While a number of my lucky TBA colleagues will be enjoying Belmont Stakes day in situ, I’m already planning a full day of lounging by the pool (it’s supposed to be near 90 degrees here), sipping on piña coladas, and handicapping/betting via laptop poolside. Ah, the joys of summer!
The undercard appears outstanding, with nice full fields (unlike during the Preakness)—except for the G1 Acorn, which has only 5 entries. Surely Indian Blessing’s return after 3 months didn’t scare everyone off? She’ll likely go to the lead with Dance Gal Dance, a state-bred stakes winner who appears horribly overmatched here. Golden Doc A seems more comfortable on all-weather/turf, so I’m surprised she’s entered, although she did come within a head of defeating Indian Blessing in the G2 Santa Ynez. I’m intrigued that John Velazquez abandoned Todd Pletcher’s Game Face for Jimmy Jerkins’ Zaftig—so much so I think she may spring a big upset. Eibar Coa gets the ride on Game Face, who will definitely be there at the end:
Win: 1 Zaftig
Place: 3 Game Face
Show: 2 Indian Blessing
Others running on Saturday that I’m looking forward to seeing: lightly-raced Vitruvius, half-brother of G1 Met Mile and BC Dirt Mile winner Corinthian, in race 4; the one-eyed gray Storm in May in the G2 True North (although I doubt he has a chance in hell against Benny the Bull or Suave Jazz who I think might upset here); Bit of Whimsy and Criminologist in the G1 Just a Game (where I fear Vacare will be a huge disappointment coming off a long break); Silver Edition who I’m hoping to get a good price on in the G2 Woody Stephens; and rabbit Shake the Bank’s return for Better Talk Now in the G1 Manhattan (to no avail, I fear, as Stream of Gold looks poised to turn the tables on his nemesis Dancing Forever—if Proudinsky, Pays to Dream, or Shakis doesn’t pull it off).
As for the Belmont itself, I’m still pondering the race, particularly the implications of any rain. While I admire Big Brown’s accomplishments thus far—in spite of his repugnant connections—I just can’t concede the Triple Crown to him. Truly, to the depths of my being, I want to see Casino Drive win, for all the aforementioned reasons regarding his breeding and training. To produce three consecutive Belmont Stakes winners would put Better Than Honour up there with the very best of the blue hens. So, while I fear he will be overbet, I’ll put something on Casino Drive.
The maiden entry Guadalcanal is surprising, but hardly fear-inspiring—his trainer/owner may believe this colt wants 12 furlongs, but not against this bunch. Nick Zito’s duo Da’ Tara and Anak Nakal are complete toss-outs, as far as I’m concerned, and Ready’s Echo won’t be anywhere near the top three. Icabad Crane drew a terrible post position (10), but will do his best running late. If Jeremy Rose can keep him within striking distance early on, he may get some money, but I think the Preakness was really his best chance. I also think Macho Again will bounce from his Preakness effort—he’s just not that well conditioned or bred to run another (even longer) route so soon. Kentucky Derby third (Denis of Cork) and fourth (Tale of Ekati) place finishers come in better rested, both having missed the Preakness. Denis of Cork’s connections have jerked him around this campaign, leaving him, I fear, ill-prepared to win this race—although a place in the superfecta would not surprise. Tale of Ekati has the home court advantage, having won 2 of 2 races at Belmont, and curmudgeon Barclay Tagg bitches just a little too much about his workouts, almost like he doesn’t want to get his hopes up. That appeals to me. So, what does it all mean? Well, I hoping it turns out:
Win: 5 Casino Drive
Place: 7 Tale of Ekati
Show: 1 Big Brown