Well, it’s that time of year again, and thus time for me to discuss the Belmont Stakes, and the supporting Stakes, using every possible medium. In case you can’t see the National Racing Report, taped Friday morning, where Jason Blewitt and I will discuss the races, or visit the Live Chat this Thursday evening ( or read the transcript sometime later ), or watch Talking Horses on Saturday morning, fortunately this blog will exist, perhaps into the next millennium, where my ( hopefully not too mediocre opinions ) will live in perpetuity.
Andy Serling has been playing the horses for almost his entire life, and is currently the co-host of NYRA Live. To follow Andy on Twitter, click here.
Here we go…..the Belmont Stakes. I like Orb. I believe he has a running style that suits the Belmont Stakes perfectly. He can grind along at a reasonable pace, and to me looks like the most talented stayer, plus he comes out of a race that from a dynamics standpoint did not allow him to do his best running. Also, being inside, or towards the inside, in Baltimore didn’t help. Despite his race in the Preakness, I still believe he is the most talented horse in the race. My second choice is the filly Unlimited Budget. I thought her Kentucky Oaks was a solid effort, where she was right on the heels of a very strong pace, and far from disgraced herself. Given how well the speed of the race, Midnight Lucky, did in her subsequent start ( our Acorn Stakes on Memorial Day ), I think it is more than fair to upgrade the performance of any horse that was close to the pace in the Oaks. Now, her rider Rosie Napravnik will have to keep her from getting too caught up in what will be, at least, a fair pace, but if so I think she could be a major factor at a reasonable price. My longshot play is Will Take Charge. Given I thought he was live in the Derby, and he was moving well when he basically ran into Verrazano, and I can excuse his poor Preakness effort for reasons similar to Orb ( though Orb clearly ran much better ), he feels worth giving another chance. As for the other contenders, beginning with the Preakness winner Oxbow. I am not taking a big stand against Oxbow, as I think he can stalk and be effective, but he is such a “last time was the time” horse, that I don’t want to take a third the price on him in the Belmont Stakes as was offered in the Preakness. It’s a value bet against more than a horse bet against. As for Freedom Child, I am against him. His Peter Pan win was under the unusually favorable circumstances of a wet racetrack that was extraordinarily kind to inside speed. These kind of wet track blow out efforts frequently earn exceptionally high speed figures that are virtually impossible to reproduce under relatively normal circumstances. Given that his Beyer figure was “only” a 99, I find it hard to believe under reasonably normal circumstances that he can run the likely faster figure needed to win this race. Yes, I know there is the possibility of rain, and a similar wet track COULD exist, but that seems highly unlikely. I will take my chances that this is not the case. Finally, let’s discuss Revolutionary. Given he got the same dramatically fast pace to close into in the Kentucky Derby that vaulted Orb to his victory, but unlike Orb saved basically every inch of ground, why should I expect him to be able to reverse that result in this Belmont? At only a slightly higher price, I will gamble that this reversal of fortune does not take place. I like Revolutionary, and believe he has a good chance to do well going forward, but I prefer others in here, and believe at his 9:2 morning line he will not offer fair value.
Let’s take a brief look at the other Stakes making up the $1,000,000 Guaranteed Pick-4….
The Longines Just a Game, the first leg, is about as good as it gets. A seven horse field consisting of 5 Grade 1 winners, a Grade 2 winner, and a Group 2 winner from Europe. One of these Grade 1 winners is last year’s BC Turf Sprint victor Mizdirection, who makes the cross country trip looking to win her third mile race in four attempts, thus demonstrating that distance should not be a problem. However, given the speedy presence of Dayatthespa, as well as more talented rivals than she has ever faced at this distance, I will look to play against her. I will start the Pick-4 with three horses, Hungry Island, Centre Court, and Stephanie’s Kitten. Centre Court is a gem of consistency, whose tactical speed always puts her in good position. Hungry Island is looking to reverse her narrow defeat to Stephanie’s Kitten at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, and I think she may well be able to do that, but I will use both regardless. Hungry Island is, however, my top selection.
The Woody Stephens takes a back seat to no race being run on Saturday. It is quite simply as good as it gets. The presence of the very exciting, and VERY speedy, West Coast invader Let Em Shine brings not only a formidable presence, but also a certain fast pace, as along with Zee Bros, the very impressive winner of the Chick Lang on the Preakness undercard, they have to be going fast early. Perhaps either, or both, of these horses can survive a rapid pace, but I will play the race hoping that is not the case. Let Em Shine has never faced horses of this caliber, and Zee Bros was in an unusual race last time, where despite the fast early pace, it was a literal merry-go-round race, with the 1-2-3 finishers pretty much running that way the entire race. Clearly Now ran extremely well, stalking the quick pace three wide on a track kind to horses inside, when a head loser to Declan’s Warrior in the Bay Shore. Normally, I would expect him to be a little farther back, and a repeat of his Bay Shore effort would make him very tough here. He is my selection. I will also use Declan’s Warrior and Forty Tales, and maybe a little Salutos Amigos, in hopes that the pace will prove taxing. Regardless, this is a race not to be missed.
Finally, the pre-Belmont Stakes Pick-4 races will conclude with the Woodford Reserve Manhattan. Like many people, I will not be trying to beat Point of Entry, who may be as good a race horse as there is in training. Even if we get some rain, given that we will be racing down on the inside of the turf courses, which have not been used for some time, the condition is highly unlikely to be an issue. He is too good for these horses. While Optimizer is the most accomplished of his rivals, Twilight Eclipse may be his most intriguing one. After a so-so year in 2012, he has really blossomed since being stretched out in distance, with his last being a record setting win, albeit on a very firm course. It will be interesting to see how this improving gelding stacks up against Point of Entry. It will also be interesting to see if he needs even more ground than one mile and a quarter of the Woodford Reserve Manhattan. If you want my longshot for you tris or supers, perhaps Finnegans Wake can sneak in there, as the added ground will likely help him improve off his 2013 debut.
Well, there it is, my $1,000,000 Guaranteed Pick-4, Belmont Day Stakes, selections. As always, Saturday will be a great and exciting day of racing. Let’s do it again next year.