness, and now has to go a mile and a half off a 10-week layoff. Angel of Empire should be sitting on a big race, but will need to be closer up than he was in the Derby and still put in that same closing kick. And National Treasure will have to follow the same kind of script he had in the Derby, but just may be getting good right now. And once again there does not appear to be any other speed in the race. But he should get more pressure this time, especially if he tries to lull everyone to sleep again.

So can anyone possibly upset the top four? I am going with Hit Show as my price win bet and to use in all exotics. If you thought Two Phil’s might have been the best horse in the Derby, pressing that brutal pace and still running his heart out to the wire, then you have to give some credit to Hit Show, who was only 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 lengths behind Two Phil’s after a torrid half in :45 3/5, then made a big move around horses on the far turn to pull up to the leaders at the top of the stretch, looking like a potential winner. Although he was unable to sustain his run, he never stopped trying and was still striding out well at the end to finish a respectable fifth. He is another grinder type who should love those big turns, but he does have a turn of foot if he needs to use it.

Looking at his Thoro-Graph pattern, he ran a strong “4 3/4″ in his final start at 2 before turning in a career-best “2” in the Withers Stakes going 1 1/8 miles in his 3-year-old debut. He predictably regressed to a “4 1/2” in that disastrous Wood Memorial, but despite finishing fifth in the Derby he still moved forward to a “3 1/2.” He certainly looks ready for another forward move, and even if he returns to his “2” that could be good enough to win the Belmont or at least be right there.

So as of now I will make a win bet on Hit Show trying to possibly make a few bucks. I will likely box Hit Show and Tapit Trice in the exacta and I’ll play Forte, Angel of Empire, National Treasure, and Arcangelo over Hit Show. I will hold off on any trifectas until later in the week, but obviously Hit Show will be keyed first or second.

Racing historian, author, and award-winning retired journalist for the Daily Racing Form and The Blood-Horse, Steve Haskin was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame’s Media Roll of Honor in 2016. Known for his racing knowledge and insightful prose, he has been an exclusive contributor to since 2020.



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