Trainer D. Wayne Lukas believes that Optimizer, a 20-1 long shot in Saturday's 144th running of the Belmont Stakes, is a "good fit" for the mile-and-a-half race at Belmont Park.
"I think he's a better fit [than the Kentucky Derby or Preakness], but I'm realistic," Lukas said. "There's better horses in the race but the times that I have won it, there were better horses in the race then, too. So, we'll see. I think we're a good fit."
Others would disagree, questioning whether Optimizer belongs in the 12-horse field as I'll Have Another tries to become horse racing's first Triple Crown winner in 34 years. Optimizer placed sixth in the Preakness Stakes, 11th in the Kentucky Derby and ninth in the Arkansas Derby prior to the Triple Crown races.
"Not sure what Optimizer is doing here. Other than a good trainer in D. Wayne Lukas there's little to recommend about this horse who doesn't seem to have the stamina to go a mile and a half. Only win is his maiden race at Saratoga against a forgettable class. Best finish since then was a second place performance in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He cashed a nice ‘place' ticket at 28/1 but followed that up with a brutal showing in the Arkansas Derby finishing 9th. ... Given the way he tired on the 1 1/8 mile in Arkansas and finished 11h in the Kentucky Derby hard to see him as a contender in the Belmont. Coming off a 6th place finish in the Preakness. Doesn't look to be a good fit for the distance and the three race in five weeks scheduling won't help."
Analysts from the Daily Racing Form aren't sure why Optimizer is in the field, either.
Says Jay Privman of the DRF:
"I just hope that when he finally goes back to the turf after all this silliness, he's not fried."
The DRF's Mike Watchmaker adds:
"Been in impossible spots so often now it would be a miracle if there is anything left of him."
Optimizer will break from the 10th post position on Saturday.
"Post has no bearing for us," Lukas said. "I don't think anybody was upset with it. I think everybody's happy where they are. It really doesn't mean a lot here. There's a long run and big, sweeping turns, so I don't know that it makes any difference at all."