There was not the same air of excitement for this year’s Belmont Stakes as there was in 2015. Back then it was all about American Pharoah, the horse that had already triumphed in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and was heading for a potential but rare Triple Crown. The dream came true and the Bob Baffert trained horse was ridden to victory watched by around 22 million viewers across the US.
There was no chance of a repeat of the Triple Crown achievement this year with Nyquist winning the Kentucky Derby and Exaggerator claiming victory in the Preakness Stakes. It was the latter that took the role of favorite in Connecticut off track betting for this year’s Belmont Stakes. The entering of Gettysburg into the race changed things.
The effect of Gettysburg’s pace setting
It was a hot day for the 2016 Belmont stakes which took place on Saturday June 11 in Elmont, NY. The entry of Gettysburg to the race, by owners WinStar Frams was said to be an obvious pace setting technique. The move was thought to have been made to benefit the owners’ other entry in to the race, Creator, a horse known for its impressive race closing. Creator had placed 13th in the Kentucky Derby and had not raced in the Preakness Stakes. It turns out that the horse was saving its best for the Belmont Stakes.
Exaggerator looking good early on
Early in the race it looked as though Exaggerator’s role as favorite was not far wrong. The horse kept the pace with the leaders before fading to finish in its eventual 11th place. The pace of Gettysburg led the horses on though. Once he too faded, the field was left to finish off with a thrilling end to the 2016 running. In a photo finish, Creator was eventually adjudged to have beaten second place Destin by a nose. This is only the fourth time in the history of the race that the result has been decided by the shortest possible distance. Third place in the thirteen horse field went to Lani. This meant that all of the first three places were filled by grays.
The missing factor of Nyquist
It’s hard to tell whether the absence of Nyquist made any difference to the outcome of the race. The Kentucky Derby winner was absent due to a high white blood cell count and a fever. Still, it’s hard to imagine that the finish could have been any more exciting as Creator won with a time of 2:28.51 for the 1.5 mile race. The Steve Asmussen trained colt, was ridden to victory by jockey Luis Saez as he pushed his way past Destin who had made a valiant attempt to maintain the lead.
It may not have had the excitement of a Triple Crown win but this year’s Belmont Stakes had its own piece of magic with such a close finish. It remains to be seen what the runner’s and riders have in store for us in 2017.