Belmont Picks

Despite the lack of a Triple Crown storyline, this year’s Belmont is still loaded with intrigue and in my opinion, it is a pretty strong field even without Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and Preakness winner Lookin’ At Lucky in the mix. Only three runners from the Derby return for the Belmont, but several horses who fell out of that race for various reasons are here, and many are fresher and much improved since then. As always, pedigree figures into this marathon of a race (12f! Oh the humanity!), and an interesting stat that I ran across is that 17 of the last 20 Belmont winners have had either a sire or damsire that were victorious at 10 furlongs or longer. I’m going to bet against that trend this year for my own reasons, but have included that information, and put in caps those that meet that criteria (only four horses). Let’s take a look at this year’s field, in order of my preference:

1) First Dude (101 Beyer, 352 Tomlinson, Stephen Got Even/ Smart Strike) PP #11, 7-2- I normally don’t pick horses in this race that like to go right to the lead, but after his fantastic second place effort in the Preakness setting hot fractions, you have to like his chances in a race without much speed. He could very easily get loose on the lead with much softer fractions and have plenty in the tank coming home. His long strides and massive physique figure to benefit him through the track’s sweeping turns, and he appears to be a horse that is improving rapidly.

2) Ice Box (100 Beyer, 270 Tomlinson, Pulpit/ TABASCO CAT) PP#6, 3-1 Morning Line Favorite- Nobody closed faster in the Kentucky Derby than this horse, and after a nightmare trip to boot. His gallop out was monstrous after that second place finish, and there isn’t much doubt he would have won a 12f race that day. He isn’t likely to see the same type of pace set up here but he figures to be flying late regardless, especially coming in fresh after passing on the Preakness, and the extra two furlongs should do nothing but help his chances. His damsire Tabasco Cat won this very race, and trainer Nick Zito seems to be hot lately.

3) Fly Down (99 Beyer, 303 Tomlinson, MINESHAFT/ Fly So Free) PP#5, 9-2- This late bloomer demonstrated a magnificent turn of foot in winning the Dwyer over this very track. He is lightly raced, but a duplication of that effort will certainly factor here in a big way, and his pedigree suggests that the distance won’t be an issue. I always like to give horses a long look when they have shown success over the same race track, and he’s the only horse in the field with a win at Belmont.

4) Stately Victor (94 Beyer, 290 Tomlinson, GHOSTZAPPER/ Dynaformer) PP#9, 15-1- I loved his chances in the Derby, and he actually ran pretty well there to finish eighth after a somewhat crowded trip. There are still a lot of question marks surrounding him, and whether or not he is simply a synthetic specialist, but his turn of foot and pedigree could still make him a force to be reckoned with if he runs a big race. I won’t be using him on top but think he stands a good chance to hit the board.

5) Spangled Star (87 Beyer, 386 Tomlinson, Distorted Humor/ Kris S.) PP#2, 30-1- If you are looking for a sleeper at a big price, this could be the horse. So far in this year’s Triple Crown races, pedigree and distance figures have played a big role, so overlook the horse with the highest Tomlinson distance figure in the field at your own peril. Although his speed figures aren’t really competitive with the rest of these, he has posted three straight improving Beyers, and if he can improve again and benefit from the distance, who knows?

6) Interactif (94 Beyer, 330 Tomlinson, Broken Vow/ Broad Brush) PP#12, 12-1- He is another that has question marks, mainly as to whether or not he is better suited to turf, but he was certainly on my Derby short list and deserves a look if for no other reason than he should be able to run his race and make a late move from the back of the pack. He has been inconsistent but should be fresh. I like others more but wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit the board.

7) Make Music For Me (97 Beyer, 266 Tomlinson, Bernstein/ Carson City) PP#4, 10-1- Aside from Ice Box, he made up the most ground coming down the stretch in the Derby and was running pretty wide so he definitely has a big chance to make an impact here with a similar effort. Whether he benefited from the sloppy track like Paddy O’Prado did remains to be seen, and I have my questions as to whether he wants to go all the way to 12 furlongs based on his pedigree. Still, if you’re betting based on Kentucky Derby finishes, he’d be your place horse.

8- Drosselmeyer (92 Beyer, 346 Tomlinson, Distorted Humor/ Moscow Ballet) PP#7, 12-1- He was high on everyone’s list after he closed gamely to get up for the show spot in the Louisiana Derby, but then he was easily bested by Fly Down last time out over this same track. He’ll need to improve vastly to catch that one, and really, the more you look at the Louisiana Derby race the less sense it makes.

9) Game on Dude (95 Beyer, 312 Tomlinson, AWESOME AGAIN/ Devil His Due) PP#8, 10-1- He is intriguing based on his pedigree for sure, but not at these odds. He impressed in his last start against inferior competition but was beaten pretty easily in the Florida Derby without excuses. You can throw out his Derby Trial flop as he clearly didn’t enjoy the footing, but I like others better.

10) Stay Put (90 Beyer, 327 Tomlinson, Broken Vow/ Dixieland Band) PP#10, 20-1- Another horse that appears to be improving, but his last three Beyers have been pretty consistent and those figures are well below what it will take to win here. His most impressive win came over a sloppy track and he may be just a touch outclassed here.

11) Dave In Dixie (95 Beyer, 291 Tomlinson, Dixie Union/ Wavering Monarch), PP#1, 20-1- His last three Beyers have been decreasing, and it appears that he might have enjoyed synthetic surfaces more than dirt. He’ll be fresh coming in off eight weeks rest, but his pedigree doesn’t really stack up, and coming from the rail if he’s forced to chase First Dude early, he could be toast in a hurry.

12) Uptowncharleybrown (91 Beyer, 226 Tomlinson, Limehouse/ Langfuhr) PP#2, 10-1- A lot of people think this horse has a chance here but I am failing to see the logic. Nothing about this horse suggests that he wants to run a race of this distance, and his Tomlinson figure is the lowest in the field by a large margin, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise just eyeballing his immediate pedigree. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong but I can’t come up with a logical reason why he should be a factor.

Bets ($20 Unit):

I really the like the top three here and see a pretty big separation from the rest of the field (Amazingly, all three of my top choices are grandchildren of the great A.P. Indy, a winner of this race). Given that these are likely to be the top three betting favorites as well, there isn’t much value in straight wagers or in a three horse exacta box, so I’ll try to hit the trifecta with those three and throw my next two choices into the show spot….and throw a couple bucks on a high price to win for insanity insurance.

$1 Tri Key: First Dude, Ice Box, Fly Down/ First Dude, Ice Box, Fly Down/ First Dude, Ice Box, Fly Down, Stately Victor, Spangled Star

$2 Win (hedge) on Stately Victor or Spangled Star, game time decision based on the odds.

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