Wednesday, June 7, 2017
With Classic Empire Gone...the Belmont Stakes just became wide open
So, because of an hoof abscess on his right front foot, the probable odds-on favorite Classic Empire will not run in the 1 1/2 miles Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
This changes everything, obviously.
The oddsmakers have installed IRISH WAR CRY as a 7/2 favorite. EPICHARIS, the Japanese invader, gets 4-1 consideration and LOOKIN AT LEE starts at 5-1 with TAPWRIT listed at 6-1.
12 of them will chase the final jewel in the Triple Crown. None of them have ever been this far and none will probably go this distance again. So, let's look at the race.
Remember that by the time they reach the top of the stretch, they will have already gone 1 1/4 miles...the Derby distance. That leaves two furlongs...or a quarter-mile to traverse down the long, sandy straight shot to success.
Belmont can be a tiring rack. Turf tracks tend to carry a horse a little further than the dirt...because of the surface...but hooves sink down further in the dirt...especially in a sandy type of dirt...so it just might be a "who can stagger home first" type of affair.
It'll definitely be a tactical race..and, I think, a jockey's race. So, let's look at who the runners are
FIRST OFF... We just don't know enough about Epicharis...he led the UAE Derby all the way until the final jump when Thunder Snow got him and he does like to run on the lead. I expect to see him early and then eventually get passed in the stretch. Christopher Lemaire gets the ride...we know very little about him here in the states...but he's supposedly one of the top three jocks over in France. I wonder how much I get read over in France? Maybe with croissants and French roast coffee Epichiris draws PP #11.
Buyer beware here. He may be the best dirt runner in Japan. How that translates here in the USA in anyone's guess. I'll stick him in the exactas and trifectas. I expect he'll go off around 4-1, so $2 will get you $10 if you like him on top. Personally, I don't...
I still like Senior Investment. I just hope he doesn't get too far behind early and is in contention when the make the final turn. And, I'll take 12-1 all day. Channing Hill gave him a good ride in the Preakness. Channing Hill listens to trainer instructions quite well and pulls the big upset from time to time. The trainer...Kenny McPeek... thinks the horse wants more distance. Be careful for what you wish, of course...but here ya go...Senior...a quarter-pounder or quarter mile to add to your plate. He'll come out of the #8 hole. He''l be in my exotics and a lil' bit of WPS consideration as well. Pick 3 and 4 candidate as well for usage...if I bet those wagers. Going out of a limb (at my age?) and making him my top selection. Like I've never been wrong before, right?
Let's look at the rest...by post position
#1 TWISTED TOM 20-1. Javier Castellano on board. Chad Brown trains. Chad and Javier do special things together, let there be no doubt. Few know Belmont better than "J.C."and the real question here, I suppose, is can a New York bred horse that has three straight wins but none against graded stakes competition do this? Welcome to "the Show", kid...whatcha got?
I'll pass on him. I know one guy who will bet him, though. Hiya, Spanky!
#2 TAPWRIT 6-1. Jose Ortiz get the mount. Trained by Todd Pletcher. Another jockey who rides the Belmont track quite well. Few trainers better than Todd Pletcher. He's been a hard luck story last two times out, though. He got slammed around like he was a bumper car participant in the Derby and an absolutely horrible start up in the Bluegrass. He sure loved Florida though...winning 3 out of 4 races there. Before I offer, "Go South, young man"...I will acknowledge that he made up nice ground on the rail in the Derby to finish sixth and only one of those who finished in front of him (Lookin' At Lee) is in this race.
I'll use him. I don't think he'll win...but he'll be all over the rest of my exotics in the race and I may even pop him in the Pick 3 and 4 if I go deep in those bets....or do them at all.
#3 GORMLEY 8-1. Victor Espinoza in the saddle. A John Shirriffs trainee. I just don't like to play California horses, trainer or jockeys (except Mike Smith) in New York races and this holds here, as well. he's chased a few of this, including Lookin' At Lee, for several races now and I don't see him magically getting better.I just don't think he'll be a factor at the end.
Not one I'll consider, unless he's part of an "all" bet...which I probably won't do here.
