The Dwyer

We continue our post-Triple Crown tour with a trip back to Belmont Park for the Grade III Dwyer. A field of 7 3YO’s contest a 1-turn mile over Big Sandy. The purse is 300K and the top finishers likely move on to the bigger races, such as the Travers, later in the summer.

The field is led by Mendelssohn, who went off at 6-1 in the Kentucky Derby. He is trained by Aidan O’Brien. He entered that race amid a great amount of hype after his 18 1/2 length win in the UAE Derby, where he earned an estimated 106 Beyer Speed Figure. He previously had been successful stateside with his win as the 9-2 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf back in November. But his Derby was one to forget — he finished 73 1/4 lengths last, eased to the wire by jockey Ryan Moore. It was, perhaps, the sloppy track or the fast pace or the depth of competition, but, in any event, it was an extremely poor showing for a well-regarded horse. He’s 8-5 on the morning line and it will be interesting to see how he’s bet. My guess is most bettors will put a line through the Derby and bet the horse that we saw in Dubai. If he runs that race or anything close to it, he’ll win here easily. Whether he does is the question of the race.

Rugbyman, trained by Graham Motionis a later developing 3YO that debuted in April at Keeneland. He lost that debut at 7-1, but rebounded to win decisively by 14 lengths over the mud at Belmont in May. He ran in the Easy Goer on the Belmont Stakes undercard where he finished second by a neck over a fast track and earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure while going wide around the turn. He’s 2-1 on the morning line, but will likely need to improve to win today. He’s a son of Tapit, which also catches the eye. Motion adds blinkers, a move he’s had success with in the past.  The 2-1 price seems a bit ambitious given the need for improvement. Noble Indy returns to Belmont after an extremely poor showing in the Belmont Stakes. This followed another lackluster effort in the Kentucky Derby. Trained by Todd Pletcher, he’d need to find his form from the Fairgrounds, where he topped out at a 95 Beyer Speed Figure in the Louisiana Derby. Like Rugbyman, he also adds blinkers which is a move that has brought Pletcher success. He’s a bit of a wildcard and if he can rediscover old form — a bit of a theme in the race (Mendelssohn) — he should be competing for the top spot.

Firenze Fire was last seen finishing 11th in the Kentucky Derby at odds of almost 60-1. Trained by Jason Servis, his best win to date was in the Champagne Stakes last October as a 2YO. He also won the Jerome in early January as the heavy favorite. He’s never run fast enough to win this sort of race and has been on a downward trend since that Jerome win. His best hope is that the rest since May has done him well and, perhaps, a bit of growth in the meantime. He’s 6-1 on the morning line. Seven Trumpets brings a nice Churchill Downs allowance win to the table, but he was consistently mid-pack in a number of GIII races through the spring. He has a nice worktab recently for trainer Dale Romans, but is way short of the speed needed to win this race. Seahenge is the other entrant for Aidan O’Brien. He was demolished by stablemate Mendelssohn in the UAE Derby and didn’t fare much better in his US Debut in the Pat Day Mile, where he finished 13 3/4 lengths back over a sloppy track. Fixed Income Larry stretches out for the first time for trainer Jeremiah Englehart. His only win is his maiden breaker at 12-1 at Belmont in early June. He would be a major surprise to win the winner’s circle today.

Analysis: Most horses in the field aren’t fast enough to compete with Mendelssohn, even if Mendelssohn isn’t at his best. He’s the likely favorite, but I’ll try to beat him with another horse that could rebound — Noble Indy. Away from Triple Crown winner Justify, he’ll hopefully sit near the pace under John Velaquez and regain his past form. Blinkers should help. Rugbyman is interesting but still too slow for me to put him in the top spot. He’ll only find it if both Mendelssohn and Noble Indy fail to run to potential.