Star-Studded Belmont Weekend Closes Out Triple Crown

You’re not going to find any inspiring back stories this week. Instead we provide a potpourri of subjects, including a brief look at the Belmont, an overview of the star-studded weekend, racing’s newest potential superstar, a look back in history, and some pedigree tidbits. So there is a little something for everyone. ~ Steve Haskin

Star-studded Belmont Weekend Closes Out ’22 Triple Crown

By Steve Haskin


It was December 4, 2021, New York racing’s final weekend of important stakes before winter racing takes over. It was also trainer Todd Pletcher’s last opportunity to win major 2-year-old stakes up North before heading down to Florida.

It was a bright sunny day with temperatures reaching the high 40s. In the eighth race, the Remsen Stakes, and the ninth race, the Demoiselle Stakes, both at the lengthy distance of 1 1/8 miles, Pletcher was unveiling two of his promising 2-year-olds, Mo Donegal and Nest, respectively. Pletcher is one trainer who likes those nine-furlong races late in the year for his juveniles in order to give them a solid foundation before embarking on the road to the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.

Pletcher had won the Remsen twice and even had his 2021 Derby contender Known Agenda break his maiden going 1 1/8 miles before finishing third in the Remsen. Pletcher owned the Demoiselle, winning it six times, including the previous year’s running with Malathaat, who would go on to win the Kentucky Oaks and Alabama Stakes.

In the 2021 Remsen, Mo Donegal was able to eke out a nose decision over the promising Zandon, while Nest won the Demoiselle in similar fashion scoring by a neck. Six months later, Mo Donegal and Nest would finish first and second, respectively in the Belmont Stakes in one of the most impressive training feats in the history of the Test of the Champion.

Will we remember Pletcher’s feat more than witnessing the Cinderella story of Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike? It has been learned from NBC’s Kenny Rice that the colt got a good deal of sand and small rocks in his eyes, possibly going into the first turn, that had to be cleaned out by the veterinarian after the race. Will his tale either come to a quick and disappointing end or simply put on hold for a while until the colt and his team can regroup and attempt to continue the story at a later date? 

That remains to be seen but on this year’s Belmont Stakes day, Goliath got his revenge on David and there was little back story that would even remotely come close to evoking the emotions everyone felt following the 80-1 shocker at Churchill Downs.

But is it possible that Pletcher’s Belmont coup was not even the highlight of the day that saw a cavalcade of racing’s brightest stars compete?

Three weeks after the Remsen and Demoiselle, some 3,000 miles away at Santa Anita, trainer John Sadler was unleashing a potential freak of a racehorse named Flightline, owned by racing’s most famous grape growers, the Hronis brothers, who had already made a major splash on racing. But even winning the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic with Accelerate would have to take a back seat to what racing fans across the country would witness with this budding talent in the seven-furlong Malibu Stakes.

California fans had already seen the $1 million son of Tapit demolish a maiden field by 13 ¼ lengths and an allowance field by 12 ¾ lengths, earning outrageous Beyer speed figures of 105 and 114. Now he was facing Grade 1 company and racing without Lasix for the first time. Amazingly, you couldn’t tell the difference between the Malibu and his first two, as he once again annihilated his opponents, winning by 11 ½ lengths eased up in a virtual canter, with jockey Flavien Prat never moving his hands and earning a 118 Beyer and putting together back-to-back Thoro-Graph numbers in an unheard of negative-5.

Following the race I sent a one-word text message to Kosta Hronis that read simply “Freak!!” He responded, “We’re just trying to soak it all up and enjoy it while we can. His talent seems limitless. America’s new favorite racehorse.”

Well, that last sentence had to wait. Unfortunately a strained hock, not a common injury at all, suffered in February brought this streaking comet to a halt. Even Sadler said this injury was unusual, and there was no telling when he would be able to return to the races. The target following the Malibu was the Met Mile, but those plans were now up in the air. Fast forward to June 11 and here was Flightline at Belmont Park to take on Grade 1 Carter Handicap winner Speaker’s Corner, grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Aloha West, and Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Happy Saver in America’s most prestigious and historic mile race. But Flightline would have to face this formidable group coming off an injury, a six-month layoff, his first trip outside California, and racing at a mile for the first time on a sandier surface over a mile and a half oval. 

What we witnessed bought back images of horses like Ghostzapper and Spectacular Bid, two other freaks who could do anything and overcome anything.When Flightline broke dead last from the rail and then had to rush up and steady twice tying to move up inside Speaker’s Corner, who was riding an impressive three-race winning streak, it was time to find out exactly what we were dealing with. Was Flightline going to be able to overcome such adversity? Was he really the freak we had seen in his first three races? He would have to be to tower over this field the way he towered over his previous opponents after having to face so many obstacles.

