Happy Belmont Day! 

The term “historic” is overused, but today is a historic day. For the first time since 1967 the Belmont Stakes will be contested somewhere other than over “Big Sandy”. This is a dream card with nine Graded Stakes, including six Grade 1s. Those six Grade Is are the most on any card in North America outside of the Breeders’ Cup Classic day.  

Sure, it would be nice if the Belmont could have been contested at a mile and a half, but there is no Triple Crown on the line so that doesn’t matter as much as it might. This is a great Belmont field that includes both the Derby and Preakness winners along with the second place finishers in those races. Not to mention later developing three year olds who didn’t make the Derby trail.  

Trivia question: Name the five tracks where the Belmont Stakes has been contested? 

Race 13 – The Manhattan – Grade I 

One Mile and Three Sixteenths on the Mellon Turf for Four Year Olds and Upward 

  1. I’m Very Busy: Didn’t do much running in the Turf Classic on Derby Day as he had a tough trip. Earned his first stakes win in the Muniz Memorial (103 Beyer) with an excellent performance from the thirteen hole.  Started the year with a good second in the Pegasus Turf (100 Beyer) where he was coming late. His best puts him in contention.
  2. Ohana Honor: In the Man o’ War he was a good second as he sat mid-pack and ran on well but couldn’t catch Silver Knott (99 Beyer). That was his best performance in stakes company to date.  Wired N3X company at Keeneland two back where he got away with a slow pace (98 Beyer). Tough assignment today.
  3. Kertez: Won the Pan American in his first U.S. race for the Clement barn with a ground saving trip and good turn of foot in the lane (94 Beyer). Not as strong in the Man o’ War next out as he barely made a dent after dwelling at the back of the pack. Slight chance for a small slice.
  4. Strong Quality: Front end runner likes to set the pace but doesn’t often close the deal against top ones. Sure he wired the field in the Knicks Go on the dirt at Churchill (93 Beyer) but when facing tougher he can’t hold them off. Such was the case in Muniz Memorial. Know him early.
  5. Program Trading: Won the Turf Classic at Churchill via a nice ride by Flavian Prat in his seasonal debut (102 Beyer) where he split horses and dove to the inside to best Nations Pride by a short head.  I guess this Chad Brown trainee didn’t need one off a six month layoff. Dangerous.
  6. Al Riffa: French bred colt come to North America for Joseph O’Brien after a competitive fourth in his seasonal debut at Longchamps in the Group 1Prix Ganay where the top five were within a length at the finish. That was his first race off an eight month layoff. But he has not won beyond seven furlongs but has hit the board several times in route races. Looking elsewhere.
  7. Nations Pride: In the Man o’ War (99 Beyer) he got to the lead turning for home but was bested by Silver Knott in the lane after being up close to a hot pace. Versatile runner for Charlie Appleby prefers to press the pace but can win with different types of trips and he as a win over the track. Contender.
  8. Far Bridge: Has never been off the board in eight career starts prior to the Turf Classic at Churchill where he was well positioned but his best couldn’t keep up (95 Beyer). Will need to step forward in the second start of his form cycle.  He’s a step below against these.
  9. Measured Time: Appleby ships this one in after winning a Group 1 and Group 2 at Meydan in Dubai. In the Group 1 Jebel Hatta he sat a nice stalking trip and when asked in the lane he showed a good turn of foot to open up on the field.  Off of that win he went in the Group I Dubai Turf and was well positioned behind the leaders but had some traffic issues and the closers just got up late as he finished an up close fourth. Five wins from seven starts with six of those starts in stakes races. Classy animal. The Pick.

Picks  9-7-5-1 

Race 14 – The Belmont Stakes – Grade I 

One Mile and a Quarter on the Dirt for Three Year Olds 

  1. Seize The Grey: Well, Mr. Lukas and this Arrogate colt had a heck of a month of May. They wired the field with an aggressive ride in the Preakness (100 Beyer) and that followed a win in the Pat Day Mile (88 Beyer). Should be sent from this inside post, but will face pressure from the outside and won’t have an uncontested lead. Race flow doesn’t suit. Not today.
  2. Resilience: Winner of the Wood Memorial for Bill Mott (90 Beyer) came back in the Kentucky Derby and got a decent trip from the eighteen hole and led as they turned for home but he flattened and was a distant sixth (89 Beyer). Needs to be faster. Underneath in exotics.
  3. Mystik Dan: Derby winner ran well in the Preakness (97 Beyer) but couldn’t catch a loose on the lead Seize the Grey. I still think he was third best in the Derby (100 Beyer), however his Preakness performance backed up that Derby outcome and we know can handle off going. Hits the board.
  4. The Wine Steward: Was second best in the Peter Pan (91 Beyer) where he got to the lead but Antiquarian ran him down in the final sixteenth. Two back in the Lexington he pressed the pace but was repelled in the stretch drive (92 Beyer). Needs to improve to contend.
  5. Antiquarian: In the Louisiana Derby he finished fifth after breaking through the gate during loading (92 Beyer). Came back with a strong win in the Peter Pan last month as he ran down The Wine Steward in the lane (92 Beyer). Stalker type should sit a trip. Possible at a price.
  6. Dornoch: Didn’t show much in the Kentucky Derby where he got as decent inside trip from the one hole but had all kinds of traffic in the stretch.  He was OK in the Blue Grass (88 Beyer) while finishing fourth but his Fountain of Youth win was impressive as he wired the field (90 Beyer). Grinder type – if this was twelve furlongs he would be a good underneath horse. Passing.
  7. Protective: In the Peter Pan he used the inside post to maintain position and was in the cat bird seat turning for home but failed to move into an open seam and then was blocked (89 Beyer). In the Wood he picked up the pieces for third after a long sustained drive from off the pace. Not likely.
  8. Honor Marie: In the Derby he was squeezed hard coming out of the gate and was shuffled back he did then pass tiring horses to finish mid-pack. Not a bad performance considering his race was over three strides out of the gate. Finished second in the Louisiana Derby where he came from off the pace (96 Beyer) but couldn’t keep up with Sierra Leone. Lean against.
  9. Sierra Leone: Just missed in the Derby (99 Beyer) where he came rolling down the center of the track but lugged in repeatedly and probably cost himself the race. Jockey change to Prat today and they have changed the horses bit to give Prat better control. He’s won at three different tracks and can thrive on wet or dry track surfaces. In the exacta for all five career starts and his two losses were both by a nose. This one is very good, but still learning. If he puts it together … look out. The Pick. 
  10. Mindframe: Two for two for Pletcher in his short career. He demolished a field of maidens for thirteen lengths in his first start going seven panels at Gulfstream (103 Beyer). Then came back on Derby Day and crushed an N1X company by seven lengths while stretching out to two turns (97 Beyer). Gets the acid test today – should be on the front end.  Too tough a task.

Picks 9-3-5-2 

All Stakes Pick 4: R9: 2,6,8,12, R10: 2,6 R11; 5,7,9 R12:3,9  Ticket Cost $24 

Trivia Answer: The Belmont Stakes has been contested at five tracks: the former Jerome Park (Bronx), the former Morris Park (Bronx), Belmont Park, Aqueduct, and now Saratoga.