Even though thoroughbred horse racing will go another year without a Triple Crown winner, the 142nd running of the Belmont Stakes is shaping up to be a competitive one worth having action on, as twelve (12) 3 year olds are scheduled to break from the starting gate at Belmont on Saturday, for the $1 million 1½ mile classic, Post Time is 6:32pm. ABC-TV will have “live” coverage from 5pm-7pm. There are a number of nice stakes races that precede the Belmont Stakes (race 11), which can be seen on ESPN from 12pm-5pm.
The weather forecast for the New York metropolitan area, location of Belmont Race Course, is for plenty of sunshine, clear skies and a fast track. Here’s how I see the 142nd running of the Belmont Stakes playing out, listed in my predicted order of finish. Odds shown are the Morning Line odds. There will be advanced wagering offered on the Belmont Stakes on Friday as well as a Brooklyn Handicap (Friday feature race) / Belmont Stakes Double.
1st - # 5 Fly Down (9-2): The race in his Past Performances that is key was his worst race of his life, a 9th place finish, 2 races back in the LA Derby at Fairgrounds. First off, that day (March 27th) in all races, if a horse was not within 3 lengths of the lead at any point in the race, they had no chance of winning. Entering the stretch, Fly Down was abruptly steadied (aka stopped) just as he began to make his late run, yet still finished ONLY 6¾ lengths behind the winner. He made up over 7 lengths in the stretch, after being stopped cold, on a track that was unkind to Closers all day, running the final eighth of a mile in 11 3/5 seconds. To put that time in perspective, a fast closing final eighth time is usually 12 and change. Trainer Nick Zito’s other entry Ice Box is getting most of the attention and will probably be the Post Time favorite, but I believe it will be Fly Down who will get Zito his third Belmont Stakes victory.
2nd – # 12 Interactif (12-1): Basically an eleventh-hour entry. Over this past weekend, trainer Todd Pletcher liked the way he’s been training, recognized that the field is far from being star-studded, spoke to the owners and got the “go-ahead” to run him. Even though my Preakness pick Caracortado failed to live up to my expectations, coming from synthetic to dirt, I refuse to lose faith in this proven theory, which Interactif fits.
He broke his maiden at first asking at Monmouth on dirt, so he can run on it. He should be positioned just off the lead, and ready to roll in the stretch as he’s got the pedigree to get the distance.
3rd – # 10 Stay Put (20-1): He is a Deep Closer who ran two of the most important races of his life on a speed-favoring track at Fairgrounds in the Risen Star Stakes and LA Derby, yet still closed some ground. IF the Belmont surface is kinder to those exhibiting a late turn of foot on Saturday, then Stay Put should be able to make a furious stretch run. My biggest concern is his jockey, Jamie Theriot, who has won over 2,000 races but has never ridden a race at Belmont…and that’s huge. This 1½ mile track has victimized very capable jockey’s (re: Stewart Elliott on Smarty Jones). If Theriot moves Stay Put too soon, he’ll have nothing left for the final furlong and get swallowed up by others.
4th - # 6 Ice Box (3-1): He’s been the buzz horse ever since his fast-closing, troubled-trip Kentucky Derby runner-up finish. Sadly, the majority of horse racing fans don’t understand, that just because the Belmont distance is an additional quarter of a mile, doesn’t guarantee that the horse who appeared to be closing in on the Derby winner could have won “if only the race was a little longer” and should be a shoe-in to run better, if not win the Belmont. Maybe I’m still bitter about the 5th place effort Ice Box gave in the Florida Derby, when I picked him? Or maybe it’s the fact that more Speed-type horses win the Belmont more often than Deep Closers? Or he may not care for Belmont, as he did run a poor 4th in a maiden race there and won’t workout over the track either.
5th - # 7 Drosselmeyer (12-1): He disappointed his backers when 3-5 in his last race, finishing a distant second to Fly Down in the Dwyer Stakes. Maybe he ran his best and Fly Down is just that much better than him? Throughout the Derby Prep races this Spring, Drosselmeyer was a much talked about horse who never lived up to the hype. With a little racing luck, he could have won the LA Derby…instead he finished 3rd by a length. He’ll be forwardly placed in this race as Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith gets the mount, seeking his first Belmont Stakes victory.
6th - # 11 First Dude (7-2): He ran the race of his life in the Preakness and is a candidate to “Bounce” here.