When it was over, “freak” might have been too tame a word. Once Flavien Prat was able to ease him to the outside and just move his hands on him he inhaled Speaker’s Corner and again bounded clear, winning by “only” six lengths. He had run his second quarter in a scorching :22 1/5 and his third quarter around that big turn in :23 1/5 before coasting home in 1:33 2/5, earning a 112 Beyer speed figure, his fourth triple-digit Beyer number in as many starts.

So when exactly did his team realize just what they had? As Kosta Hronis texted after the race, “We knew early on he was something special that no one had ever seen before.”

That no one had ever seen before. That was quite a statement. This year and next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Triple Crown campaigns of Meadow Stable’s Riva Ridge (1972) and the incomparable Secretariat (1973), the horse no one in the world had ever seen before or since. It is appropriate that Flightline’s third dam, Finder’s Fee, is by Storm Cat, whose dam is by Secretariat, out of Fantastic Find, whose dam is by Riva Ridge.

Speaking of Secretariat, if you take the winners of the six dirt stakes on Saturday – Acorn winner Matareya, Woody Stephens winner Jack Christopher, Brooklyn winner Fearless, Ogden Phipps winner Clairiere, Met Mile winner Flightline, and Belmont winner Mo Donegal – and add the two big dirt stakes winners on Friday – True North winner Jackie’s Warrior and Bed o’ Roses winner Bella Sofia – those eight horses not only all have Secretariat in their pedigree, his name appears a total of 16 times.

Jack Christopher, who is looking more like Flightline Jr. after remaining unbeaten and untested in four career starts with his brilliant 10-length romp in the Woody Stephens, has Secretariat in his pedigree four times. He has now won his four starts by an average margin of almost 6 ½ lengths and his time of 1:21 flat in the Woody Stephens was only two-fifths of a second off the near-stakes record time of his sire Munnings.

If you add last year’s Sprint champion Jackie’s Warrior’s five-length victory in the True North in 1:15 flat for the 6 ½ furlongs, three-fifths off the track record, I doubt we have seen three more brilliant performances in one weekend in a very long time.

A good deal of the talk was about the small fields on Saturday, which, along with Friday, saw mostly four, five, and six-horse fields. Not only were the fields small, but they were dominated by racing’s powerhouse trainers. In the six dirt stakes on Saturday, Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, and Brad Cox not only won grade 1 stakes they trained 50 percent of all the horses entered, with Pletcher alone accounting for 36 percent. In the two non-sprint grass stakes, Chad Brown trained 54 percent of all the horses entered. As we would say in Brooklyn back in the ‘50s, this weekend was not for kids in short pants.

Getting back to the Belmont Stakes, run in a respectable 2:28 1/5, not only did Mo Donegal finish three lengths ahead stablemate Nest, who stumbled at the start and then and was bumped by Rich Strike, costing her valuable early position, Nest was 3 ¼ lengths ahead of third-place finisher Skippylongstocking in a gallant effort and total domination by Pletcher and owner Mike Repole. To have male and female stablemates finish one-two in a major race, and both with the same owner, is something you hardly ever see. Only Citation  defeating fellow Calumet stablemate Bewitch in the 1951 Hollywood Gold Cup immediately comes to mind.

While we’re on the subject of history, I couldn’t help notice how training methods have changed so dramatically over the years. Mo Donegal’s last work before the Belmont was in company with Nest, as both horses breezed an easy half-mile in :49 4/5 seven days before the race. Three other starters worked seven days out, while Rich Strike’s final work was 11 days out. The only horse to work within five days of the Belmont was Creative Minister who had a slow half-mile breze in :50 1/5. Using those work schedules let’s turn the clocks back to 1946 and Assault’s Triple Crown campaign in what is meant merely as a fascinating history lesson and nothing more.

That year there was only one week separating the Derby and Preakness, making for a four-week Triple Crown. After winning the Derby and Preakness, Assault shipped to Belmont and worked four times in six days, culminating with a mile work in 1:43 3/5. Six days before the Belmont he worked a mile and a quarter in 2:05. Three days later he worked a half in :50. The next day, two days before the Belmont, he worked a full mile and a half in 2:32, then won the Belmont by three lengths to sweep the Triple Crown. This was after racing three times in April and working seven times before romping by eight lengths in the Derby. With only one week between the Derby and Preakness he still worked a mile in 1:45 two days before the race. So from April 5 to June 1, less than two months, Assault ran six times, swept the Triple Crown and won the Wood Memorial, and had 17 workouts.

There is no rhyme or reason for deviating onto this path other than to show how much the sport and especially the horses have changed over the years. There is no point to prove or right or wrong. Racing was what it was then and is what it is now. It is just interesting to compare the two different worlds on occasion.

