The last time we felt the excitement for the Belmont Stk as a horse had a chance to win the TC was also the first time the TC was run at Hrp.
On 6/5/2004, Fuji Ninja, winner of KYD and PRK was the heavy favorite in the Belmont and it looked like he was going to get it after a sharp start (maybe too sharp?) that saw him take a conspicuous lead.
In this race Fuji Ninja had 3 stablemates: Onizuka, Thundering Bay and Knighthood. The 4 horses belonged to Fuji Stable, one of the top stables in the early years, almost legendary for those of us who have been around here for this long time. Pretty much, for newbies, he was the Mb Stables of that time, we could say.
The 4 horses for Fuji Stable were however there simply because they qualified, not to help with tactics in the race. In fact, the favorite Fuji Ninja, winner of San Vicente, Baldwin, SA Dby, KYD and PRK that year, tried to do it by himself, taking the lead immediately and setting his own pace.
It all looked like a movie we had seen a few times, with FN taking off and becoming untouchable.
But on the long turn coming home, the Ninja started to feel the effort of the previous races: 7 stakes in less than 6 months (Fuji Ninja raced also in the Florida Derby that year, finishing 4th). With heavy legs, Fuji Ninja tried to fight back the slow but constant rally by The Governor, owned by another of “the Classics”, Unreal Racing.
That turn seemed probably infinite to Kent Desormeaux, who at a certain point, coming on the home stretch, seemed to be moving more than his horse, in a final attempt to extract everything that was left in the gelding. But that wasn’t much left in the tank, The Governor would pass Fuji Ninja and head for the victory, while the Fuji horse will finally give up, finishing 6th and exhausted.
This race, this Belmont Stake 2004 would be the first and last time we were given the excitement of seeing a horse winning the first 2 legs of the TC. This race will also represent the end, sudden and abrupt, of Fuji Ninja. Fuji Ninja raced in 6 more stakes that year, with increasingly disappointing results.
He was finally auctioned in December for only $ 88.88 to Evo Stable.
Since then, in spite of having some years with heavy favorites, no one has been able to win KYD and PRK.
We thought Five Fives looked primed in 2010, after winning CC Futurity (Dec 2009), Southwest, Fla Derby and of course, the KYD. Five Fives will win everything that year from January to September; that is, everything except the Preakness (yes, he then won the Belmont, as well as Haskell, Traver and PA Drby).
That was the closest a horse ever got to win the TC. Winner of 2 of 3, and second in the Prk, by a head in a nail biter finish, especially for owner CC farm.
Five Fives sat comfortably a few lengths off the lead in the Preakness, according to plans. Actually things started to look really good as Five Fives kept maintaining a third-fourth position on the inside, a spot off the rail, but nobody in front ever went inside, leaving him a clear path. A Path that Five Fives would take on the turn home gaining quickly. Unnoticed, after a long rally in heavy traffic, a mare squeezed in to follow Five Fives’s trail: it was Mrs. Bombastic, by Blushing Meadows. Five Fives was nailed right on the finish line in what must have been one of the most heartbreaking losses here in our history.
Two years later, in 2012, some could have thought we might have been onto something with Cryptomagic, by Sanny Village. Not much because of an impressive record by Crypto, as he went to the KD without one single graded win; it was more due to a crazy run in the KD that gave him the win but also the record for the race – still unbeaten today – in 2:00.56.
Hopes for Crypto would not last long though, as he will be beaten in the Prk by Pan A Ram, and in spite of a very good second place, his run for the TC would end quickly.
And that’s pretty much it. This year Royal Assembly won the KD but not many thought he could repeat himself in the Prk, and the 20/1 morning line was definitely not a good sign.
Will anyone ever make it? It is possible, we have dominating stables that are regularly present with multiple entries in the top stakes. But for now the curse continues: nobody has won KD and PRK since the first year these stakes were run here, back in 2004.
And you can be sure the heavy hitters are already working to change that.