The fact that he hung tough in the stretch, coming back when it looked like he was finished, after burning early fractions of 22 4/5, 46 2/5 and 1:11 1/5 on a PImlico surface which was not yielding quick fractions on Preakness Day. Jockey Ramon Dominguez will give him another great ride, but being the only Preakness runner to come back and tackle 1½ miles 3 weeks later is asking a bit too much from a horse who is still eligible for NW2L (non-winners of 2 races in his lifetime).
7th - # 1 Dave in Dixie (20-1): He showed so much potential in CA as a 2 year old when losing by just 2 lengths to Lookin At Lucky in his second career start. Unfortunately, his 3 year old campaign has been one disappointment after another. His first and only dirt surface start in the Illinois Derby was a flop, failing to display his late running kick, losing by 16 lengths. He hasn’t raced since (Apr. 3rd). Maybe trainer John Sadler discovered a flaw, fixed it and is ready to shock the horse racing world? Calvin Borel will be the pilot and has only ridden 3 other times for Sadler over the past year, winning twice…Hmmmm. Nah, I’ll pass.
8th – # 9 Stately Victor (20-1): After his eye-popping victory in the Blue Grass Stakes at 40-1, plenty of people jumped on his bandwagon for the Derby, and he wasn’t a factor. Five (5) weeks later he surfaces here and there is a buzz that surrounds him. I don’t get it?! He runs his best on turf or synthetic. Belmont is a natural dirt track. On the positive side, he’s bred to “run all day” (i.e. the 1½ miles should not be an issue), but he won’t have “all day” to run from gate-to-wire and come in first.
9th – # 4 Make Music For Me (10-1): He’s another one that will get action due to his encouraging 4th place finish in the Kentucky Derby, coming from dead last early in the race to weave his way past 16 runners. Unfortunately, the additional quarter of a mile will be his downfall due to his pedigree lacking the stamina required for this race and the fact his trainer, Alexis Barba, is attempting to become the first female trainer to win the Belmont. He’s a game colt but his only victory came on turf while all of his other races other than the Derby have come on synthetic surfaces.
10th - # 2 Spangled Star (30-1): He’s way out of his league. Richard Dutrow, Jr. must enjoy the perks of being a Triple Crown race horse trainer. His entry (Homeboykris) in the Kentucky Derby didn’t belong and proved it by finishing 16th in the field of 20. Then in the Preakness, Dutrow entered Yawanna Twist who ran a game 4th, while being dissed as a 30-1 Morning Line longshot, but brought a much better resume’ to Pimlico than his Derby running stablemate. Now Spangled Star is Dutrow’s last chance for Triple Crown race glory in 2010 who deserves his 30-1 M/L. He’ll give his backers a brief thrill during the first minute of the race as he should be on the lead or among the top 4 runners early, but this race requires the winning horse to run the 1½ miles in about 2½ minutes.
11th - # 8 Game On Dude (10-1): His 4½ length win in the Gr. 3 Lone Star Derby was about as impressive as the NY Yankees recent 3 game sweep over the lowly Baltimore Orioles… not so much! His competition was far from graded stakes quality as he strolled the last 5/16th of a mile in 33 3/5. Expect a Belmont Stakes performance much like his 10 length defeat in the FL Derby or 19 length debacle in the Derby Trial.
12th - # 3 Uptowncharlybrown (10-1): Kiaran McLaughlin took over for the training duties shortly after Alan Seewald’s untimely death, a week prior to Uptowncharlybrown’s third place effort in the Blue Grass Stakes. It appears that McLaughlin will have him more forwardly placed early in the race, but the biggest question mark about his chance of winning is can he handle running 1½ miles, as he has never raced beyond 1 1/16 mile. Based on his pedigree, I believe this question will be answered before the leaders enter the stretch as he will be slowly backing up and jockey Garrett Gomez will mercifully ease him in the stretch. He’ll carry 6 lbs. more than he ever has in his racing career, which is the largest amount among this field (120 to 126).
Based on my analysis of the Belmont Stakes, I’ll play…
$10 WIN, PLACE, SHOW on # 5 (Fly Down) – Cost $30
$1 EXACTA BOX on # 5 (Fly Down), # 12 (Interactif), # 10 (Stay Put), # 6 (Ice Box) – Cost $12
$1 TRIFECTA PART-WHEEL #5, #6, #7, #12 with #5, #6, #7, #12 with #10 (Stay Put) in 3rd spot - Cost $12
Even though the third leg of the Triple Crown is anti-climatic, it’s still a $1 million race run at 1½ miles, commonly known as “The Test of Champions”. Enjoy the excitement thoroughbred horse racing has to offer. My blog will take a sabbatical during the Summer, but from time to time I will post selections on www.mypicksonline.com look for “GQ Horse Racing”. Have a great Summer!