Ironically, Assault’s full-sister Equal Venture would produce Prove Out, who turned in two of the most incredible performances ever seen to upset both Secretariat and Riva Ridge, while also undergoing an exhausting training schedule from trainer Allen Jerkens, who like Assault’s trainer Max Hirsch was strictly old school. More on that story next week, as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the birth of “The Giant Killer” and how he was able to upset Secretariat twice.

For now let us bid farewell to the 2022 Derby and Triple Crown trails. Because of the inspiring story behind Rich Strike we can only hope his bubble hasn’t burst and that his story doesn’t fade into the abyss of one-hit wonders and fluke upsets. The Belmont Stakes is not the race to decide his legacy, especially when you had a jockey and trainer who basically were strangers to this unique and often demoralizing racetrack and were unfamiliar with how to attack it.

Of the 20 horses in the Derby, only three made it to the Belmont, with one winning and two never being a factor. We had the Derby winner skip the Preakness and the Preakness winner skip the Belmont. So we now move into the summer racing season with the hope that the Haskell and Travers will sort out this perplexing crop of 3-year-olds. It has been an interesting journey since January. I hope you all enjoyed the ride.

Photos courtesy of New York Racing Assoication/Coglianese Photos


Signup for the newsletter For new announcements, merchandise updates and other excitement here at, please enter your email address in the popup window. Our mailing list is never sold or viewed by anyone other than

Leave a Reply

171 Responses to “Star-Studded Belmont Weekend Closes Out Triple Crown”

  1. Lynda King says:

    Congratulations to all of the winners and runner ups and to all the horses who gave their best in the Royal Ascot.

    Once again I enjoyed 5 days of pageantry, tradition, the very best in horse racing and seeing all the fascinators, hats and dresses and of course the arrival of members of the Royal family (especially The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge).

    While our American horses did not win, they did come close. Today Campanelle tied for 3rd in the Platinum Jubilee Stakes.

    I think we saw the rise of some new shining stars and sadly the dimming of a couple of beloved stars (Stradivarius).

    As far as I know all horses and jockeys returned safe.

    Happy Father’s Day Steve and all the other Dads who comment here.

    Tomorrow I am going to our little restored hometown theater and watching “Top Gun: Maverick”.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks, Lynda, last day of Royal Ascot is always sad. I’ve been there twice but back in the late 70s. Much better and more fun now

    • Davids says:

      Yes Lynda, the Royal Ascot Carnival was just fabulous. I actually watched a few races live last night/this morning after coming home from seeing “Harlequinade” (Australian Ballet). The costumes, shared by both American & Australian Ballet, are beyond beautiful. Each costume is worth more than $2,000+. I watched the remaining races early this morning, 39f and frosty, then started feeling rather dysphoric so I played The Seekers haunting “The Carnival Is Over,” just to seal the deal. Lol. Pierrot and Columbine are mentioned in the song and are the main protagonists in “Harlequinade.”

      Off to Sandown, Newmarket, back to Ascot then, “Glorious Goodwood,” up to York…

      • Davids says:

        Back to beautiful Chantilly tonight, Prix de Diane (French Oaks). Looks wide open here, perhaps Zarak’s daughter Times Square can assert herself at a price. Zellie seems more obvious though.

  2. Davids says:

    Sensational performance by Inspiral in the Coronation Stakes, Frankie Dettori wasn’t taking any prisoners in this dominating performance. 5 for 5 now for Inspiral.

    • Laura L Lanham says:

      That was an awesome race. She left no doubt as to how exceptional she is.

    • Lynda King says:

      So happy for the Gosdens, Frankie and Cheveley Park!
      Watched as much as I could today (vet farm visit today).

      • Davids says:

        Lynda, do you have Herefords? Cancer eye used to be a major problem with a friend he switched to Brafords and introduced Santa Gertrudis bulls to the heard.

        • Lynda King says:

          Hi Davids,

          No, I do not have any cattle. My late father and his brother had a small dairy farm when I was growing up. My Dad had Guernseys and my Uncle had milking short horn Herefords and they had a Hereford bull.

          Eye cancer is most commonly found in Hereford and Angus/Hereford cross cattle and cattle with baldfaces; Paint, Pinto, Appaloosa, Haflinger horses and in horses that have baldface blazes and certain breeds of cats and dogs.

          There is genetic link to a predisposition for developing eye cancers that runs in certain strains or bloodlines in the Hereford cattle and the Haflinger horse (one of my horses is a Haflinger). The key to stopping the progression of the disease it catching it early when the tumor can be removed rather than the entire eye. That is why I have my vet examine my Haflinger’s eyes every time they come to my farm for any reason.

          • Davids says:

            I adore Guernsey and Jersey cattle. A childhood friend had an Ayrshire on their beef cattle property which we used to milk as kids. She was so docile you could have ridden her.

            • Lynda King says:

              Davids, have a funny story to tell you about one of my Dad’s Guernseys who was named “Daisy” (by me).

