Looking over the field for today's 113th running of the Belmont Stakes makes one wonder why so few trainers believe in "taking conditions" -- placing a young horse against mounts of similar experience.
Trainers talk about "giving him a chance," but that's all it is -- talk. The minute they get their hands on a good horse they begin to ask Herculean tasks of even the youngest.
Most of today's field of 11 starters won their maiden race, then were immediately spotted in stakes company. That's just another indication that most trainers don't have the slightest notion of how to properly develop a horse.
Take Pleasant Colony. The huge son of His Majesty won a maiden race in September and three weeks later was competing in stakes races. Since that maiden victory, Pleasant Colony has competed only in stakes company.
Even after a three-month layoff, Pleasant Colony was brought back into top company for his debut as a 3-year-old. Pleasant Colony was beaten by a nose by Akureyri in the Fountain Of Youth at Gulfstream Park, a grueling race that had to hurt him, since he had little preparation. He was reportedly sick for his next start, the Florida Derby, and finished far back.
Since being taken over by trainer Johnny Campo, Pleasant Colony has reached a higher plateau of performance, largely due to a celebrated series of mile workouts that left the bay colt ready for his best in the Triple Crown races. He is ready and is the one to beat, of course.
Bold Ego, second in the 1 /16 mile-Preakness, should find this 1 1/2-mile race too taxing. He, too, skipped a gradual conditioning process and should tire despite getting another easy lead.
As for Tap Shoes, Pleasant Colony's most serious contender, he has been brought into the Belmont in brilliant fashion by Horatio Luro, not one of my favorite trainers.
Luro tried to baby Tap Shoes into the Kentucky Derby with little or no work and came up short of a top effort. Since the Derby, however, Luro has run Tap Shoes in a winning race and hit him with two-mile workouts, one which might be termed sparkling. That latest prep by Tap Shoes says that Pleasant Colony, a horse who has not reached the peak of his tremendous ability, is in for a rough battle today.
As for Woodchopper, the late running second-place finisher in the Derby, he appeared shopworn for the Preakness, especially around the knees, and was beaten. He would be a surprise winner.
Highland Blade, who also looked tired for the Preakness, appears to be an unsound animal who has to be nursed into his races. It takes a rugged horse to win the Belmont.
The only other contender worthy of mention is Summing. His trainer has him crying to run. The big question: Can he go the Belmont distance?
I see Plesant Colony hanging on to win narrowly over Tap Shoes, with Summing third and Escambia Bay fourth.