ELMONT, N.Y. — The weather forecast and A.P. Indy's No. 1 post position have complicated the handicapping for the 124th Belmont Stakes, which will be run Saturday in what may be marsh-like conditions.
Jerry Lawrence, executive vice president at Belmont Park, said Thursday that the forecast is for about 1 1/2 inches of rain today, followed by another half inch Saturday.
A.P. Indy, installed as the 6-5 favorite in the Belmont even though he missed the first two Triple Crown races with a hoof injury, might not mind the off going, according to his trainer, Neil Drysdale, but the inside post is a negative for the son of 1977 Triple Crown champion Seattle Slew.
No. 1 was the first of 11 numbers drawn Thursday, and A.P. Indy was the first horse's name drawn.
Post positions, however, play a lesser role in the Belmont than in the other Triple Crown races, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, because the distance is 1 1/2 miles. But horses frequently win the Belmont by coming from just off the pace, which is A.P. Indy's running style, and breaking from the inside could result in Drysdale's horse and jockey Eddie Delahoussaye getting shuffled back at the start. Horses far behind have mud splashed in their faces on off tracks, and some don't react favorably.
A horse hasn't won the Belmont from the inside since Secretariat, who clinched the Triple Crown title in 1973 with the race's most incredible performance, a 31-length victory in a record 2:24.
Drysdale, who doesn't attend race draws, was absent again Thursday and couldn't be reached to comment on A.P. Indy's post. But Dance Floor drew No. 1 for another Belmont race and his trainer, Wayne Lukas, said: "That's the worst possible spot to be."
Still, Lukas, who will saddle longshot Al Sabin in the Belmont, and Tom Bohannan, who trains Preakness winner Pine Bluff, believe A.P. Indy is the horse to beat.
"He's a fresh horse," Bohannan said. "I wish he wasn't running. But now we'll find out how good he is."
A.P. Indy has had only one race since his Santa Anita Derby victory April 4, registering a 5 1/2-length triumph in the Peter Pan Stakes here May 24.
"A.P. Indy had an aborted spring, and now he's the horse to beat," Lukas said. "It looked like Neil had a major setback, but then in the Peter Pan you couldn't have drawn a more perfect Belmont prep race. He has an affinity for this track, he's very fresh and he has talent."
Casual Lies and Pine Bluff, the horses with chances to win a $1-million Triple Crown bonus for best finishes in all three races, drew the spots next to A.P. Indy in the starting gate.
"I like the fact that A.P. Indy is inside my horse," said Shelley Riley, the owner-trainer of Casual Lies, whom she bought for $7,500 as a yearling. "I wish Pine Bluff was inside of us, too. Maybe A.P. Indy will get stuck down inside and we'll outrun him."
Casual Lies was second to A.P. Indy in the Santa Anita Derby, losing by 1 3/4 lengths.
After that race, Riley replaced Casual Lies' regular jockey, Alan Patterson, with Gary Stevens.
Pine Bluff, a puzzling fifth in the Derby with no apparent excuse, has 10 points in the bonus standings, two more than Casual Lies, who was second to Lil E. Tee in the Kentucky Derby and third behind Pine Bluff and Alydeed on an off track in the Preakness.
Points are awarded 10-5-3-1 for the first four finishers in each Triple Crown race. Pine Bluff and Casual Lies are the only horses eligible for the bonus because no other 3-year-old will have run in all three races. The Belmont will be worth a record $764,800, with $458,880 of that to the winner.
The Belmont lost a natural pace setter when the the handlers of Dixie Brass decided not to run their brilliant miler. Dixie Brass has won six of nine races, two of them 1:33 3/5 miles over this track in May. But he has never run farther than a mile.
With Dixie Brass staying in the barn, the role of pace setter may go to Agincourt, a 20-1 shot who has failed in five stakes since he won the Futurity at Belmont last September.
"My horse has speed," said trainer Nick Zito. "He'll probably be on the lead and try to go as far as he can."
Zito just missed winning the Belmont last year when his Kentucky Derby winner, Strike The Gold, finished a head behind Hansel in a tingling stretch duel.
The last three years, the favorites--Sunday Silence, Unbridled and Strike The Gold--failed to win the Belmont. The last favorite to win, Risen Star, went off at 2-1 in 1988 after finishing third in the Derby and winning the Preakness. Delahoussaye rode him, and if the morning line holds up, he will be aboard the favorite again Saturday.
Belmont Stakes Field
Post Horse Jockey Trainer Odds 1. A.P. Indy Eddie Delahoussaye Neil Drysdale 6-5 2. Casual Lies Gary Stevens Shelley Riley 6-1 3. Pine Bluff Chris McCarron Tom Bohannan 2-1 4. Al Sabin Laffit Pincay Wayne Lukas 20-1 5. Jacksonport Jean Cruguet Murray Garren 50-1 6. Christofori Steve Cauthen Andre Fabre 15-1 7. a--Agincourt Art Madrid Jr. Nick Zito 20-1 8. a--Robert's Hero Jorge Chavez Alfredo Callejas 20-1 9. My Memoirs Jerry Bailey Richard Hannon 15-1 10. Montreal Marty Jose Santos Scotty Schulhofer 30-1 11. Colony Light Julie Krone George Arnold 12-1
Distance: 1 1/2 miles. Total Value: $764,800. Value to winner: $458,880. Second Place: $168,256. Third Place: $91,776. Fourth Place: $45,888. Post Time: 2:30 p.m. PST. Television: ABC (Ch. 7 and 10). Coverage starts at 1:30 p.m. PST.