              My Mom’s family was from Wythe County (Virginia) so we visited my Grandmother and my aunts, uncles and cousins quite often. If we happened to go up to Wytheville on a Saturday my Dad and I would go to the cattle auction.
              I could not have been more than 5 years old when my Dad bought Daisy (she was just 6 weeks old) at one of these auctions. There was a slight glitch, however, and that was getting Daisy back to Bedford County (100 miles east).

              At the time my Dad had a 49 Chevrolet Coupe that he purchased brand new before he and my Mom got married.
              Now my Dad was a person who carefully thought out everything and he decided that the best way to get Daisy back to the farm was to take the back seat out of the car, store it in the trunk and put Daisy in the space where the seat had been in a bed of thick straw.

              The whole way home (then a three hour drive at least) I hung over the front seat and petted and loved on that little calf. At one point I remember attempting to craw over the seat and sit next to Daisy. That of course gave my Mom a fright. She was a city girl and was terrified of any creature that had more legs than she had. My Mom was so angry with my Dad for bringing a cow home in the backseat of the car that she did not speak to him for several weeks.

              By this time I was old enough and big enough that my Mom finally allowed me to go to the barn with my Dad to milk the cows and feed Daisy. While he milked his other cows, he let me feed Daisy with a metal bucket that had a big rubber nipple on it (she was so young that she was still drinking milk).

              When Daisy was about a year old my Dad put me on Daisy’s back and for a long time afterwards, he would put me on Daisy’s back and he would lead her around in the field with me on her back.

              Guess you could say Daisy was my first “horse”, LOL.

              To this day, the Guernsey is my favorite breed of cow. They are so gentle, so kind and those beautiful eyes!

              • Davids says:

                Lynda, thanks for sharing such a lovely, amusing family story. It’s amazing when you reflect back on your childhood freedom and exploits you were allowed compared to how children are protected now.

                I used to spend so much time at my friend Woody’s cattle property that his mother used to kid to my mother that she was going to adopt me. Much to my mother’s displeasure. The craziest things we used to get up to racing each other on horseback or bicycles or mustering cattle imitating all the Western movies we’d seen.

                One day we got the silliest idea of racing each other – one on horseback, the other on a bike – downhill to a gate and back again. Well, we took off hell for leather. However, we didn’t realize that the horse would naturally slow and turn away from the gate but the bike needed clever maneuvering at that speed. Splat, I went flying straight into the metal gate.

                Woody jumps down, sees all the blood gushing from my my mouth and starts hollering to his parents that I’m going to die. I ended up ok though, just fortunate the teeth didn’t break skin and no bones were broken just massive swelling everywhere. Poor Woody, got screamed and yelled at but I convinced my parents that I was ok and would be fine staying at Woodys with the help of a sympathetic doctor. “Boys will be boys, part of growing up, don’t worry.”

                By the time I returned home, a week later, all that was left was bruising and a faint scar that has disappeared over the years. The promises to both parents that we’d never do such a stupid thing again lasted all of a week or so but that was our secret.

                • Lynda King says:

                  Davids, your story is so typical of my exploits growing up.
                  I was an only child (and a Daddy’s girl).
                  My Dad’s farm joined those of his brother and one of his sisters and they had 8 children between them. The two closest to my age were boys.
                  We were forever getting into something and in trouble.
                  It distressed my Mom so that I was a tomboy and forever getting bruises, scrapes, cuts and even a concussion.
                  We did indeed have childhoods that most children will never experience.
                  LOL, there were enough of us that we could play softball in the cow pasture and used cow patties (piles) as bases.
                  One time one of my cousins came up with the idea to sneak a few of his Dad’s cigarettes out to the smoke house and we three would smoke them. We thought we had the door shut but the one cousin’s little sister peeped through the door and saw what we were doing and ran straight away to tattle on us. We all got into trouble of course and all three of us got a spanking.
                  They were wonderful times and I have so many cherished memories.
                  When we get together now we have lots of stories to retell and we laugh and laugh and laugh about the things we did.

                  • Davids says:

                    That is so true, Lynda. We had so many adventures, the weekends and school holidays lasted forever because every minute was filled with something to do. At the back of our house were agistment paddocks with several ponies. As we became friends with the owners we were allowed to let the horses through our gate into the yard and help groom the ponies. Everything equine was just a pleasure.

    • Nelson Maan says:

      Spectacular 3-year-old debut for the daughter of Frankel out of an 8-month-layoff and overcoming a poor break. Gosden did not enter her in the (May 1st) 1000 Guineas because “she wasn’t quite right”… he reckons Inspiral has blossomed now … and what a filly she’s become…! 10 furlongs will be a piece of cake for her…Another Enable?

      Frankel also is the sire of Godolphin’s Hurricane Lane who looks favored to win the 1-1/2-mile Hardwicke Stakes tomorrow.

