THE BELMONT STAKES EXPLAINED

Well, “explained” is a bit misleading.

How about, a few theories espoused…?

First off, we don’t think the quarter crack was a factor.

The steroid – Winstrol – that the trainer had used in April and May leading up to the race probably wasn’t to blame either. The mainstream media would have you believe that if you took Winstrol, you’d turn into Brian Urlacher and then when you stopped you would suddenly be Alfred E. Newman. That’s not exactly how it works…

Granted Big Brown’s break from the gate and the run to the first turn was a little rough, but that should not have stopped a horse with as much talent as he appears to have.

So, we attributed his poor race to a combination of five factors in no particular order of importance:

1) HEAT – Did you go outside Saturday? Did it feel good? Did you feel like running farther and faster than you have ever run…? Probably not.

2) STRESS – As you probably know, racehorses aren’t particularly smart, but they are sensitive. They are also creatures of habit. When the folks around horses are stressed, the horses stress. Stress leads to fatigue. Horses like Big Brown are typically best with a routine. There is nothing routine about the circus leading up to the Belmont when there is a Triple Crown on the line. We assure you the $10,000 claimers running this afternoon at Colonial Downs aren’t posing with the Hooters Girls pre-race.

Too much going on, too much stress, too many interruptions to the routine and pretty soon there isn’t enough $4 gas in the tank…

This is the one issue that the media seems to ignore each year when a Triple Crown bid fails. In the crazy world of 24 hour news cycles and endless (not to mention exhausting) hype, it may be one of the toughest hurdles to overcome. The connections of Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed were dealing with three networks, a handful of radio stations and newspaper reporters. The horses’ routines probably weren’t interrupted nearly as much as they now are, and the stress level for the people (and eventually, those horses) had to be much lower.

3) TRAINING – Big Brown missed a few days of training prior to the Belmont and since he was on a very light regimen to start with, this may have cost him some critical core conditioning. Who knows?

4) THE RACETRACK – We surmise the boys at Belmont were damned worried about another 8-Belles debacle. Our guess is they did everything they could to make the track safe, but it doing so they created a very “deep” track that Big Brown didn’t like. The weather and some water issues could have confused an already tricky process, and a close viewing of the race will show you the horses going into the track up over their ankles.

Big horses like Big Brown sometimes have trouble with deep tracks “breaking away” under their feet. Imagine running across the ice rink in your dress shoes. It doesn’t inspire confidence…

5) KARMA – His owner lied on his resume and his trainer just couldn’t shut up. See #2 above.

(Photos by Al Bello/Getty Images, Anne M. Eberhardt/The Blood-Horse and Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)