The field is set for the 142nd running of the Belmont Stakes, the 3rd and final jewel of the Triple Crown. 12 runners have entered the "Test of Champions", and with neither the Derby nor Preakness winner running, it is a wide open affair. The lukewarm 3-1 morning line favorite is #6 Ice Box, who finished an onrushing second in the Kentucky Derby. The 7-2 second choice is #11 First Dude, who finished a game second in the Preakness Stakes. Here is a brief run-through of the field through this blog's eyes.
#1 is the California invader Dave in Dixie. He last ran 9 weeks ago in the Illinois Derby, finishing a distant 5th behind Derby also-rans American Lion and Backtalk. He picks up jockey Calvin Borel for the race. He took a more than a month to work after his last race, but put together 4 good works, each increasing in distance building up to a one mile workout in a steady minute & 39 seconds. He has to answer not only the distance question, but the dirt question as well, as his first attempt on it was rather dismal.
#2 is the son of Distorted Humor Spangled Star. Last out 6 weeks ago, he finished 3rd in the one-turn Withers behind the 1-3 finishers of the Decathlon Stakes @ Monmouth, Ibboyee and Afleet Again. He looks to stretch out 4 furlongs to victory. He has been steadily working across town at Aqueduct. The owner said that he was just taking a shot in here, and this blog wonders why, as he never run anything close to fast enough to win this race. Will he pull off the massive upset? At least he gets top jockey Garett Gomez aboard to try.
#3 is the Fantasy Lane Stable Uptowncharlybrown. This son of Limehouse is now in the barn of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin after the tragic passing Alan Seewald days before the Lexington Stakes. UTCB has not run since that race 7 weeks ago. He will take the blinkers off for the race. He has been steadily working over the Belmont main track and will try to stretch out another 3 & 1/2 furlongs. With new jockey Rajiv Maragh, will he complete the dream for the Fantasy Lane stable?
#4 is Alexis Barba's Make Music For Me. This son of Bernstein snuck into the Derby field on entry day and came from dead last to run 4th. He has 4 steady works and will give Rosario his first ever mount in the Belmont. While the pedigree doesn't scream a mile and a half, he does have a sustained kick. Will it be as powerful with the added distance?
#5 is the first Zito entrant Fly Down. This son of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft won the local prep for the Belmont in the Dwyer from dead last in a field of seven. He stretches out back to two turns in this race after getting distanced in the Louisiana Derby two starts back. He has had two nice works since the win, including a bullet 4f in 47 & 2 over the Saratoga training track on May 30th. His regular jockey stays with other barn entrant, so a more than capable Jorge Velazquez takes the mount.
#6 is the other Zito entrant Ice Box. The morning line favorite retains the services of jockey Jose Lezcano. Owner Robert Lapenta is trying to have one of his runners finish in the money in all three Triple Crown races (Ice Box in the Derby [2nd] & Jackson Bend in the Preakness [3rd] ). Several have said that with a cleaner trip, he might have won the Derby. He has worked twice since the Derby, including a bullet drill in his last work. He ran well off a 6 week layoff in has last start, so the 5 weeks should not be a problem. But will he find trouble once again?
#7 is Winstar Farm's Drosselmeyer. This son of Distorted Humor ran a distant 2nd to Fly Down in the Dwyer, but was reported to have a fever during the week leading up to the race, so he may have not been a 100% for the race. He has worked three times since then, including a bullet best of twelve 5f over this main track on Monday. He will have another new pilot in jockey Mike Smith. Can he finally put it together in a stakes race with the added distance thrown into the mix?
#8 is the Bob Baffert trainee Game On Dude. The winner of the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby in his last start, he has trained steadily over the Santa Anita Pro-ride. He worked a bullet 6 furlongs from the gate 1:12 &2/5 last time out. This son of Awesome Again will give Preakness winning jockey Martin Garcia his first Belmont mount. Can Baffert win 2/3rds of Triple Crown with two different horses ? The bigger question is how will G.O.D. handle the stretchout in distance.
#9 is Michael Maker's Stately Victor. He finished a well-beaten 8th in the Derby. This was after his shocking come-from-behind win in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes, This son of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper has never run well on dirt in the past, and runs on dirt today. While he should have zero problem with the added distance, can he handle the surface? He has worked decently in the interim over the surface.
#10 is Stay Put, the first of two for the sire Distorted Humor. He will be ridden by his regular jockey Jamie Theriot. Stay Put won a race on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs, but it was not the big one on the card. Instead it was an allowance race to open the card. His deep closing style may be a hindrance in this race, as there is not an abundance of speed. In both his stakes attempts, he has finished a closing fifth. Will the extra distance help him get up in deep stretch?
#11 is the Preakness runner-up First Dude. This son of Belmont winner Stephen Got Even had a good work in the interim and his trainer Dale Romans said that the horse could not be doing better. But Romans said that going into the Preakness with Derby 3rd place finisher and barnmate Paddy O'Prado, and he bounced. Could the same fate befall the "Dude"? With regular jockey Ramon Dominguez in the irons, he hopes to go all the way to the wire.
#12 is the Todd Pletcher charge Interactif. The other son of Broken Vow in the field, he has not run since a okay 4th place finish in the Blue Grass S. He has worked several times since, including his last four over the Belmont main. With new jockey Javier Castellano in the irons, he figures to make his run from a stalking position. Who knows how he will react to the increase in distance combined with the time off.
Now this blog will reveal whom this blog likes, starting with horse whom we believe will finish 3rd:
#8 Game On Dude
This blog thinks he will follow in the steps of another former Lone Star Derby winner Dynever and make a middle move and flattened out to finish third.
#6 Ice Box
The more the blog looks over his past performances, the more the name "Denis of Cork" comes to mind. DoC finished 3rd in the 2008 Derby, then came back to run 2nd in the Belmont. Ice Box will make one late run, but will fall short in the stretch,
Yes, ALL. Now some of you are saying "cop-out" or "BS! Take a stand!", but this blog's past experience says that taking "ALL" is the correct selection. In the total 7 Belmonts that I have wagered on, i am 0-for-7 with my selection for the win spot. However, I am 6-for-7 with my selection for the place spot, and 4-for-7 with my selection for the show spot. So the keys for the blog will be underneath, and the hope is that a longshot pulls the upset with the two keys running 2nd and 3rd. This strategy is one that requires just as much luck as any other bet, but is a bit outside the box. Hopefully this blog has led you on the trail to a winning wager, and after the results are official, there will be a "glory walk" to the window in your future. Good luck everybody!