      BTW the New York bred Spendarella was impressive in second for Graham Motion and William Buick…the daughter of Karakontie will be seeking a Grade I win back in the States. Pizza Bianca came from last to pass 4 other fillies to finish 8th.

      Let’s see how Ward’s Campanelle fares in the Platinum Jubilee against Home Affairs, Creative Force and A Case of You … Irad Ortiz needs some kind of a redemption moment the last day at Royal Ascot.

      • Davids says:

        Nelson, I think the Gosdens already have ‘another Enable’ in Emily Upjohn. In the making, anyway. The Arc is in her sights.

  3. Lynda King says:

    Congrats to these descendants of Secretariat who won or finished in the top three at the Royal Ascot today (so far)
    Lysander, Changing of the Guard, Grand Alliance, and Spendarella.

  4. Lynda King says:

    Congratulations to Mediate (Aiden O’Brien – Ryan Moore) on winning the Albany Stakes at the Royal Ascot today.
    This is the second win for sire No Nay Never in the 2022 Royal Ascot.

    No Nay Never was sired by Scat Daddy out of Comical Cat (by Elusive Quality)

  5. Steve Haskin says:

    For Stradivarius fans that was painful to watch

    • Matthew W says:

      Frankie had him tucked inside, and victory was there for him but his choppy strides could not get him there…so humid….Frankie walking him up to the gate I was worried….do right by him, that’s a race he once would have won….

      • Matthew W says:

        UPDATE! I wasn’t watching him that well, was mostly watching my 4th place finisher….I thought Strad had a good look at the win, though, he was tucked in and waited…but had dead aim and I didn’t see him reaching….

        • Steve Haskin says:

          Nowhere to go. Didnt get any look until swung widest of all and then too late. Then FD gets beat on two horses owned by The Queen including an odds-on favorite. Tough day for Frankie and the fans.

          • Matthew W says:

            Nearly got there for the Queen…one more jump!…Steve I played The Ridler, win/place (its really win/show over there)…expected to be taken down! Then I saw I won! THEN. .I realized the defacto wager is $1, thinking I had won $110 was only $55 but….it’s $55 more than I expected, he fouled that 4th place horse!

            • Steve Haskin says:

              Grreat pick. I thought he was coming down, too. Jock will be suspended big-time.

              • Laura L Lanham says:

                Again I am not able to watch any of this live so have to rely on the racing news as it comes out. I understand that TR was ridden in a way that interfered but the stewards upheld the win. One of the owners of a horse that had been hampered said unlike US racing order of finish stands over there. There are some differences in the way they do things.

                I do love the track though. It really looks so huge compared to anything over here.

              • Laura L Lanham says:

                They have the full race replay now and he got 10 days suspension. The head on view of the end of the race showing TR drifting over made it pretty clear the horse could have been straightened out,

          • Davids says:

            Yes, Steve, you wanted The Queen’s horses to get there, the roar from the crowd would have been phenomenal had they won. Stradivarius losing was a downer but Kyprios looked the winner from a long way out, traveling beautifully.

            The progeny of Galileo have such determination to win, was thrilled by Magic Lagoon’s win in the Ribblesdale Stakes.

    • Lynda King says:

      Yes, tears.

    • Laura L Lanham says:

      I have to wait until the replay to see it but early this morning on a British race show they were betting against him. I think 2 of them had picked the winner. They said it was the Queen’s horse Reach for the Moon’s race to lose so not sure what happened there either.

  6. Greg says:

    Hi Steve

    Thanks so much for your articles and how they inspire so many comments by your community of readers.

    Before putting to bed this year’s Triple Crown season, I have a question for you and your older readers. What do you think Canonero II’s Derby odds would have been had hen not been grouped in the 1971 Derby’s Mutual Field”? Six horses were part of the ‘Field’ which went off at what strikes me as a relatively low 8.70-to-1. (The other five members of the Field filled the final five finishing places in the race.)

    The 1971 Derby lacked a superstar with Unconscious being the post-time favorite at 2.80-to-1. Other leading entrants were 4.80-to-1 Jim French (your go-to horse when outlining grueling Derby prep campaigns) and Calumet’s entry of Eastern Fleet and Bold and Able (3.80-to-1).

    One reason I ask about Canonero’s likely odds is to speculate whether he might have faced longer odds than Rich Strike at 80-to-1.

    I welcome your reply and that of others who remember how he became a media super-star and shined a bright light on Venezuelan horse racing.

    greg (Fan of Damascus)

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Hi Greg, thank you very much. And it is my opinion that Canonero would have been or should have been close to 100-1 but there were some really bad horses in that field so he might have been a bit lower than that. BTW the other 5 horses in the mutuel field finished 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th

      • Matthew W says:

        I was lucky to see Canonero II training, at Santa Anita in 1972, I think it was….or was it ’73?…..anyway he “honked” loudly, you could hear him fron other side of the track….speaking of “loudly”, remember the racehorse Loud? I’m sure you do, Steve gosh I wasn’t that old yet I remember some of those old horses like it was yesterday—“Yesterday, when I was young”….

