2012 Belmont Stakes: Breaking Down The Draw And The Pace

The entries, post positions and morning line odds are set for Saturday's Grade 1 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park (post time: 6:40pm Eastern; TV: NBC). I'll Have Another stands on the precipice of American horse racing history if he can successfully navigate the mile and a half Test of Champions on Saturday afternoon.

Let's take a look at the draw and the potential pace scenario for Saturday's big race.

The Draw

Post positions for the Belmont Stakes aren't nearly as critical to a horse's success as they are in the Kentucky Derby, mainly due to a smaller field and a more tepid pace scenario. Wednesday's draw did little to seriously hurt the chances of any of the Belmont contenders, but at the same time, the connections of a few horses are probably a little pleased, or a little disappointed, with the position of their horse in the starting gate.

I'll Have Another: The Derby and Preakness winner drew post position #11 and it's difficult to envision a better spot for the odds-on favorite. In each of his four starts in 2012, all of which are victories, I'll Have Another has raced in the clear to the outside about three or four paths from the rail. Racing wide on the turns hasn't been a problem for this colt in any of his races and he appears to perform at his best when he's able to sit to the outside of his competition.

Street Life: As the deepest of the deep closers in the field, Street Life's connections should be just fine with the rail as it will allow jockey Jose Lezcano to save ground around the entire track. Additionally, the pace scenario - which initially looked to be extremely lacking - received a bit of a boost from the entry of My Adonis (see below), and should help the chances of Street Life.

Union Rags: While there aren't any bad post position draws in the Belmont Stakes, the connection of Union Rags were likely hoping for something a bit better than an inside spot in the starting gate. Union Rags has had all kinds of trouble in his last couple of races as a result of getting boxed in and shuffled back in the early stages. It's unlikely that he'll will experience the same kind of trouble that he encountered in the Florida and Kentucky Derbys, but the #3 post position is certainly not gong to help this colt avoid trouble.

Paynter: One of the strongest contenders of the new shooters, Paynter drew perfectly in the #9 hole from which jockey Mike Smith should be able to determine whether to send his colt hard early, or sit back of the early speed of My Adonis and Unstoppable U.

The Pace

Over much of the last three weeks it appeared that the Belmont field was destined to have very little in the way of early speed. Unstoppable U and Paynter are really the only horses that prefer to display a "need-to-lead" running style and it looked increasingly like there would be little to challenge those two in the early stages. Then, in a last minute move, the connections of My Adonis decided to enter the Belmont and the pace scenario completely changed.

My Adonis is not a "need-to-lead" kind of horse - his preferred running style tends to be stalking/pressing the pace - but he does like to be prominent in the early stages of his races. His addition to the Belmont field (and his #12 post position), helps to ensure that the first quarter of a mile of Saturday's race should at least be honest, if not quick.

Unstoppable U will likely lead the field heading into the first turn, with both Paynter and My Adonis tracking him just to his outside. How much pressure Paynter and My Adonis apply to Unstoppable U will determine just how fast the early pace will end up. Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another should be able to sit back and track the three early leaders right from the starting gate. If the pace is quick, I'll Have Another can hang back and wait to make his move after coming off the far turn. If the pace is very soft, jockey Mario Gutierrez can put I'll Have Another closer to the lead in order to get a jump on the closers at the top of the stretch run.

The addition of My Adonis to the Belmont field is a good thing for I'll Have Another as it helps to ensure that Paynter will have some company in the early stages (as opposed to Paynter tracking the long-shot speed of Unstoppable U all by himself). Anything that is likely to soften up Paynter in the early stages is a huge benefit to the chances of I'll Have Another to win the Belmont and the Triple Crown.


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