The 154th running of the Belmont Stakes highlights a fantastic Saturday of racing at Belmont Park this weekend, with eight grade one races on tap.
Coverage of this weekend’s races begins at 3 PM ET on CNBC before moving to NBC at 5 PM ET, with each of the following races being featured: the G1 Ogden Phipps, the G1 Jaipur, the G1 Metropolitan Handicap, the G1 Manhattan, and, of course, the G1 Belmont Stakes.
Below you will find selections from four of these five races (Flightline and Speaker’s Corner are hard to get past at short prices in the Met Mile), acknowledging that some runners are more likely winners than others.
After twenty weeks, here is the results tally (records reflective of $2 WIN / $2 WPS):
WIN: 9-59 (15.3%, -$59.20)
WPS: 33-59 (55.9%, -$99.90)
3:05 ET – BELMONT R7 – G1 OGDEN PHIPPS – 1 1/16 MILES – DIRT
There’s no arguing that this race goes through Letruska (1), who projects to be the controlling pace in this outstanding field of five. The filly likely to be in nearest attendance throughout is Chad Brown’s SEARCH RESULTS (5), and perhaps she’s in a darned if you do / darned if you don’t spot in Saturday’s Phipps. If she allows Letruska to waltz on the lead, nobody is likely to run the champion down. If Search Results pressures Letruska early, it could compromise her chances as they hit the top of the lane. I’m hopeful for a happy-medium; if Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard Search Results can sit just off Letruska (who will be ridden by Irad’s brother, Jose), I think there’s a scenario in which she can give her a stiff challenge as the field turns for home while still having enough energy in reserve for the stretch run. She may be a bit light on speed figures entering Saturday’s race, but her victory in the slop at Belmont in last month’s Ruffian was fastest she’s run to date and Brown’s barn has been dominant at Belmont Park this spring. If it’s not Letruska in the Phipps, perhaps Search Results can spring the upset.
THE PLAY: 5) SEARCH RESULTS to win at odds of 3/1 or greater
3:53 ET – BELMONT R8 – G1 JAIPUR – 6 FURLONGS – TURF
In one of the more wide-open races on the Belmont Stakes card, GEAR JOCKEY (12) deserves another chance given his nightmare of a trip in the G2 Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs last month. After being part of a large pace scrum early, the five-year-old son of Twirling Candy was forced to check hard and lose all position. From there, he rallied admirably, circling the field while racing extremely wide. At this point he’d expended too much energy given the fractious nature of turf sprints, dulling his stretch kick. While a fourth-place finish doesn’t sound all that encouraging, the effort was considerably better than the paper would suggest. A horse that likely excels between six and seven furlongs, Gear Jockey should be in a prime stalking position beneath jockey Jose Lezcano as the field rounds the far turn.
THE PLAY: 12) GEAR JOCKEY to win at odds of 8/1 or greater
5:38 ET – BELMONT R10 – G1 MANHATTAN – 1 1/4 MILES – TURF
In another wide-open turf event, I don’t find any of the shorter prices all that appealing. Gufo (2) is arguably the most likely winner of the race, but I believe he does his best running at longer distances and has been known to get beat in races he should win in the past. Any one of Chad Brown’s horses could win this race, yet none of them are the superstars he’s brought to the event in the past (such as Bricks and Mortar). Santin (9) looms as a logical threat based on the impressive G1 Turf Classic win at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, but there’s a case to be made that that race itself was subpar. Highland Chief (8) defeated Gufo and reigning Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Yibir in last month’s G1 Man O’ War, but I want him to prove that he’s truly of this caliber before I settle on a middling price. This is a long-winded way of saying I’m going back to an old friend of mine in this spot. IN LOVE (5) was kind to me last fall at Keeneland when winning the Keeneland Turf Mile at odds of 12/1, and he should be every bit of that price on Saturday. It’s debatable whether he truly wants to go ten furlongs, however he’s not shown that he’s incapable of producing a big effort at the distance, either. In Love finished last in a field of eight in his most recent start, which, at face value, doesn’t sound good. However, upon further review, the Maker’s Mark Mile from Keeneland in April has been an exceptionally productive race, with the two horses that finished directly in front of In Love returning to win graded stakes races in their next starts. By no means is he the most likely winner, but in a field littered with question marks, I want to be sure I’m being fairly compensated on the toteboard.
THE PLAY: 5) IN LOVE to win at odds of 8/1 or greater
6:44 ET – BELMONT R11 – G1 BELMONT STAKES – 1 1/2 MILES – DIRT
I don’t think there are any superstars in this year’s Belmont Stakes, and that includes the shocking Kentucky Derby winner, Rich Strike (4). If I believe as many as six or seven of the eight entrants in Saturday’s Belmont can win the race, why would I want to settle on a short price? We the People looms as the controlling speed, but he needs to prove he can handle the distance while taking on considerably better competition. The filly, Nest (3), brings some positives to the party – particularly her pedigree – but she’ll need to take a step forward to prevail. Creative Minister (5) will be racing for the third time in five weeks, and while far from disgraceful in the Preakness three weeks ago, I wasn’t overly impressed by the performance. Mo Donegal (6) is the selection of many sharp handicappers this weekend, and while I respect him and believe he’s arguably the most likely winner of the race, why wouldn’t I look at a horse like BARBER ROAD (8) who ran as good – if not better – than Mo Donegal in the Kentucky Derby and will be 4-5x his price? Barber Road will have a new rider for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes in Joel Rosario, and Rosario’s knowledge of Belmont Park could be the key difference for this son of Race Day. If Rosario, a two-time winner of the Belmont Stakes, can get Barber Road positioned closer to the pace throughout, I think he has a solid chance to hit the board (if not spring the upset).
THE PLAY: 8) BARBER ROAD to win at odds of 6/1 or greater