        • Steve Haskin says:

          Yes, remember Loud well winning the Travers and placing in three JC Gold Cups to Shuvee twice and Prove Out.

          • Matthew W says:

            Back on the days when many New York stables came west, for Santa Anita in the Winter….now most head south to Gulfstream but 50 years ago in the early 70’s a young teenaged boy who liked Horse Racing those races were strong! 1972 Santa Anita had some epic Gr1’s! Turkish Trousers, Typecast, Convenience, Manta, Street Dancer two lengths apart, in Santa Margarita. Autobiography, Triple Bend, Unconscious, His Majesty, Good Council a NECK apart in the San Fernando, what a race!

        • Mike Relva says:

          Wow! I’m impressed sir.

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      Hi Greg:
      i’m old enough to remember that one. I concur with the 100-to-1 Steve suggested. No one had ever IMAGINE a Venezuelan Derby winner.

  7. TommyMc says:

    What a difference a week makes. The drop off from last Saturday’s card at Belmont to this Saturday’s card is drastic. Not unexpected of course. After last week’s parade of stars, we get a “meat and potatoes” type card. The kind of program that you might expect to see on a Thursday. I’m not complaining. It’s the price to be paid for running all those great races on their Belmont festival weekend.

  8. David Cade says:

    Steve – great wrap up of the thoroughbred racing season to date. With all due respect to your personal and professional ties to Secretariat, I have to take exception with your characterization of him as “incomparable, the horse no one in the world had ever seen before or since.” Well he might be except for the one horse who is the Zeus of the thoroughbred Mount Olympus – Man o’ War. I have chronicled many times why the ranking always comes down the same way in all the major polls of experts who have the background to objectively survey the entire history of US thoroughbred racing. But let’s just take the pedigree aspect you brought up with the current crop of winners. You say that Secretariat shows up 16 times in total on the pedigrees of 8 current winners. Now, Man o’ War’s continuing impact on current pedigrees is well-documented. So let’s compare the number of times that Man o’ War appears on those same pedigrees: Flightline – 29; Jack Christopher – 12; Matareya – 23; Fearless – 17; Clariere – 17; Mo Donegal – 21; Jackie’s Warrior – 26; Bella Sofia – 13….for a staggering total of 158….compared to 16 doesn’t seem fair! Looking forward to your pre-BC blogs after the Haskell and the Travers. Best, Dave

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Hi David, let me ask you, why cant you have two things no one had seen before or since? Why cant you have two things that are incomparable? Some people, yourself included, still wish to compare Man o’War and Secretariat. Two different horses two different eras, two different worlds, two different sports. We have never seen the likes of Secretariat before or since and we have never seen the likes of Man o’ War before or since. Same goes with Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle. You wish to compare who is better. To me that is impossible. As for pedigree why do you want to compare a horse through 6 generations to a horse through 13 or 14 generations? Who is likely to be in more pedigrees going back that far.? Let each horse be who he is and was without having to constantly compare the two. It’s all meaningless .

      • Lynda King says:

        Steve, several years ago there was an article (I think on Blood Horse) about the trend of line breeding American Thoroughbreds, both sire and dam lines back to Secretariat. I have searched in vain so far in finding that article.
        The synopsis of the article was that it was an attempt to bring back qualities of Secretariat to compensate for what has been lost as a result of the deep line inbreeding to Mr Prospector, Native Dancer and Northern Dancer.

        I am not here to argue which one is the GOAT, Secretariat or Man O War; a senseless argument IMHO since it is subjective.

        What I am arguing is the impact Secretariat, as a broodmare sire, has had on American Thoroughbreds for almost 50 years.

      • Matthew W says:

        Bud Delp, who boldly called his horse the “Greatest horse to look thru a bridle”….when asked if he was concerned about Flying Paster, who had won the SA and HOL Derbies by 6 and 10 lengths–said “Paster better be as good as Secretariat, cuz that’s the only horse I’ve seen that could run with us”…..

