Belmont Prediction & Pimlico Closing Day Selections for Saturday

June 06, 2008 | Gary Quill

I am jealous of those on the WNST bus to Belmont! I’d be with them if it weren’t for another commitment. If I were able to be at Belmont, I’d definitely want Big Brown win, but right now I’m on the fence. It seems that whether he wins or loses, this will be the last time we get to see him on the track. And that in itself will cheat horse racing fans from seeing a true champion… if he wins!  
Think back over the past not 30, but just 10 years at how many times the Derby and Preakness winner was thought to be a “shoe in” to win the Belmont. There’s Smarty Jones, Funny Cide and War Emblem just to name a few. And those horses didn’t have run down and/or hoof problems!  
I probably want him to win, but the reality is there hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner for 30 years because it’s NOT an easy feat! It’s hard to imagine that he cannot win based on how easily he has won ALL of his races. He’s never been challenged in deep stretch. How will he react if he is on Saturday?  
It’s weird… I was 15 years old in 1973 when Secretariat won the Triple Crown. The first to win it since Citation in 1948! At that time it seemed like an eternity. That gap was ONLY 25 years. Today it just doesn’t seem has if it’s been 30 years since Affirmed won it in 1978… has it to you?! Maybe I’m just getting old?   
Here’s how I see the 140th running of the Belmont Stakes, listed in my predicted order of finish…

1st – # 1 Big Brown (2-5): There is no denying it. He is special. He is a freak. But he also has run down and hoof issues. These are nothing new and Dutrow hasn’t tempered his enthusiasm about this colt either. So why be foolish and bet against him? History is not on his side. So like a fool I’ll back him. Based on my recent success (i.e. lack of) in picking winners at Pimlico, this should provide everyone else an opportunity to bet against him! Go for it or to make some money, play a couple straight trifectas with him on top.  
2nd – # 10 Icabad Crane (20-1): After seeing his Preakness run… I’m now a believer. He was stopped and/or redirected at least twice in the final 4 furlongs, yet still prevailed to be third. There is no question that he can get the distance (A.P Indy bloodlines). He’s never been off the board in 5 lifetime efforts and the worst of those came on a synthetic surface. He continues to move forward with every race and I’m a big fan of jockey Jeremy Rose ever since his Afleet Alex ride in the 2005 Preakness.
3rd – # 5 Casino Drive(7-2): The “wise-guy” horse. All the experts are claiming if Big Brown gets beat, this is the one who will do it. Even though he’s only got two career races under his belt, his bloodlines are proven at this grueling distance (1½ miles). His half-brother (Jazil) won this race in 2006 and last year his three-quarter sister (Rags To Riches) beat eventual Horse of the Year Curlin in dramatic fashion. The latter is quite an impressive feat. Add to the equation “Triple Crown Killer” jockey Edgar Prado. He rode Belmont winners Sarava (2002) and Birdstone (2004) who both spoiled Triple Crowns for War Emblem and Smarty Jones, respectively. For these reasons I’ll use him in my exotics, but he’s carrying 10 more lbs. than he did in his North American debut. note: 1913 was the last time a horse with only two previous starts captured the Belmont.   
4th – # 7 Tale Of Ekati (20-1): He stepped up big time in the Kentucky Derby with a fourth place finish. Now he gets to run on a track he seems to love, winning twice in as many starts as a 2 year old. If, and that’s a big “if” he returns to that form, he could be the price horse that finds his way into the money.
5th – # 4 Denis Of Cork (12-1): I liked him in the Derby at a price and he delivered with a valiant 3rd place effort. Trainer David Carroll is following the same workout tab as he did leading up to the Derby. A solid contender here, but the distance may be his undoing. I envision him making a strong move entering the final turn but flattening out in the stretch,   
6th – # 8 Anak Nakal (30-1): Earlier this week a friend of mine said he had a non-sexual dream about Anna Nicole Smith and asked if I thought it was an omen? I simply replied, “How could anyone have a dream involving Anna Nicole and it be non-sexual?!” Well, I’ve lost enough money on the equine Anak Nakal during his 2008 races not to act upon my friend’s possible omen.
His sire (Victory Gallop) did spoil Real Quiet’s Triple Crown in this race. Hmmm.    
7th – # 3 Macho Again (20-1): He continues to get better with every race, but I think he’ll “bounce” big time here. Also, his bloodlines aren’t the best for getting this distance. I’m not convinced that the switch from Leparoux to Gomez is an upgrade. Who knows, Leparoux may have bailed to ride Anak Nakal? Afterall, can you name a major 3 year old race where Gomez was the winning jock? I cannot! 
8th – # 9 Ready’s Echo (30-1): Trainer Todd Pletcher must like being in the limelight. He always seems to be able to come up with a horse that isn’t quite the Triple Crown caliper, but might be worth a second look for your exotics. He’s carrying 10 more lbs. than he did in his third place finish behind Casino Drive. That’s a ton when you’re asking a colt to run a marathon! I’ll pass.
9th – # 6 Da’ Tara (30-1): Maybe trainer Nick Zito saw the early list of contenders were all void of early speed, with the exception of Big Brown and figured maybe this horse could make some noise or even steal it?! I see him on the front end with Big Brown for about 6 furlongs then packing it in looking for oxygen to make it the rest of the way.                  
10th – # 2 Guadalcanal (50-1): Owned and trained by Frederick J. Seitz. Who?! I’m a horse racing geek and I couldn’t tell you where he calls home! It might be Florida. Even though this maiden, that’s right, maiden is Triple Crown nominated, the earth will stand still if this one gets a call in the stretch!
Here’s how I’ll play the Belmont…
$5 TRIFECTA Part-Wheel #1 with #10 with #4, #5, #7, #8 cost: $20         
Recapping Day 29 (June 6th) of the Pimlico Spring Meet …
Best Bet, Braeside (# 4; 4th race; 3-2) helped extend my Best Bet winless streak to about 6. Despite of her 1-2 odds, she managed to follow the winner all the way around the track, paying $2.20 PLACE and $2.10 SHOW. Whoop-dee-freakin-do!

Longshot, Theycallmeadreamer (# 6; 5th race on the turf; 20-1) got next to no support at the windows, going off at 51-1. He broke well, was in contention in the early stages of the 5 furlong sprint, but gave way in the stretch to finish 5th.
Here’s who I like today, June 7th, Closing Day (30) of the Pimlico Spring Meet…   
Best Bet:         Kaufy Big Shot (# 3; 2nd race; 8-5)

It’s a short field of 5 going long. The pace should be slow and this one should be the dictator of it. Trainer Gary Capuano doesn’t have too many under his care, so when he sends them out, they usually are ready to score.  

Longshot:        Queen Rio (# 8; 9th race on the turf; 8-1)
In this Maiden Special Weight contest, this first-time starter should give a good account of herself on the grass. Her breeding on both sides (Kingmambo and Boundary) suggests ability to run on the turf. Jockey Jozbin Santana and trainer Rodney Jenkins have been known to get them to the Winners Circle at first asking.
I want to hear who you like today! Good Luck with your selections!