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The 151st running of the Belmont Stakes. 12 Furlongs (1 &1/2 Miles) Purse: $1,500.000.00
Saturday June 8th, Belmont Park Race # 11 Estimated Post Time 6:37PM
Analysis By Georgio Sette
It’s finally here, the annual “Run for the Carnations” and especially when considering the sports three-year olds, a True Test of a Champion.
Inclusive with all sports, you will be hard pressed to find any greater tradition. Inaugurated 152 years ago in 1867 when Andrew Johnson was President of our great nation and just 2 years after the assassination of president Abraham Lincoln. Just to give you a flavor of its storied history.
This race has often been the grounds to halt dynamic horses and their Triple Crown dreams, no doubt always the toughest and most stringent test of heart, stamina and the will to win.
Its history is just ridiculous. Twenty-three horses entered the Belmont Stakes and its daunting distance, after winning both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, only to come up short when trying to capture this extra special 3rd jewel.
It’s as if the racing Gods have higher demands, with 8 of those great horses finishing 2nd ( many by the slimmest of margins). Who can ever forget the incredible stretch run between Real Quiet and Victory Gallop back in 1998, when Gary Stevens and Victory Gallop won by whisker ( and I mean a whisker) over Real Quiet who was denied the Triple Crown. I remember it well, yes, you guessed it, this writer was there in attendance 21 years ago.
I was also in attendance a year earlier in 1997 when Touch Gold emerged victorious, ending the Triple Crown dreams of Silver Charm, who was trained by Bob Baffert. He had just run back to back incredible races in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but was run down in the final strides by Touch Gold.
In fact, being born and raised in New York, I have been to this mega event 15 times. Every single time it was always thrilling, whether there was a run for the Triple Crown or not. The race is always compelling.
Even the most casual of fans will always connect with the great Secretariat winning this race by 31 lengths in 1973 in the insane time of 2:24 flat. A track record that may never be broken, as each year the race is typically won in a time more consistent with 2:28+. 4 seconds in thoroughbred racing is outrageously substantial.
Additionally, I feel I must mention the 2007 Belmont Stakes when Rags to Riches became the first filly to win the bed of carnations in over 100 years as she outlasted the great Curlin in another amazing stretch run which was affectionally called the “Battle of the Sexes”.
So here we are in 2019. No Triple Crown threat, but a very interesting field. Keep in mind that history often repeats itself. Horses coming out of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness often run big in the Belmont. Of course there are many exceptions and as a handicapper you must always consider the new shooters in the race.
In recent history there have been various colts who ran in the Kentucky Derby, skipped the Preakness, and came into the Belmont Stakes with added rest and then showed their brilliance to victory. This recent list includes Tapwrit ( 2017) Creator (2016) Palace Malice (2013) and Union Rags in 2012 ( Yep, I was there too).
I have always approached this race with a sharper, more focused approach on the pedigree of each horse. Now sure there are still a multitude of circumstances to consider, especially the quality of their past performances leading up to this race.
Over the years my philosophy with added attention to detail has proven to be very beneficial to me. It becomes more complex because there’s so much data to work with, and the added intangibles make it more challenging too.
It’s a field of 10 Colts, all of which are attempting to write their place in history. As you know, I’m never worried about the odds or who the betting favorite is at post time. Historically, the betting favorite has won this race 42% of the time ( 63 of 150) but there’s always a myriad of things to consider, which always makes the race so compelling, and for any seasoned handicapper to be decisive with his choice.
Here’s my very precise order of finish. As always, I feel it’s in your best interest to use my information as a guide to make an informed window decision for yourself.
Enjoy the excitement of the day, and let’s make some money.
Are you ready? Let’s Go!
# 4 Tax
That’s right folks, even with the 15-1 morning line, I always share that it’s important to be decisive, well that’s what I’m doing. This gelding is my top choice, mainly because I feel he wants the distance more than any other horse in the field. All along I’ve been impressed by his performances on the track. I am also intrigued by his pedigree. He’s by Arch who also sired Blame who won the 2010 Breeders Cup Classic over the great Zenyatta, who had won 19 consecutive races (Insane!).
The dam side “Toll” is a half-sister to Cheery who produced Elate who won the 2017 Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga and followed to win the 2018 Delaware Handicap, both races at a demanding distance of a mile & ¼. Toll ( Giant’s Causeway) was a consistent winner too. I studied various races Tax has run and I was most impressed by his run in the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct. Going 9 furlongs, he stumbled out of the gate on the rail, yet still had impressive early foot. Later on during his final furlong, he was dead game after saving ground on the rail, he responded well to the whip as he finished with authority. To me, that race personified his raw ability to have lots left during a long race.