      • David Cade says:

        Steve – All fair points. But let me expound on the pedigree matter, without taking anything away from Secretariat. Not many people today are aware of Man o’ War’s tremendous legacy as a stud which has had a profound influence on pedigrees to this day. Man o’ War had 22 seasons in stud, and although he only covered a small number of mares per year (25) compared to the practice today, his enduring genes are still very much prevalent in both his male and female lines. He sired 64 stakes winners, his sons won an unmatched 6 triple crown races — including Triple Crown winner War Admiral — and he was the broodmare sire of 128 stakes winners, including 8 champions. His name amazingly appears in the pedigrees of eight other BloodHorse Top 16 horses: Kelso (4), Dr. Fager (6), Forego (8), Seattle Slew (9), Affirmed (12), War Admiral (13), Buckpasser (14), and Damascus (16). One of his grandsons was media darling Seabiscuit. His enduring genes are still very much prevalent in recent top champions (22 connections in American Pharoah’s pedigree, 23 in Arrogate’s and 23 in Justify’s…..far more than any other stallion from any timeframe in these lineages.)

        Frank Mitchell in his article Bloodlines….Man o’ War’s Century of Influence, the Paulick Report (3/28/17), put it this way: “Among Man o’ War’s sons, Triple Crown winner War Admiral was prominent during his lifetime and particularly through his daughters, War Admiral is an important part of the fabric of pedigrees. His daughters produced such major racers and breeding stock as Buckpasser and Hoist the Flag. The other highly visible son of Man o’ War who has come down in pedigrees is War Relic, especially through In Reality and his stock. Man o’ War, however, is widely distributed through pedigrees and through numerous sources…This volume of presences of a horse from a century ago is a sure indication of the importance of Man o’ War as contributor to our modern pedigrees; otherwise his name would have died out. There was every reason for Man o’ War’s influence to continue because he was a powerful factor for class and staying ability, plus a surprising amount of speed….One of the interesting things about researching my archives with regard to Man o’ War’s influence as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth is the realization that quite a number of the great horse’s daughters, as well as sons, have survived in contemporary pedigrees. This is a considerable accomplishment because most mares do not have a large number of foals, unlike stallions, and the likelihood that the mares’ lines of descent will live on are naturally smaller.” Thanks for listening. Best, Dave

    • Profsdottir says:

      This is not to take issue with either horse’s talent or to make a claim about who rightfully owns the title of sine qua non. My response is about mathematics. Man O’ War was one of ~1700 foals. Secretariat was one of approximately 25,000 foals. The foal crops in the years leading up to and following 1917 were similarly small. The years leading up to and following 1970 were similarly large, with a peak foal crop in 1986 of approximately 50,000 foals. Put simply, there was a bit of a genetic bottleneck in the early 20th century, a superfluity of horses in the late 20th century; many horses came from fewer ancestors, allowing ample opportunity for multiple lines from the same early 20th century stallion to show up in late 20th century/ early 21st century horses. To wit, in Jack Christopher’s pedigree alone, there are at least 40 lines of Phalaris and 34 lines of Teddy. You could probably find similar numbers for Swynford, Papyrus, perhaps Commando. Fantastic stallions all, as was Man O’War. But all were helped by geometric progression.

      • Davids says:

        I was thinking genetic influences as well. I’ve read for instance that certain percentage approximations of ‘blood influences’ per generations can be divided up mathematically thus: “If the ancestor appears in the “numerical” generation, then it contributes blood to an individual by a certain percentage as shown below.

        “first generation = 50.00 percent
        second generation = 25.00 percent
        third generation = 12.50 percent
        fourth generation = 6.25 percent
        fifth generation = 3.125 percent
        sixth generation = 1.5625 percent
        seventh generation = 0.78125 percent
        eighth generation = 0.390625 percent”

        Even so, this is simply an estimate and that: “there are what we call ‘recombinations’ and ‘mutations’ in the genetic world, and genes are not always passed on perfectly either. Moreover, “a common ancestor doesn’t necessarily get passed on at a particular location on the chromosome.”

        Subsequently, it’s a stab in the dark on really going past the third generation on where or by whom an influence may come. Romanticism, in predicating where a sire/dam influence exists in thoroughbred breeding is part of the charm.

        • Lynda King says:

          Davids – the chart you listed is called “blood quantum” or Indian blood laws.
          Blood quantum is defined as the fraction of their ancestors, out of their total ancestors, who are documented as full-blood.

          Blood quantum laws originated in the Virginia Colony in the early 1700’s as a way of designating who would be classified as Native American Indian. It was not used by the tribes until 1934 and is still in use today by some tribes as a means of assigning tribal membership.

          Blood quantum does not take DNA testing into consideration nor does it recognize intermarriage between tribe or in the case of horses, line inbreeding.

          Just to give you an example. By blood quorum I am 12.5% Cherokee on my maternal grandmother’s side (which is documented by the Dawes Rolls). However, DNA testing has revealed that I am 25% Native American. DNA testing is not refined enough to prove which tribe(s) I am descended from, only that the markers are there that I am Native American and descended from a single ancestral group (a unique variant (an allele) of a genetic marker in the DNA of modern-day Native American people.).

          This also applies to the Thoroughbred horse. DNA testing of the Thoroughbred horse has shown the breed can be traced back to 26 common ancestors that include the Darley, Godolphin and Byerly Turk.

