Friday, June 10, 2011

2011 Belmont Pedigree Analysis

Each of the American Classic races that comprise the Triple Crown have played a role in shaping the breed of Thoroughbred that can be found on racecourses all over the world. But it is "The Test of the Champion" that perhaps has made the largest impact on the progression of the breed and continues to be ruled by its strongest representatives.

That pattern can be demonstrated in an examination of the past winners in the previous 142 runnings of the Belmont Stakes.

A closer examination of the pedigrees of Belmont winners over the last several decades demonstrates the much decried loss of staying power in American Thoroughbred pedigree is being overstated. The best of the breed win the Belmont Stakes; While not every winner since 1967 proved a world beater in the stallion ranks, the ones who made the strongest contribution to the American Thoroughbred breed in the last five decades were also winners of the Belmont Stakes.

You can also view the full chart at this link.

Are there patterns that appear in the previous list that might help select this year's winner? One pattern that has been mentioned in previous versions of this analysis has pointed up the fairly high correlation between the number of individual Belmont Stakes winners in the pedigrees of subsequent winners of the Belmont Stakes. One other pattern found in the list of winners is the outcrossed pedigrees of the winners relative to the remaining field. Here is a breakdown of this year's Belmont Stakes field with the salient pedigree facets noted.

You can also view the full chart at this link.

The biggest challenge presented in analyzing pedigrees of a Classic field is attempting to predict just which parts of a Thoroughbred's pedigree will be displayed when the runners have yet to be subjected to the test. Drosselmeyer and Summer Bird provide examples of runners who were not near certainties to stay the twelve furlongs, but each demonstrated they had inherited the necessary elements in their respective makeups to survive the Belmont test.

The 2011 Belmont Stakes field presents a similar challenge in that the picture of who will stay and who will not is not so nearly black and white. What follows will be a brief summary of the respective pedigrees of the starters and comparisons to the profiles of the list of previous Belmont Stakes winners.

Master of Hounds - There's a lot to like about the son of Kingmambo, who appeared to be making steady progress in the Derby while racing in what was arguably the worst part of the track. The sire is already represented by a Belmont winner in Lemon Drop Kid and broodmare sire Sadler's Wells is known for his influence in producing some of the breed's best performers and a number of top class stayers. The most prominent feature in Master of Hounds pedigree is the fairly forward pairing of the closely related Sadler's Wells and Nureyev. Some other runners who carried duplications of the important matriarch Special proved to be better middle distance turf performers than pure stayers -- Henrythenavigator and Numerous Times come to mind -- but the presence of Le Fabuleux and Sicambre on his damline tip the scales in assessing Master of Hounds' chances.

Stay Thirsty - A second generation descendant of Belmont winner A.P. Indy, Stay Thirsty carries twelve individual Belmont Stakes winners in the first seven generations of his pedigree, the most of any starter in this year's renewal. Descends from Bruce Lowe Family 4-c which produced 1946 Belmont Stakes winner Assault. His form going into the Belmont is less than ideal but his pedigree makes Stay Thirsty a "must use" in any of your gimmick bets in the Belmont Stakes.

Ruler on Ice - A son of the brilliant Roman Ruler produced from a Saratoga Six mare, Ruler on Ice won't make anyone's list of obvious stayers in this year's Belmont, but shouldn't necessarily be thrown out completely when fashioning your tickets. Dam Champagne Glow carries a strain of Bruce Lowe Family 9-h in third dam Seminole Girl through her sire Chieftain in addition to nine individual Belmont Stakes winners in Ruler on Ice's pedigree, which makes him at least an exotics contender.

Santiva - Finished sixth in what might be remembered as the most important photo finish for fifth in this year's Kentucky Derby depending on tomorrow's outcome. Santiva crossed the wire noses apart while between Master of Hounds and Brilliant Speed, arguably his best performance since winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last season. A son of Giant's Causeway, he carries some staying influences but not as many as the remaining field. It should be noted that Tabasco Cat is the only descendant of Storm Cat to win the Belmont Stakes. It should also be noted that Santiva possesses one of the more outcrossed pedigrees in this year's Belmont field, a decidedly positive factor in previous runnings.

