Todd Pletcher-Trained Destin and Stradivari Present Early Speed in Belmont
While front-end speed is clearly lacking in the Belmont field, it’s worth noting that prior to the Kentucky Derby, these horses had a Brisnet Speed Rating of 97 or higher in their final prep for the Derby: Exaggerator (102), Creator (100), Suddenbreakingnews (97) and Destin (97). Destin and Stradivari are both trained by Todd Pletcher and each provide potential early speed in this year’s Belmont Stakes.
With 10 horses entered thus far for the Belmont, just two have had the lead at the three-quarter mile pole in their races: Stradivari and Governor Malibu, with the latter’s being in just one race in his New York-bred maiden race at Aqueduct last November; a race he won by six lengths using first-time Lasix.
Stradivari is intriguing as he’s lightly raced just four times and had big front-end leads in winning two races around two turns by over 25 lengths before finishing fourth in the Preakness with its blistering early pace. He broke from the far outside post in the Preakness on a sloppy track at Pimlico and was unable to break clear and settle along the front end entering the first turn. His trainer, Todd Pletcher, may well let this colt cruise up front and push the pace faster than expected and try to build a big enough lead to take it gate to wire. That would be difficult in the grueling 1.5 mile marathon, but it’s been done before by the great Secretariat in winning by a remarkable 25 lengths in the 1973 Belmont.
Stradivari has sensational speed. He posted an Equibase Speed Figure (ESF) of 112 in his winning romp the race before the Preakness. Compare that to Derby winner Nyquist, who posted a 107 and 108 ESF in the San Vicente and Florida Derby, and then a 108 in the Kentucky Derby.
The other horse who is likely to push the pace on the front-end is Destin, who is also trained by Todd Pletcher. So it’s not likely we’ll see Destin and Stradivari dueling fast up front, but perhaps one instructed to go balls blazing to set the table for the other with more speed to finish, which is likely Stradivari. However, Destin set a track record in winning the 1 1/16 mile Tampa Bay Derby running second at the half-mile pole before taking the lead in the stretch to win as the 3-1 choice. Destin ran a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure in that race while Brody’s Cause finished well-back in seventh as the favorite. Destin then ran in the Kentucky Derby and finished sixth as he was under a snug hold running wide into the first turn and through the half mile.
While distance may be questioned in the Belmont with Destin, the gray colt is by Giant’s Causeway, who was the leading sire in the U.S. in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Have to believe Destin will be running up front or stalking strong this time in a race that lacks a leadoff hitter to set the table and pace. Stradivari has the speed to also set the early fractions, and one of these two could strategically benefit from the other in a race lacking early pace.