Regally bred often not king of Belmont
Here's a theorem to consider for Saturday's 145th running of the Belmont Stakes, when Kentucky Derby champ Orb and Preakness winner Oxbow mix it up with 12 other thoroughbreds in the so-called "Test of the Champion:"
Neither will win. Because, veteran horse owner, breeder and workout analyst Bruno De Julio said, "To win the Derby, you have to have a pedigree. But you can win the Belmont without a pedigree. The Belmont has not been the test of champions.''
Rather, in recent years, the Belmont has been a stage for long shots whose ancestors did not possess obvious startling speed or telltale signs of late maturation. And De Julio, by drilling down in the numbers of Steven Roman's "Dosage Index," can argue that such a trend will continue.
Roman's methodology, part of horse racing lexicon for more than 30 years, consists of five sets of figures (the higher each number, the better) that De Julio said rate a horse's inheritance of "brilliant speed" over a short distance, intermediate speed (or the ability to carry speed over distance), career stamina (hinting at success past the 3-year-old campaign), a "solid category" that De Julio calls "intangibles," and a "marathon" sum (the ability to go long distance).
"To me, on the numbers," De Julio concluded, "Midnight Taboo is the horse to watch" Saturday.
Midnight Taboo, 30-1 in the morning odds, hardly was a topic of conversation at Wednesday's draw ceremony for the final leg of the Triple Crown series. Nor were 20-1 Incognito (whom De Julio called "incredibly bred"), 10-1 Golden Soul ("a very, very interesting horse"), nor 30-1 Giant Finish ("should do well as a four-year-old").
Yet De Julio, comparing the dosage figures of those four to Belmont winners the past six years, saw a similar pattern. Midnight Taboo (4-4-8-0-0) has a profile mighty close to that of Da'Tara (4-2-5-0-1), Drosselmeyer (7-2-10-2-1) and Ruler on Ice (6-1-9-0-0), who pulled big Belmont upsets in 2008, 2010 and 2011.
What Orb (11-12-15-0-2) brings to the table, De Julio said, was far more applicable to the Derby, where Golden Soul (11-5-18-4-0) and Revolutionary (11-8-12-1-1) joined him in the money, than what is needed in the mile-and-a-half Belmont -- unknown territory for every 3-year-old.
And, just to compare the tea leaves of that group, as well as Preakness winner Oxbow (6-0-8-0-0), to racing perfection, De Julio offered Secretariat (20-14-7-9-0). The dosages are a way, De Julio said, to "look for a good balance in the pedigree."
They could be considered one more tool in this pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game. But, as every horseplayer knows, there is lurking danger in any predictive recipe.