Brilliant Speed - A shade smaller than the typical Dynaformer, Brilliant Speed's five, six, then eight wide run into the stretch at Churchill Downs has piqued the interest of more than a few backers as his steady late run suggests an ideal staying type. It should be noted that the Hail to Reason sire line has not been represented with a Belmont Stakes winner since Temperence Hill's victory in 1980. The presence of ten individual Belmont Stakes winners in his first seven generations and the prominent representation of important Belmont pedigree influences Secretariat and Deputy Minister in his pedigree add to his lustre. A descendant of the immediate family of Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold, Brilliant Speed appears to emulate that Classic winner's physical type. The biggest question concerning Brilliant Speed's chances in the Belmont Stakes will be the tactics employed by the brilliant rider Joel Rosario, who is relatively unfamiliar with the unique challenges presented in twelve furlong contests at Belmont.

Nehro - Another second generation offspring of Belmont Stakes winner A. P. Indy, Nehro gave a very good account of himself in the Derby and would figure to benefit from the five weeks' rest since that contest. Carrying ten individual Belmont Stakes winners in his pedigree and a prominent strain of Lowe Family 9f in damsire Afleet, Nehro has but one pedigree facet that his backers must factor in assessing his chances: His 3x3 duplication of Mr. Prospector - a pattern not found in any of the list of previous Belmont winners.

Monzon - Like the remaining field, can not be dismissed out of hand as he is sired by a Belmont Stakes winner in Thunder Gulch and carries seven individual Belmont winners in his pedigree. A 3x3 duplication of Mr. Prospector in his pedigree suggests he is one of the runners less likely to stay the mile and a half.

Prime Cut - The principle sires found in his pedigree -- Bernstein, Stravinsky and Apalachee -- would not suggest a runner with staying qualities, but the presence of eight individual Belmont winners in his first seven generations must also be weighed in assessing his chances. Prime Cut carries a 4x4 duplication of Round Table, which suggests staying qualities but is not a pattern that has registered success in this Classic event.

Animal Kingdom - The relatively low presence of Belmont Stakes winners in his pedigree does not preclude the Derby winner from staying the twelve furlongs of the Belmont Stakes. It would be hard, in fact, to imagine a runner produced from a mare by Acatenango whose second dam is Dancing Brave could be anything but a stayer. The history of the Belmont Stakes favors runners with outcrossed pedigrees. It should be noted that no sire line descendant of Blushing Groom has won the Belmont Stakes, but until this year no Blushing Groom descendant had yet captured the Derby either.

Mucho Macho Man - The bullet morning drills and the added presence of jockey Dominguez should give any of his detractors pause, but the fact that his only wins have come at the distances of something less than nine furlongs suggests Mucho Macho Man is not a pure stayer. The lanky colt's closest duplication in pedigree is the 4x4 doubling of Mr. Prospector which is somewhat offset by the paired influences of Grey Dawn II. His overall makeup suggests he will be found out somewhere on the far turn of the Belmont Stakes.

Isn't He Perfect - A son of Breeders' Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect, Isn't He Perfect carries Belmont winners Affirmed and Conquistador Cielo fairly close up in his pedigree and his dam Reciclada is inbred to the important Classic influence of Sir Ivor in a 3x5 pattern. Oddly enough, runners from the Ribot* sire line appear to have performed to something less than their afforded opportunity in the Belmont Stakes with the last representative to prevail being Colonial Affair in 1993. His form doesn't help his case.

Shackleford - Demonstrated that the pattern described as the "Northern Dancer Derby Bounce" continues to hold sway as yet another representative of the sire line to bounce back to winning form in the Preakness. Shackleford appears to have a decided tactical advantage in this year's renewal of the Belmont Stakes as no apparent pace threats have been entered against him. But can he stay twelve furlongs? A perusal of the list of previous winners underscores the important influence of Fappiano in recent runnings of the Belmont Stakes and the relative lack of performance of Storm Cat in this storied fixture. Eight individual Belmont Stakes winners in his first seven generations and his relatively outcrossed pedigree suggest Shackleford will indeed find on the far turn at Belmont though he will have company when the field turns into the straight.

The Selections:

1st - Brilliant Speed

2nd - Stay Thirsty

3rd - Shackleford

4th - Animal Kingdom

5th - Master of Hounds

6th - Santiva

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