What JD! Are you crazy? Big Brown is a "mortal lock" to capture the Triple Crown and take home the Belmont Stakes. Well, you are probably right. Personally, it is difficult not to just concede the Triple Crown right now and hand over history to Mr. Big Brown. The problem is that I am one who tends to look at handicapping with a contrarian view. There is a reason that bookmakers tend to drive nicer cars than their clients and the owners of casino's in Las Vegas live in nicer homes than the people who play there. What is that reason? Favorites. It is in the gamblers mentality to bet on the favorite. Before jumping into a selection based off flashy ESPN stories about how dominant Big Brown is, maybe we should take a step back and look at reasons how to justify NOT to take the obvious choice in the Belmont Stakes.
History: Despite all the dominant horses over the years, there has not been a Triple Crown winner since 1978 when Affirmed became only the 11th horse to complete the trifecta. The last horse to come close was Real Quiet who came up short to Victory Gallop back in 1998. Since 1989 there have been seven horses that have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes to come up a loser in the Belmont Stakes.
Stamina: With three of the biggest races in horseracing within five weeks does Big Brown have what it takes to withstand the grueling 1 1/2 miles at the Belmont Stakes? At the Preakness, there was a lot of hype with Big Brown's speed advantage over the field and the fact he should win the race easily. Historically, a horse must be able to focus on maintaining themselves in the pack and making a perfect move late to take it home. Style and training should be more of a focus than speed in this one and even though Big Brown trumps the field yet again, in comparision to the speed needed in the Preakness, his opponents have more of a chance when comparing apples to oranges.
Competition: Before we get out our Big Brown is #1 foam fingers, we should be realistic about his victory at the Preakness Stakes. Was the performance dominating? No question. But the fact remains almost across the board that the field he faced was one of the weakest in history (or at bare minimum, recent memory). There was not one Grade 1 horse in the Preakness Stakes. Only Gayego ever broke a Beyer rating over 100. The worst part is that a 3rd of the field was still eligible to race in an entry level allowance race! Don't forget despite Big Brown crushing the field, his Beyer Rating was anything but impressive and was the lowest at the Preakness since 1993.
Does any of the above prove that we will go yet another year without a Triple Crown winner? Of course not. But, does it give us a chance to consider that Big Brown might become the 8th horse in history to come up short of the Triple Crown by failing at the Belmont Stakes? We shall see.