BELMONT STAKES PICKS

The third leg of the Triple Crown won’t offer a chance for a horse to sweep the series and break the 35 year drought, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t full of intrigue. A full field of 14 attracts back 10 of the 19 Kentucky Derby runners, including 8 of the top 12 finishers in that race. Some dangerous new shooters enter the mix as well, and I don’t think it is a stretch to say that this is the strongest Belmont field in many years. I for one feel that this field is tougher top to bottom than the Derby field was, as all of the new entrants could have been factors there as well.

It is an interesting year for this race, specifically because of the contrasting ways that the prior two races were run and won. In the Kentucky Derby, we saw unexpectedly speedy opening fractions, which set up well for Orb and his stalking style. In the Preakness, the fractions were much slower than anyone expected, and allowed a tough colt in Oxbow to separate himself from the field without using too much energy. In addition to running on the worst part of the track and having traffic trouble, this slow early pace also rendered Orb’s closing move powerless.

Slow fractions in the Belmont can be even more dangerous, where contrary to intuitive thought, the longer distance can actually work against closers since they risk laying further back than usual and having more ground to make up. The first goal in handicapping any race is to assess the pace scenario. The Derby was “fast” and the Preakness was “slow”, so I’ll go in between this time and estimate that the Belmont pace will be “moderate.” Here’s my horse by horse breakdown. Searching for a big pay day to finish off the triple crown season and given the very wide open nature of this race, my main play will be a superfecta part wheel.

1- Frac Daddy (30-1 Morning Line, 264 Tomlinson Distance Figure) 

Trainer Ken McPeek stated before the draw that he was planning to send this one to the lead in a change of styles, and he won’t have much choice now with his horse on the rail inside of the speedy Freedom Child. While he’s been training well for a transition to early speed, he’s always seemed quite a few steps slower than this group, and a change in tactics could worsen his chances considerably at this longer distance. He doesn’t appear usable.

2- Freedom Child (8-1 Morning Line, 294 Tomlinson Distance Figure)

After missing the break in the Wood Memorial and being declared a non-starter in that race, he returned to dominate the 9f Peter Pan over the Belmont track, winning going away by 13 lengths in the slop. While he’s not as experienced as many of these, his tactical speed and inside post should help save ground on the lead, a spot that can be friendly in this race. The track condition should play to his liking, and while there is some concern about sprint influences on the bottom of his pedigree and his ability to manage this distance on the lead, he’s been training with long gallops and looks very sharp. For what it’s worth, he finished 2nd behind Orb and a spot ahead of Revolutionary at 8f back in November when the former broke his maiden, so it seems he belongs in terms of class. He appears a must use in exotics from at the least the second line down, and is a dangerous contender for the win, although I will try to beat him in that spot as he stretches out well beyond his experience (9f is his longest race to date).

3- Overanalyze (12-1 Morning Line, 311 Tomlinson Distance Figure)

He didn’t have a good outing in the Kentucky Derby, but his form patterns show a perplexing on/off style with wins in alternating starts over his entire eight race career. This would be the “on” race in that pattern, and while the worry remains that he is simply a few steps too slow to compete for the win, he merits inclusion at the bottom of exotics based on his pedigree.

4- Giant Finish (30-1, 287 Tomlinson Distance Figure)

His mid-pack finish in the Kentucky Derby should probably be considered an overachievement by some measure, although he likely benefited from passing tired horses from the ridiculous pace there, and didn’t really ever show a turn of foot or a contending move. He likely gained fitness from that race but appears in over his head facing five foes that finished well ahead of him in that race. I like other longshots a bit more and won’t be using him.

5- Orb (3-1 Morning Line, 296 Tomlinson Distance Figure)

I said after the Kentucky Derby that Orb would be my Belmont pick regardless of what happened in what I saw as his toughest hurdle in the Preakness Stakes. Everything that went right in the Derby for him went wrong in that race, as slow fractions up front and a tight trip along the slowest strip of track at Pimlico nullified any chance he had to pick up the pieces late. He actually appeared to have a good chance to finish last after checking Titletown Five in front of him while trying to move and then backing up and losing momentum, but he actually picked off two horses late to improve his position. Remember, he ran the fastest final 1/4 split in the Derby, which means he was pulling away from the field at that distance, and he gets more ground here. He’s already proven on a sloppy track, and while 3-1 isn’t as juicy as the 5-1 I got for him the Derby, it’s still a good return when you are confident of the winner. His workouts have received high praise at Belmont this week. The pick, yet again.

6- Incognito (20-1 Morning Line, 316 Tomlinson Distance Figure)

He was soundly beaten over the slop in the Peter Pan, so it’s possible he won’t like the track condition and that he isn’t fast enough to make much of an impact against a far tougher field here. However, he does boast the second highest Tomlinson number in the field for this distance, and in a race like this where crazy things can happen when some horses just keep running while others can’t run any more, he’ll be my longshot play for the bottom of my superfecta based purely on pedigree.