          Recent DNA and genetic studies have revealed that the common ancestor of the “cold blooded” English mares that were bred to the imported stallions (there were more “Arabian” stallions imported than just the 3 noted above) was a now extinct breed, the Irish Hobby (Hobby is the Gaelic word for speed, swift). These horses, developed in Ireland well before the 13th century, were imported into Britain for racing and light military use for many centuries, and contributed to their pre-thoroughbred and thoroughbred racing breeds.The Irish Hobby also contributed to the American Thoroughbred, Standardbred, Saddlebred, Tennessee Walker, Missouri Fox Trotter and Morgan breeds and traces the Irish hobby to the northern Iberian peninsula, where it has an extant relative-the Asturcón. The Irish hobby contributed to the development of both the Connemara and the Irish draught breeds.

          I think that it will come as a surprise to many that Irish and British native mares contributed an estimated 61% to the maternal genes of the modern thoroughbred. The speed gene came into the thoroughbred through one of these mares. Arab mares only contributed 8% and Oriental (non-Arab) mares 31%.

          • Davids says:

            Lynda, that was fascinating to read. You’ve also peaked my interest on the DNA of draught/draft horses. There’s a stud in country Victoria that breeds Shires and Percheron which I’m going to visit in Spring. The temptation to buy may be too much so I’ll take a friend to talk me out of it.

            • Lynda King says:

              Ah the marvels of genetic research!
              Speaking of the Percheron, one of the best horses I ever owned was a Percheron/Appaloosa gelding. He was an awesome mountain trail riding horse. He was so well trained (to move off leg pressure) that I could walk out into the pasture and hop up on him (with the aid of a fence or a big rock) and ride him anywhere without a halter or bridle.

              The Shire is now on the endangered species list as are several other draft breeds such as the American Cream.
              Her Majesty The Queen has been instrumental in trying to save the draft/draught breeds from extinction in England.

              The Irish Hobby is thought to have descended from the Palfrey, a lightweight and very expensive horse that originated in Germany and France. There is a great deal of evidence that the Irish Hobby was imported to England and Scotland for various activities, including racing, “…they be so light and swift”. The breed is the origin of the term hobby horse. A common Irish phrase associated with the term is “go get on your hobby horse”, which is an idiom to complain about a subject, topic, or issue in which one is excessively interested.

              Hobbies were used successfully by both sides during the Wars of Scottish Independence, with Edward I of England trying to gain advantage by preventing Irish exports of the horses to Scotland. Robert Bruce employed the hobby for his guerrilla warfare and mounted raids, covering 60 to 70 miles a day.

            • Ms Blacktype says:

              Lynda, you are light years ahead of me. I fell in love with tracking “black type” in pedigrees as a 12 year old, but I’ve never delved as deep as you. Understandable as you are a horse woman with a fascinating “pedigree” in your own right. Fascinating stuff, as Davids so eloquently says.

              • Lynda King says:

                Thank you Ms Blacktype.
                Not sure that I am lightyears ahead of anyone, its just that horses have been my passion since the day I was born (practically) and since I was about 15 I have been working on the history of my family (ancestors).

        • Profsdottir says:

          All very good points, and well put! As for the romanticism, it is part of what draws so many of us to this sport, I think. There are a fair number of cynical hardboot types, too, but romantics abound!

          • Davids says:

            That’s right, the test tube might be explaining everything but half the fun/dreams disappear under it’s gaze. Prepotency, and stamping the progeny lives on forever.

  9. TommyMc says:

    Does anybody remember the Uber-Hyped BB horse Bezos? He was something like 26-1 in Kentucky Derby Future Wagers before he ever ran a race. I think that one of the Las Vegas Sports Books had him at something like 15-1 to win the Derby. He’s being trained by Mike Maker now who might be his 4th trainer. Well, he’s entered in a $30,000 Claimer at Belmont on Saturday to be run over a Mile on the turf. This will be his 2nd time offered for a claiming tag. His record stands at 9 1-0-0. He won his 2nd race at Santa Anita and has lost 7 in a row since. Sad story. The good news is that he will be running 3rd off of the layoff for Maker. Now or never time?

    • TommyMc says:

      Bezos has been trained by BB, Rodolphe Brisset, Linda Rice and now Mike Maker. Maker claimed him for $50,000 at Churchill Downs in November and immediately sent him to the sidelines. On Saturday, he races 3rd off the layoff and comes back quick only 13 days after his last start. Which might be a good sign. Maker lures Flavien Prat to ride him for the second time. The first time was his only win way back March of 2021. This will only be his 2nd try on turf. I wish him well, but, at this point, he’s hard to trust. BTW, Maker claimed him for $50k and risks him for $30k on Saturday. Mike Maker wins with this move quite often.