The mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes, America's only genuine "classic" in the European tradition, is not won by impostors. It is a race in which champions are crowned, and if 3-year-old champion pro tern Bally Ache captures the 92nd Belmont this week he will have proved himself an even more remarkable colt than his greatest admirers dared believe.
Among his challengers in this endurance test is Tompion, the beaten Kentucky Derby favorite. Freshened after the Derby, in which he lost a shoe and finished fourth, Tompion came back last week to fight Bally Ache all the way to the finish in the Jersey Derby. He lost by a neck, but considering that he went into the race after only two good works in three weeks, Tompion's race was thoroughly impressive.
Tompion won't be far off Bally Ache's pace, and Willie Shoemaker will be hoping that Venetian Way, John William, Nagea and Tooth and Nail (a possible supplementary nomination) will utilize their speed to sap Bally Ache's stamina in the first mile. The stretch runners, Celtic Ash and Disperse, won't be in evidence before the turn for home. The dark horse in this field is King Ranch's Disperse. A maiden until last month, this smooth-moving son of the Belmont winner Middleground is learning his lessons well from Trainer Max Hirsch. "Some day," says Max cautiously, "when he gets more educated to running, this colt will make a good one."
I still think the good one for this Belmont will be Tompion.