Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ruler on Ice?

The 143rd Belmont Stakes, the third race in America's mythical "triple crown" series for three year olds is a 1 1/2 mile feat of endurance known as the "Test of a Champion". The winner was 24-1 longshot Ruler on Ice, followed by two other horses ignored by the bettors. The $2 exacta paid $928, the $2 trifecta $8,268 and the $2 superfecta totaled a cool $74,052. Until 6:41 pm EDT on June 11, 2011, nobody would have considered Ruler on Ice any kind of a champion. With a maiden victory at Delaware Park as a 2 year old and just a conditioned allowance win at Parx in Philadelphia during the current campaign, the Kelly Breen trainee had minimal qualifications for a race of this magnitude. In his previous effort, the Frederico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico, he was beaten by Concealed Identity, who went on to finish up the track in the Preakness. There were, however some factors that could have been twisted into positives for the horse. None of the entrants had genuine off-track credentials, which might be considered a plus. Most important, maybe, was an equipment change. Breen had been dissatisfied with horse's concentration in previous races. As he said, they had already gelded him, so they couldn't do it again. He decided to run him with blinkers for the first time. Normally, an equipment change before a big race is a negative, it indicates that the trainer is experimenting, attempting to come up with a recipe for success, that he doesn't have the horse where he wants him. And that was indeed the case for Ruler on Ice. No one can know if the sloppy track, the blinkers, Johnny Velasquez losing a stirrup on Animal Kingdom, or what else might have determined the outcome of the race. Or that if the race were run tomorrow the results would be the same. All we know is that on one rainy spring evening Ruler on Ice ran a mile and half faster than eleven other horses and put his name in the record books forever.

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