Anyone who frequents The Shore's Greatest Stretch and does not feel proud of the Monmouth connections who took down the Belmont Stakes on Saturday with 24-to-1 Ruler On Ice needs their head examined.
If I was going to lose with my top choice Brilliant Speed (a creditable third at 10-to-1 after running four lengths wide for much of the race), no better combination than to local trainer Kelly Breen, owner George and Lori Hall and jockey Jose Valdivia Jr., whose post-race interview on NBC (which, unfortunately, I could not find) was about as sincere as one could expect in the wake of such an emotional championship.
Courtesy of DRF.com, here is Valdivia's reaction in the press conference following the Belmont victory:
Personally, my results on Saturday were dreadful, exhausting my $101 bankroll for the afternoon, but somewhat excusable in that the rainy conditions were far worse than I anticipated when placing my bets on Friday and, in my view, set the stage for the bombers that won.
Notwithstanding my joy for the Monmouth connections, I firmly believe that Brilliant Speed was the best horse in the race. Sure, Animal Kingdom was done after clipping heels with Isn't He Perfect (and nothing like a huge dose of sour grapes from rider John Velazquez), but in my view Johnny V's comments about the weather were inauspicious, and Joel Rosario put Brilliant Speed in a spot to avoid getting mud thrown in the horse's face and then stalk the front-runners coming into the homestretch.
Of course the 3- to 4-wide trip throughout was not the shortest distance in a 12-furlong marathon, but the horse absolutely had every chance to win before fading in the final 300 yards. The only question is whether Rosario could have moved Brilliant Speed inside coming into the final turn (it looks around the 2:40 mark of the video below that he considered it and changed his mind, if by design or the horse got spooked and preferred the outside) I certainly think this is a horse to watch as the season progresses and Brilliant Speed matures moving toward the Breeders Cup.
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