Friday, June 4, 2010

Belmont Stakes

Belmont Park

Saturday June 5th, 2010
Estimated Local Post Time: 6:32 pm EST
Name: Belmont Stakes Grade: 1
Purse: $1,000,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 ½ Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Dave In Dixie
Spangled Star
Make Music For Me
Fly Down
Ice Box
Game On Dude
Stately Victor
Stay Put
First Dude

It seems to me that the 142nd running of the Belmont Stakes comes as a bit of a disappointment even to the devoted followers of horse racing, let alone the casual fan.

There won’t be a horse looking for Triple Crown glory like Big Brown was two years ago, there won’t be a filly looking to show the boys how it’s done like Rags to Riches did in 2007, and perhaps what’s most disappointing is that Kentucky Derby and Preakness Winners (Super Saver and Lookin’ At Lucky) will be absent on race day.

In a sense the Belmont Stakes will be like a consolation match between First Dude and Ice Box – the two runner-ups in the Preakness and KY Derby and currently they’re going off as the two favorites, with Ice Box being slightly favored.

With the Belmont’s daunting marathon-esque distance of a mile and a half – there’s always a chance for a significant “upset” – so let’s look at the rest of the field.

Dave In Dixie – outside of having Calvin Borel as his jockey, I don’t think this horse has much going for him. His last victory was in August 2009 and Dave In Dixie hasn’t shown any preference to longer races.

Spangled Star – I think his owners are just happy he’s in the race, his last two races have been third place finishes at 1 mile – I think the extra ½ mile this Saturday will keep him towards the back of the pack.

Uptowncharlybrown – At the end of January this horse had two very solid wins and many thought he’d be a viable contender in the Triple Crown…..February through April brought him back down to earth as he finished 3rd twice and in the Tampa Bay Derby he finished 5th. The field here is watered down a little, and I think he could crack the top three in this race. He’ll be ridden by a new jockey (Maragh) who has enjoyed a lot of success at Belmont.

Make Music For Me – finished an impressive 4th in the Kentucky Derby, but he only has one victory in 2010, and in my opinion he may be the most difficult horse to predict in this race. He has finished well against strong competition (finished with two places and a show against Preakness winner Lookin’ At Lucky), however he finished 6th in the Blue Grass Stakes following Winner Stately Victor (#9) and 3rd place First Dude (#11).

Fly Down defeated 2nd place Drosselmeyer (#7) in the 1 1/8th mile Dwyer Stakes last month here at Belmont. Fly Down flat out blew the field away in his last race and he has put together a number of sharp workouts – this one seems to have everything going for him. Currently he’s the third favorite in this race.

Ice Box – After a plucky first place performance in the Florida Derby, and a muddy late run for second place in the Kentucky Derby - How do you not love this horse?

In both the Florida and Kentucky Derbies he showed impressive closing speed – however – I’m very concerned that his performance in Kentucky was helped because Ice Box is (perhaps) solid on mud….after all the winner Super Saver didn’t exactly perform well on the dry surface at the Preakness. His victory in the Florida Derby is also a little suspect as he battled Pleasant Prince for every inch of the final stretch – and barely beat the Prince by a whisker. Pleasant Prince hasn’t finished well since that race – which has me wondering how good was Pleasant Prince and Ice Box to begin with???

I really like Ice Box and what he has done this spring – but I have concerns about this horse being a 3-1 favorite.

Drosselmeyer shares a similar story to Uptowncharlybrown, as this horse had a lot of promise at the beginning of the year, but he never seemed to come into his own. He struggled with some bad luck in the Dwyer Stakes against Fly Down, however what’s most discouraging is that he hasn’t closed out recent races very well, and those races were considerably shorter than the Belmont marathon – my guess is this horse just needs a few months off – and he could return as a very strong four year old horse next season.

Both Game On Dude and Stay Put (#10) have struggled against quality opponents, Game on Dude finished 7th in the Florida Derby (Winner Ice Box) and Stay Put finished 5th in the Louisiana Derby (Drosselmeyer 3rd place). Unless these horses have a second wind that no one (except their trainers) know about – I think you can count these guys out.

Stately Victor, First Dude (#11) and Interacif (#12) are an interesting trio for the Belmont. Stately Victor defeated First Dude (3rd place) and Interactif (4th place) in the Blue Grass Stakes back in April – what’s interesting to me, is that Stately Victor won that race by pouring it on late  – and sending quality horses to defeat in his wake!

Stately Victor followed that race with an 8th place finish in the Kentucky Derby – keep in mind Lookin At Lucky, winner of the Preakness, finished 6th in Kentucky.

First Dude on the other hand, skipped the Kentucky Derby, and performed admirably in the Preakness with a 2nd place finish. The difference on the tote board is a bit of head scratcher to me as Stately Victor is currently going off at 15-1, First Dude is the 2nd favorite at 7-2, and Interactif currently sits at 12-1.

Interactif has had a very solid spring on Turf splitting four races into two wins, one place and a show – but apparently the morning line odds makers have Stately Victor as a one and done kind of horse.

I’m not a big fan of the Blue Grass Stakes as a prep race – but I think Stately Victor (against this group of horses) is a much bigger threat than 15-1 – those odds are just too tempting. I see him as a definite UPSET ALERT!

In closing – I like everything that Fly Down is bringing to the table. He has winning experience at Belmont, his workouts have been sharp, he’s got solid closing speed – I’m taking him as the winner.

In second I’m taking Stately Victor – which basically means that instead of throwing away his performance in the Blue Grass Stakes (like the morning odds makers) – I’m throwing away his Kentucky Derby finish.

Finally – I’ll take Ice Box to beat out First Dude for third.

I’m conflicted with this race because I like Ice Box quite a bit, and have since the Florida Derby. I’d love for Stately Victor to win, just because everyone is against him, but here's what I'm going with -

Closing Speed likes: 5-9-6

I think the way I’d bet this race though is an exacta of 5/9 with 5/6/9/11. It would cost $6 but if Stately Victor comes in with one of the favorites the pay off should be solid.

My musical kick-off to this weekend could have been several New York inspired songs, but why not an Englishman in New York by Sting – always loved the lyric, “Be yourself no matter what they say…..”

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