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2010 Belmont Stakes: One of History's Slowest

Ice Box was favored to win the 2010 Belmont Stakes and instead placed sixth. (AP Images)

Belmont Park, NY, June 6 - It is the morning after and I am not sure I am awake yet from having watched one of the slowest Belmont Stakes in racing history.

Heavily favored ICE BOX is still running, or should I say walking, after completing his Belmont Stakes in about 2:40 seconds, slower than he probably gallops 1-1/2 miles two or three times a week.

Second place finisher and second choice FLY DOWN is still chasing the 13-1 winner DROSSELMEYER after beating that rival by six widening lengths in the Dwyer Stakes on May 8.

Why jockey John R. Velazquez let Mike Smith (aboard Drosselmeyer) keep him pinned inside for more than 1-1/4 miles -- and why Velazquez waited sooooooooo long to follow Drosselmeyer outside for his belated rally -- no one can know for sure.

But, Velazquez's decision not to counter Smith’s tactical maneuver was the ultimate difference in the $1 million race clocked by hour glass in 2:31.57, the slowest since Thunder Gulch in 1995 and third slowest in the past 40 years.

And it was slow all the way through as 5.90-1 third choice FIRST DUDE went right to the front as expected and cruised through dawdling fractions of 49.19 for the half mile, 1:14.90 for three quarters, 1:40.25 for a mile, 2:04.97 for 1-1/4 miles and finally concluded with a last quarter a shade under 27 seconds.

In case you are wondering, there are standardbred harness horses who can go their last quarter faster than that.

A slow track you say? NOT.

The track was fast enough to support a 6 furlong sprint in 1:09.63 and a pair of 7 furlong races in 1:22 and change on a card played out before 45,000 fans in hot, muggy weather that could have used some of the showers that had been predicted all week. In fact, the most impressive performance of the day belonged to the Grade-1 Miler BRIBON, who broke last, stayed last and looped the field under mild encouragement to win the 6 furlong True North with consummate ease as if trainer Todd Pletcher is telling us that Bribon will be the horse to beat in the Breeders’   Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6. And why not? Pletcher already has Met Mile winner QUALITY ROAD   pointing towards the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Beyond all of that, First Dude did hang on for third and the Bob Baffert trained GAME ON DUDE did the same for fourth. But the $30,000 ostensibly earned by fifth place finisher UPTOWNCHARLEYBROWN was removed from the owner’s pocket just as an eight pound saddle weight somehow fell out of the horse’s saddlebag somewhere on the backstretch.

Although I have never seen this happen in any race anywhere, failure to carry the appropriate assigned weight from start to finish -- in this case 126 pounds (including jockey Rajiv Maragh) -- is grounds for automatic disqualification. Eight pounds less or not, ”˜Uptowncharley’ was unable to use his advantage to run any faster.

So now that the Triple Crown series is complete with three different winners, all of whom will have to improve significantly to rate within five lengths of the 4-yr-old superstar Quality Road, or the 6-year-old, unbeaten mare ZENYATTA, and the rejuvenating 4-yr-old filly RACHEL ALEXANDRA, we do know this much, too: All three Triple Crown races in 2010 were exciting to watch and offered big mutual payoffs for those who had their Ouija boards aimed in the right directions.

We also are sure to see Derby winner SUPER SAVER, Preakness winner   LOOKIN AT LUCKY, and Belmont winner DROSSELMEYER (yes, Matilda, he really did win the Belmont!) later this summer and fall.

We can also expect to see some or all   to compete in the $1 million Haskell at Monmouth Park and/or the $1 million Travers at Saratoga this summer, while facing FIRST DUDE, second in the Preakness and third in   the Belmont, and the three Nick Zito trainees who finished in the money in all three races: ICE BOX, who was second in the Derby; JACKSON BEND, who was third in the Preakness; and FLY DOWN, who was second in the Belmont. No other trainer had ever done that before -- saddle three different horses to in the money finishes in three different Triple Crown races in the same season.

At the bottom line, regardless of the speed or lack of same, regardless that no horse ran in all three races and no horse reminded us of Affirmed, Secretariat, or Seattle Slew, the American Triple Crown -- as usual -- had plenty of the unusual to leave us wanting for more.

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