Only eight horses are entered in this year’s Belmont Stakes which, at a mile and a half, is the longest of the Triple Crown races. Rich Strike, who shockingly won the Kentucky Derby at odds of 80-1 and then skipped the Preakness, is here and while he likely won’t be the betting favorite he’ll be a lot shorter priced than 80-1. He’s also the puzzler in the race. Was his Derby win a fluke or is he an improving horse who, with five weeks rest, will fire again?
This race is usually won by horses that run rather close to the pace. None of these horses have run this far before and most never will again. Often, all of them are on fumes in the stretch and horses that come from way out of it usually don’t have much left in the tank at the end of the Belmont Stakes.
This is written in anticipation there may be a wet track.
Back to the Preakness. I totally nailed it with my picks on this site. I not only had the 9-2 winner Early Voting but picked the top four horses in exact order! That’s right; I hit the superfecta cold. I had a much stronger opinion in the Preakness than I do in the Belmont and believe any of my top four choices here can win.
#1 WE THE PEOPLE—He’s the pre-race favorite even though he didn’t run in either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness and I can’t think of the last time that happened. But he’s getting attention because of his 14-length romp in the Peter Pan stakes four weeks ago at this very track. That race often produces horses who run big in the Belmont Stakes. The horse has the perfect running style with his tactical speed and has perhaps the country’s best jockey in Flavien Prat. His workouts at Belmont have been very good.
#2 SKIPPYLONGSTOCKINGS—He ran a non-threatening fifth in the Preakness and has only two wins in ten career starts.
#3 NEST—Here’s a filly facing males. Trainer Todd Pletcher won the Belmont a number of years ago with a filly but that one was a lot better than Nest. Nest was second in the Kentucky Oaks to Secret Oath who could do no better than fourth in the Preakness.
#4 RICH STRIKE—Who knows? He sure passed the eye test in the Derby as he ran by virtually the entire field in the stretch like he was a quarter horse and they were mules. But his prior races were nothing special. He clearly benefited from the insanely hot pace in the Derby and will not get that here. On the other hand, his races prior to the Derby were on a synthetic track and he may have moved way up on dirt. He has trained well for this race and his owner and trainer clearly made the right decision in bypassing the Preakness. If he runs like he did in the Derby, he will win. If he runs like he did in the races prior to the Derby, he will finish last.
#5 CREATIVE MINISTER—-I picked him to run third in the Preakness and he did exactly that at odds of 10-1. He is a lightly raced horse making only his fifth career start but he is running for the third time in five weeks and that may be asking too much. He actually ran at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day but in an allowance race in very fast time. He gets better each time he runs and one of his wins is over a sloppy track, which he might get in the Belmont. He will likely sit three lengths or so off of what will be a moderate pace. The question is whether he has the stamina to get the marathon distance of this race. His breeding makes that question a tossup. Jockey Brian Hernandez is very underrated. If the horse improves yet again, there is nobody in the field who can beat him. My tepid choice.
#6 MO DONEGAL—This deep closer finished a decent fifth in the Derby coming from as far back as Rich Strike but not going as fast as RS. Trainer Todd Pletcher has excelled in the Belmont. This horse actually beat Preakness winner Early Voting in the Wood Memorial in April. My lone concern is that his running style will leave him with too much ground to make up in the stretch. Jockey Irad Ortiz is a sensation and is winning lots of races at Belmont this spring. This horse has been pointed for this race for weeks by Pletcher and has a very big shot at winning.
#7 GOLDEN GLIDER—He finished ten lengths behind We the People in running second in the Peter Pan. None of his six races has been special but the Belmont Stakes has produced a lot of surprise winners over the years and this horse would be a surprise to me.
#8 BARBER ROAD—He’s another deep closer who ran sixth in the Derby in a performance almost identical to Mo Donegal. He has an excellent jockey but his only two career wins were against very soft competition.
HORSE PROGRAM ODDS
#5 Creative Minister 6-1
#6 Mo Donegal 5-2
#1 We the People 2-1
#4 Rich Strike 7-2
I’m not sure I agree with the oddsmaker on how the betting will shake out as I think Rich Strikes will take more action. But if I can get 6-1 on Creative Minister, it’ll be a bargain. As stated in the analysis above, he’ll be closer to the pace than Rich Strike and Mo Donegal and that gives him tactical edge. If We the People runs like he did in the Peter Pan he might win this race wire to wire. My strongest opinion is that one of the four horses above will win the race and that the four horses not listed will not.
$25 to win place and show on #5 ($75)(adjust up or down to your budget and comfort level)
$2 trifecta 5 with 1-4-6 with all ($36)
$1 trifecta 1-4-6 with 5 with all ($18)
$1 trifecta 5-6 with 1-4-5-6 with all ($36)
$2 exacta 5 with all ($14)
$1 exacta all with 5 ($7)
ONE OTHER PLAY
In Race 10, the Manhattan, the race immediately preceding the Belmont Stakes, I like #2 Gufo (3-1).