Even though thoroughbred horse racing will go another year without a Triple Crown winner, the 143rd running of the Belmont Stakes is shaping up to be a competitive one worth having action on, as twelve (12) 3 year olds, including the first seven finishers in the Kentucky Derby are scheduled to break from the starting gate at Belmont on Saturday, for the $1 million 1½ mile classic, Post Time is 6:30pm. NBC-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 Versus from 3pm-5pm.
The weather forecast for the New York metropolitan area, location of Belmont Race Course, is for 60% chance of showers, so the track condition could be fast, sloppy or muddy come post time. Regardless of the track condition, here’s how I see the 143rd running of the Belmont Stakes playing out, listed in my predicted order of finish. Odds shown are the Morning Line odds. Advanced wagering on the Belmont Stakes is available on Friday across the country at your favorite track, off-track-betting establishment or via online horse racing wagering websites.
1st - # 9 Animal Kingdom (2-1): Of the 11 rivals he faces here, he convincingly beat 7 of them in the Derby. The other 4 just don’t have the resume’ to compete successfully at this level. So the biggest question will be if he wins, will Graham Motion be haunted by the fact he failed to give Animal Kingdom a workout over the Pimlico surface prior to the Preakness?
2nd – # 1 Master Of Hounds (10-1): This European based runner arrived in Kentucky 4 days before the Derby, remained in quarantine then proceeded to finish a fast closing 5th in the Derby, his first race on natural dirt. Rider Garrett Gomez was so impressed with mounts performance that he indicated to the connections he’d love to ride him again. Well he’s got his chance as Master Of Hounds returns from across the pond, so I doubt that the owner and trainer are making the trip for New York cheesecake!
3rd – # 5 Brilliant Speed (15-1): This was my Derby pick at 27-1. He ran 7th by 5½ lengths yet his trainer (Tom Albertrani) has said he ran a great race?! Gee Tom, I never knew finishing 7th was such an accomplishment. Too many times I’ve seen my picks come back in their next race to run better than the day I put money on them. His pedigree screams for the 1½ mile distance, so he’ll have no excuses here if he’s not heard from in deep stretch.
4th - # 4 Santiva (15-1): Another familiar name as he was my #1 Derby horse back in February, but was handled with kit-gloves making just two starts as a 3 year old leading up to the Derby, in which he ran a creditable 6th at 34-1. He’s never run a race or worked out over the Belmont dirt surface, which might work against him but is getting a lot of love from those who love the “3rd race after a layoff” angle.
5th - # 6 Nehro (4-1): He was the Wise-Guy horse of the Derby, who ran big but settled for second, as he did in the Arkansas Derby and Louisiana Derby. For this reason IMHO he has a case of Second-itis. Add the fact his jock (Corey Nakatani) is 0 for Triple Crown races, he’ll likely have a sub-par outing.
6th - # 10 Mucho Macho Man (10-1): He’s a beast who can’t keep horse shoes on during the race. In both the Preakness and Louisiana Derby he lost a front shoe. Even though this will be his first race at Belmont, this is his home track and trains very well over it. Jock switch to NY leading rider Ramon Dominguez is a plus, who will have him closer to the pace early on, but that will compromise his stamina, so I see him fading in the final furlong.
7th - # 12 Shackleford (9-2): On paper is the lone speed in the race… but the race isn’t run on paper. He might have the lead after the first half mile, but he’ll have plenty of company breathing down his neck, which should result into a quicker pace than everyone anticipates. If this scenario plays out, “Shack” will struggle to hit the board. Then again, if he leads the way to a 49 & change first half, it could be Goodnight Irene.
8th – # 3 Ruler On Ice (20-1): He’s one of the 4 non-Derby starters who could sniff minor purse money on his best day. He adds blinkers and continues to improve with each race. Two races back in the Sunland Derby he was just a head behind Preakness third place finisher Astrology.
9th – # 7 Monzon (30-1): Fulfills the dream of his Sagamore Farm owner (Kevin Plank of Under Armour) of having a starter in a Triple Crown race. Unfortunately, this gelding looks like an Also Ran versus Grade 1 company. He has a bright future, and will win plenty of races in his career but not in graded stakes events.
10th - # 11 Isn’t He Perfect (30-1): Actually, no he’s not! He has 2 wins in 13 career races. In the 4 graded stakes races in which he has run, he’s finished 5th twice, 6th and most recently 9th in the Preakness.
11th - # 8 Prime Cut (15-1): A nice colt who has hit the board in 6 of 7 career races. Ran 3rd at 8-1 in the Gr. 3 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont last month, but he’s not cut out for this distance. He’ll be among those closely chasing Shackleford early on, but will be looking for an oxygen mask when he turns for home.
12th - # 2 Stay Thirsty (20-1): Was full of promise as a 2 year old, but got a late start to his 3 year old campaign. Beat a weak field in the Gr. 3 Gotham at Aqueduct in March but was outrun in both the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby. On the positive side, like his owner (Mike Repole), he loves New York as he’s never been worse than second in 4 races on New York state tracks (Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga) while off the board in his 3 races in other states.
Based on my analysis of the Belmont Stakes, I’ll play…
$10 WIN, PLACE, SHOW on # 9 (Animal Kingdom) – Cost $30
$1 EXACTA BOX on #1 (Master Of Hounds), #4 (Santiva), #5 (Brilliant Speed), #9 (Animal Kingdom) – $12
$1 TRIFECTA PART-WHEEL #4, #5, #9, #12 with #1 (Master Of Hounds) in 2nd spot with #4, #5, #6, #9 – $13
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. For the most part my blog will take a sabbatical during the Summer along with Maryland live racing, but from time to time I will post for some given Saturday races, most likely from Colonial Downs.
Opening Day at Saratoga (aka The Spa) is on Friday July 22nd. I’ll be there and plan on posting selections for that day, Haskell Day (Sunday, August 7th) at Monmouth Park and usher out the Summer with picks for every racing day at Timonium (aka The Big T) during the Maryland State Fair.
If you follow me on Twitter (@HorseRacingNut) you’ll never miss a blog. Have a great Summer!