BELMONT MIGHT BE LOOKIN JUST RIGHT
All the Triple Crown races are coveted and extremely hard to win. Because they are the most recognizable races to the everyday sports fan, they naturally carry something extra. And the fact they have been around for 140 plus years counts for a little something too. Of course the final leg brings all new challenges with the vast track and added distance. There is one runner, however, that may be Lookin at a big opportunity in the Belmont.
Lookin at Lee is a horse that can be classified as a competitor to the core. His last eight starts have all been in graded stakes company. Three second place finishes, two thirds, two fourths, and a sixth place means he has not found his way to the winner’s circle against top company, but he has battled in every race. One of those seconds came in a brilliantly run Kentucky Derby which has shown all what his conditioner already knew.
“This is a very competitive horse,” says his hall of fame trainer Steve Asmussen. “ I think he has ran great in his last two races (Kentucky Derby, Preakness). His big closing kick means he is coming from off the pace and he is always running at the end. He just needs some things to go right for him in the race.”
The Belmont could offer up some of those “right” things for this son of Lookin At Lucky. First of all the added distance could play into the game plan nicely. A big ,late run can yield glory at Big Sandy in the mile and a half. Pace will again be a factor as it is in every race, but the wide sweeping turns and vastness can allow glory for late blasters.
Team experience is also a big plus here. Just last year Asmussen captured the third leg of the Triple Crown at Belmont with the deep closing Creator. Coming to the race after finishing a troubled 13th place in the 2016 Kentucky Derby, the Asmussen trained colt put on a big kick at the end to win by a nose. Of course this is a different year and a different horse, but winning can breed winning.
“I don’t think last year is any real factor, but it certainly does not hurt anything,” muses Asmussen. “Winning a race like that can get you over the hump so to speak and can take some of the pressure off. “
Irad Ortiz Jr. is another plus as he will be in the irons come Belmont day. As one of the leading riders on the New York circuit since 2012, the Puerto Rican native has finished second in purse money each of the past two years. Aboard Creator a year ago, the youthful Ortiz gained his first win in a Triple Crown race.
“Iran is riding at Belmont for the same reason we chose Corey Lanerie to ride in the Derby,” says Asmussen. “He is a jockey that knows how to win at his home track. We had success last year so if it is not broken.”
Lookin at Lee will be making his sixth start of the year in the Belmont, but that does not seem a bother to the great grandson of Demonsbegone. Working well between his Preakness run and the Belmont start, his trainer has every reason to be optimistic.
“I have been amazed at how he has come through the first two legs of the Triple Crown,” says the South Dakota native. “He is very fit right now and I thought he was as good as he could be coming into the Kentucky Derby. He may be even better now.”
The Belmont Stakes will be run on Saturday, June 10 at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.