7- Oxbow (5-1 Morning Line, 330 Tomlinson Distance Figure)

The potential I’d seen in this horse since January finally came to fruition when he took control unexpectedly in the Preakness and never looked back. Sure, he benefited from being able to set those easy fractions on the front end, but don’t be fooled- this is a very tough colt who seems to get better the more often he races. He won’t be any less rested than Orb is and shows no signs of fatigue following his tough campaign this spring, and I’m hoping for a great finish between those rivals. He gets a great post in the middle of the 14 horse field and should be forwardly placed again, which combined with the strongest distance pedigree in the field certainly points to an on-the-board finish at the very least.

8- Midnight Taboo (30-1 Morning Line, 309 Tomlinson Distance Figure)

He’s making a big class leap here in only his fourth career start and doesn’t show speed figures anywhere in the realm of the top contenders here. He does have some upside with a decently strong distance pedigree, but this looks like an awfully tough spot to try to make the needed improvement to finish anywhere near the money.

9- Revolutionary (9-2 Morning Line, 256 Tomlinson Distance Figure)

He’s well rested after skipping the Preakness following his 3rd place finish in the Derby, where he finished his final 1/4 faster than every horse in the race not named Orb. He did benefit from a bit of a ground saving, off-the-brutal-pace trip in that race, and I remain concerned about his pedigree for this distance with so much sprinting influence coming from his sire line. He’s certainly dangerous enough to include in exotics, especially on an off track, but I’m not feeling him for the win.

10- Will Take Charge (20-1 Morning Line, 230 Tomlinson Distance Figure)

I liked his chances going into the Preakness, taking the angle that he’d gotten a rough deal in the Derby while making his move in deep stretch and running into Verrazano’s tiring body, but he didn’t really have a similar excuse for his dismal performance in that race. He now shows two straight descending Beyer figures after posting a career high three races back, an indication that he could be a tired horse heading in the wrong direction. He’s a massive horse that seems to have only one gear, and figures to plod along for awhile, but this race seems far beyond his scope in terms of distance, and his Tomlinson number is the third lowest among this field. I’ll be leaving him out altogether this time.

11- Vyjack (20-1 Morning Line, 218 Tomlinson Distance Figure)

After a disastrous Kentucky Derby performance, Vyjack skipped the Preakness, but this still seems like an odd spot for a horse with his clear distance limitations. He’s bred up and down for speed, and while he’s made some off the pace moves at shorter distances, his field-low Tomlinson doesn’t inspire much concern that he is a threat to factor here in a race even longer than the Derby was. He has his backers, but I’ve never been one, and will stay away from him in this spot.

12- Palace Malice (15-1 Morning Line, 310 Tomlinson Distance Figure)

The surprise early Derby leader went out way too quickly after having blinkers added in that race, setting historically hot fractions that would prove to be his undoing. The blinkers come off for this race, and he’s had five weeks rest since that failed experiment. While he may eventually turn out to be more suited to turf races, it would be hard to deny that if he can settle in and rate this time, he shouldn’t have any trouble with the distance based on his pedigree. I’m going to take a leap of faith that Pletcher has him ready this time and think he’s a player to fill out the trifecta at a decent price.

13- Unlimited Budget (8-1 Morning Line, 222 Tomlinson Distance Figure)

The lone filly in the field will take her chances against the boys following a 3rd place finish in the Kentucky Oaks. To me, she looks like a massive overlay. The bottom of her pedigree is loaded with speed influences and there isn’t much to suggest she’ll want any part of a race this long, and if she couldn’t do better then 3rd last time against the girls in a race that a 37-1 longshot won, it’s hard to justify using her here at such short relative odds. The wide post won’t do her any favors on this track either.

14-Golden Soul (10-1 Morning Line, 267 Tomlinson Distance Figure)

These look like pretty attractive odds on the Derby runner up, who surprised five weeks back at 30-1 odds to ruin many a trifecta, mine among them. He’s a bit vulnerable here in my opinion based on his wide post and tendency to drop way back, which could leave him with too much to do late in a race this long. He’s another that benefited from a great trip at Churchill, but it bears mention that he did run the third fastest final 1/4 split in that race. He’ll definitely be coming late, and I will use him, but will try to beat him for the exacta.

PICKS SUMMARY:

1)    Orb

2)    Oxbow

3)    Freedom Child

4)    Revolutionary

5)    Golden Soul

6)    Palace Malice

7)    Overanalyze

8)    Incognito

9)    Will Take Charge

10)  Giant Finish

11)  Midnight Taboo

12)  Unlimited Budget

13)  Vyjack

14)  Frac Daddy

HOW TO BET $100 ON THE BELMONT:

$0.50 Superfecta:

ORB, OXBOW/

ORB, OXBOW, FREEDOM CHILD, REVOLUTIONARY/

ORB, OXBOW, FREEDOM CHILD, REVOLUTIONARY, GOLDEN SOUL, PALACE MALICE/

ORB, OXBOW, FREEDOM CHILD, REVOLUTIONARY, GOLDEN SOUL, PALACE MALICE, OVERANALYZE, INCOGNITO

($60)

$40 Win: ORB

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