#4 J BOYS ECHO. 15-1. They're listing Robby Albarado on board...which would be interesting...since he's been on the injury shelf with a bum leg since April. Local Louisville hero Dale Romans trains...he did beat Cloud Computing in the Gotham...but has been on a downward spiral since that prep race. He does to like to come flying from the back and if there is a major death in the pace as they hit the stretch...he could be useful...but I don't see him in the top two.
He'll be one that's filling out the bottom portions of the exacta and tri for me...that's it.
#5 HOLLYWOOD HANDSOME. 30-1 Florent Geroux takes the mount. Out of the Dallas Stewart barn. I got admit, this one intrigues me. What's a horse with two career wins..one a maiden race and the other an allowance doing in a place like this? He's fresh, no doubt about that...but maybe a bit outclassed by these. Still, he doesn't know that...and he did close well to get up just at the wire in 1 1/16th at Churchill. Does he want more? Stewart seems to think so. We'll see. Flo-Jo is a tough ridin' son-of-a-gun. He'll need to be against these.
I use him. He's one of those that something is up with. Good or bad, I don't know. He'll be in my plays as a "nice price" angle. Not to win, but in the other spots of the exotics.
#6 LOOKIN AT LEE. 5-1. Irad Ortiz gets up. Steve Asmussen trained. His surprise finish in the Derby aside...this is a horse that did OK in preps leading up to the Derby. He ran last for most of the Preakness and you have to wonder just how he will handle his third race in six weeks. He did close well but wasn't a factor in Maryland. I just don't see him winning...but he could pass tiring ones and ht the board. Irad Ortiz is another king of Belmont and will provide a good ride. They need to move him earlier, though.
Will put in exactas, trifectas and multi race ventures.
#7 IRISH WAR CRY. 7/2. Rajiv Maragh guides. Out of Graham Motion's barn. This one should be able to stay just off the pace and try to wear down the front runners in the stretch if all goes to plan. The worry here is him getting passed by a deep closer in the final furlong. He did win the Wood at Aqueduct in impressive fashion and the Derby wasn't a great trip for him...Maragh also rides quite well at Belmont and he's the lukewarm favorite in a field that could produce a surprise or two. A trouble free trip and who knows?
He'll be a part of my plans in all ventures. Let me hear your War Cry!
#8 SENIOR INVESTMENT (see above)
#9 MEANTIME 15-1 Mike Smith will pilot. Brian Lynch will saddle in the paddock. This guy has speed, no question about it. The trouble is, speed hasn't won a Belmont since...maybe...Da'Tara...who went wire-to-wire in 2008. Mike Smith is my choice for best rider in the nation, so maybe he'll be able to meter a slow to moderate pace and try to outlast the rest. If they go to the lead, which does seem to be this one's skill...and, someone has to be in the lead, right? An intriguing horse. Maybe too far to go, though.
He'll be in the bottom rungs of my trfectas and exactas.
#10 MULTIPLIER 15-1 Joel Rosario holds the reins. Brendan Walsh got him here. Another mystery for me here. He did not impress in the Preakness. Maybe they're hoping he's a "bounce" horse and will return to the form that got him the Illinois Derby win? An interesting fact here...he came in 3rd his first time out...in a maiden special race won by Hollywood Handsome at the Fairgrounds. I just can't recommend him.
I'll be leaving him out of my plays.
#11 EPICHARIS (see above)
#12 PATCH 12-1 Johnny Velazquez on board. Another Todd Pletcher entry. Ya gotta love that they're giving ol' "One-Eye" a run back after a not so brilliant Derby trip. If Mike Smith isn't the best jockey in horse racing, I'd say that "Johnny V" is...Once again, he breaks from the outside post, just like the Derby..so he'll have no idea what's going on with the other 11 to his left. I don't think he can get this distance and don't "see" him as a factor (sorry).
I'll pass on him.
There it is. Good luck on Saturday. Consider this my Belmont handicapping...I'll be out of play for a few days. I'll try to get what I can out of Archie and Scott, and, if at all possible, post their picks. The Belmont is the only race I'll play Saturday. Sorry, Churchill...got more important fish to fry that day.
8 -- SENIOR INVESTMENT
7 -- IRISH WAR CRY
6 -- LOOKING AT LEE
2 -- TAPWRIT