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The Test Of A Champion

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 5/17/2010 7:42:18 PM

Make no mistake about it; the Belmont Stakes at a mile and a half is not an easy race to win. When talking training success in this classic, it begins and ends with Woody Stephens.

What he did in this race will never be matched again. He won the Third Jewel 5 straight years from 1982 to 1986 and even trained the exacta in 1985 when Creame Fraiche finished just ahead of Stephen’s Odyssey.

Thirty horses have come to the event with a chance to win the Triple Crown; we are still searching for the 12th TC winner.

For riders, it’s just as hard. Check out this who’s who list of those that have had a tough time in the third Triple Crown Jewel. The deceased Chris Antley lost this race 5 times and with good horses like Charismatic and Strike Gold.

Jerry Bailey had 19 Belmont Stakes mounts, 2 won. Jorge Chavez lost this race 9 times and Hall of Fame rider, Angel Cordero Jr., who had the cream of the crop in his racing days in New York, only won this race once in 20 tries.

Jose Santos rode in this race 13 times, and only Lemon Drop Kid brought him home on top. Ruffian’s rider, Jacinto Vasquez, had 10 Belmont mounts, all of them lost. The legendary Jorge Velasquez and Johnny Velazquez lost this race OVER 20 times between them.

And it doesn’t stop there. Johnny Campo, who trained classic winner Pleasant Colony, lost this race 10 times. Genuine Risk’s trainer Leroy Jolly met the same fate.

This year offers a unique glimpse into the race, as neither the Derby nor Preakness winner will participate.

The line-up for the Belmont has yet to be solidified but a full field is in prospect including Preakness runner-up, the game First Dude.

Ice Box, after a very troubled trip in Louisville, just may go favorite. He has a nice style in that he can pass horses yet has enough zip to maintain some sort of contact.

Others eyeing the prize in New York include Drosselmeyer, disappointing Dublin, Fly Down, Game on Duke, Make Music for Me, New Madrid, Spangled Star, Stately Victory, Stay Put, Uptowncharlybrown and Setsuko.

The last runner mentioned is very interesting.

He has only won once but out gamed Lookin at Lucky in the Santa Anita Derby despite going 5 wide and getting to the lone speed before it was said and done.

And was far from disgraced in his turf debut in the Grade 2 American at Churchill the day before the Derby.

What Setsuko has going for him is his trainer Richard Mandella, who a few years ago won 4 Breeders’ Cup races on the same day.

Just that fact that he has been pointed to the Belmont makes sharp observers of California racing raise their eyebrows.

Mandella is very traditional, very patient and he doesn’t put a horse into a race like the Belmont without thinking he has a legit chance to come away with the hardware.

If Setsuko becomes a tenth of what his sire was, he’ll have a stellar career.

His sire Pleasantly Perfect, a son of Derby and Preakness winner Pleasant Colony, won the BC Classic in 2003 and proved it was no fluke by taking the Dubai World Cup the very next year.

Look out.

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