Belmont Stakes day is here, and even though there is no chance for a triple crown alive, it figures to be a good day of racing. Both the Preakness and the Derby winner show up to the Belmont, which is a rarity. The undercard is solid, with multiple Eclipse award winning Gio Ponti going in the Manhattan, multiple Grade 1 winner Turbulent Descent in the Acorn and some tough races to handicap. Let's get to right to the stakes action, starting with the first stake on the docket.
Grade 1 TVG Acorn Stakes - 1 mile - 3yo fillies
The only question in this blog's mind is by how many lengths will #2 Turbulent Descent (right) win. She is the classiest horse in the field, she has been training great, she can adapt to any situation and she looks to flourish at this one-turn mile. The horse she will have to catch is #3 Savvy Supreme, who will be winging on the lead. While she is fast, she is stretching out two whole furlongs and is taking a big step up in class to graded stakes for the first time. The only other graded stakes winner in the field is #5 Victoria's Wildcat, who rode the closer-friendly track and insane fractions to victory in the Grade 3 Eight Belles S. at Churchill Downs on Oaks day. Honestly, Turbulent Descent should roll over this field, with Victoria's Wildcat being the best of the rest, several lengths back.
Exacta 2/5; Trifecta 2/5/ALL
Grade 2 True North Handicap - 6 furlongs - 3yo & up
This blog decided that this race was not for him in any way, shape or form. This race will not be played at all other than a single of the favorite #3 Trappe Shot in the "lotto" Pick 6 ticket. Trappe Shot comes into this race off a win, defeating both D'Funnybone and Rule by Night (who are also in the race). He has two steady maintenance drills since the last race and he has a good chance to get his first graded stakes win of his career. If the budget allowed it, the entry would be used, and it is the the main danger. D'Funnybone comes in third off the layoff after running second to Trappe Shot last time after setting the pace almost the hole way. He figures to be doing the same once again today, with his entry-mate This One For Phil looking to take advantage if 'D' can't finish the job. He won his first race in 14 months last time out, has put in two solid works and looks to win his first graded stakes outright, after being put up via DQ in his only other stakes start.
For multi-race purposes only, 1/1a & 3
Grade 2 Woody Stephens S - 7 Furlongs - 3yo
Another competitive race as three year old sprinters hook up going 7/8ths. Very tepid choice top choice is #5 Arch Traveler. This son of Sky Mesa bounced back on the winning trail after a poor effort in the Florida Derby at a distance that was not his optimal. Cutting back to a one-turn race last time out, he easily won an overnight stake handily. He has two smart works since the race, and will offer a little value to the favorite as the second choice. The other being used is the favorite #1 Travelin Man, who was against a speed bias in the Derby Trial and cuts back a furlong and #7 J J's Lucky Train, who comes back after an okay 3rd in the aforementioned Derby Trial, where he may have bounced after coming back in 3 weeks while shipping to Churchill.
For the Pick 4: #1, #5, #7
Grade 1 Foxwoods Just A Game Handicap - 1 mile (turf) - 3yo & up fillies and mares
This is where this blog takes a stand with a 12/1 shot who is the co-2nd longest shot on the board in #8 Much Rejoicing. This daughter of Distorted Humor won her turf debut last time out at 6f here at Belmont in nice fashion. Being a daughter of BC F&M Turf winner Soaring Softly, it is not much of shock she taken to the surface. She has been best around one turn in her career. This is the first time she has ever strung together three races in her career, she is training well and looks primed to cause some tote damage at long odds. The favorite will probably be #2 Aviate, who this blog like in the CD Turf Mile last time out. Her connections won this race last year with Proviso. She has had two solid works since her win and looks tough, but how will she take to the one turn? #6 Fantasia finished third in the race Aviate comes out of last time. She finished fifth in this race last year, but her only win in the states was at this distance around one turn at Woodbine on a yielding course. If the chance of rain proves true, a less-than-firm course would do her well. #1 Gypsy's Warning is the only grade one winner in the field, but she ran a flat 7th behind Fantasia in the Jenny Wiley in April. If she wins, maybe it is sign to come for her connections, the same as Animal Kingdom.
Large percentage of bankroll win bet on #8, single in P4
Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap - 1m 1/4 (turf) - 3yo and up
Multiple Eclipse Award winner #4 Gio Ponti looks to bounce back from another close loss in the Dubai World Cup and get his second victory in the race. He won in 2009, and finished 2nd last year. He seems to have bounced back better than last year from his overseas adventure, with four good works. #6 Viscount Nelson invades from over the pond for trainer Aidan O'Brien. He won just 8 days ago in Europe, but has a class advantage over the rest, finishing last year within a handful of lengths of Twice Over and Canford Cliffs, some of the top Euro horses. #7 Prince Will I Am was one of the few three year olds to be older in a graded stakes last year. He stretches back out after a fast-closing 5th in the Woodford Reserve on the Churchill Downs undercard. Many will use him, but this blog will not because of budget constraints.
Pick 4 purposes: #4 & #6
Grade 1 Belmont Stakes - 1m & 1/2 - 3yo
The first question to figure out is whether or not #12 Shackleford can last the twelve furlongs under these conditions. While this blog will hedge and say yes, he probably cannot based on his pedigree. #1 Master of Hounds is the wiseguy horse, and has been bet down in the early wagering. #9 Animal Kingdom ran a fast-closing second to Shackleford in the Preakness after winning the Derby. He should have no problem with the distance based on his long-winded pedigree. He is another we shall use on top as more of a hedge than a pick. #2 Stay Thirsty is the pick to inherit the lead if/when Shackleford gives up the lead. All of these four will be used on top of #9 Nehro in the exacta, as he fits the pattern of other previous 2nd-place finishers in the Derby who head directly to the Belmont.
Exacta #1, #2, #9, #12 / #6
Pick 4 ticket starting with the Woody Stephens: 1,5,7 / 8 / 4,6 / 1,2,9,12
Good luck everybody!