I have completely thrown out his 15th place finish in the Kentucky Derby where he was trapped behind numerous horses amid the slop at Churchill. I feel he was simply never comfortable that day. The three races he ran prior to the Run for The Roses were razor sharp, each time going long, showing quality tactical speed. Recently, he suffered a minor foot bruise which can always be a concern, but I trust his trainer Danny Gargan, as they would only run him in this spot at full strength. The switch to Irad Ortiz is absolutely delicious. With all due respect to Junior Alvarado, there aren’t many Jockeys who command a ride like Irad or who know the Belmont Strip like he does.
I am expecting him to break alertly, allowing Joevia to be on the lead from the rail, show quality tactical speed and to gain better position after 6 panels, then make an aggressive move after a mile with moderate fractions under his belt, and to accept the challenge from any others feeling he’ll have lots left in his tank to lead them to the wire. I don’t think I ever selected a gelding in a spot like this, but as I shared, I just feel he’ll be in position to run his best race (if he’s healthy) and have lots left when it counts during the final furlong. When considering his probable odds, this gelding provides betting value to any and all betting gimmicks.
I’m optimistic he’ll run well but win or lose I feel he’ll go on to be a productive older horse.
# 6 Spinoff
Yep, that’s correct, my 2nd choice also sports a 15-1 morning line. I’m loving the favorable switch of riders to Javier Castellano. He is saddled by Todd Pletcher, who has won this race three times, most recently in 2017 with Tapwrit. Just as with my top choice Tax, I am throwing out the miserable Kentucky Derby when this colt broke from the 17 hole, had a decent break, but was too wide throughout the race and simply showed nothing, finishing 18th. He’s been working smartly over the same Belmont soil and I have great appreciation for his versatility in travel as his 5 career races have been over 5 different tracks.
During some extensive film review, I was impressed with his willingness throughout each race, even though he often had troubled trips. Prior to the poor Kentucky Derby showing he was showing continuous improvement. I am fully expecting him to run a quality race like my top choice, showing tactical speed ( perhaps faster than most expect) and to be handled smartly in the capable hands of Javier Castellano. I originally had this colt placed for 4th but decided on moving him up to 2nd based on his connections and because I feel he may be sitting on his best race to date. His pedigree for the distance isn’t overly convincing, he has more of a sprinter look to him, especially considering the dam side. Still, his sire, Hard Spun has produced some very effective routers. Watch the board for money backing, especially considering it’s Pletcher’s horse. It will be interesting to see which Pletcher entry will seize more interest at the windows ( #8 Intrepid Heart).
This guy may complete an exacta worth talking about by the water cooler come Monday morning.
# 10 Tacitus
Interestingly enough, as soon as the Kentucky Derby results were posted, I just knew this guy would skip the Preakness, and eventually be right here entered to run at the Belmont Stakes. In fact I told various folks in my circle that he would win this race. He too is working well over this Belmont strip, the rest well noted, and he seems to be fresh and fit.
Bill Mott has an opportunity to capture his 2nd jewel of this year’s Triple Crown and he once again saddled Jose Ortiz who has been aboard this colt for all 5 of his career starts. His sire, Tapit, offers added confidence that he’ll want the distance. His overall running style and his #10 post lends itself to become a threatening menace as they run down the lane in mid-stretch. This guy has also showed physical and mental toughness. This is something you can always appreciate as a handicapper while studying film. There’s no doubt he’ll be a major player at the windows. It’s likely he’ll be the betting favorite. If he runs his best race, he’ll be tough to beat, but I’m siding with him as my 3rd choice because I feel my top two offer greater value and they will be able to control their race from a tactical standpoint on a greater level.
I do not believe the pace will be too fast, leading towards moderate at best. He’s a worthwhile contender and should be considered on many of your exotic tickets.
# 5 Bourbon War
This guy was my top choice in the Preakness and he was generously backed at the windows being bet down from his 12-1 morning line to go off at just 5-1. I must say he was a major disappointment as I felt he was sitting on his best race. I’m guessing he wanted absolutely no part of the blinkers they put on him, or he simply needed to use the bathroom something terribly. Mark Hennig now saddles Hall of Famer Mike Smith as Irad Ortiz will be riding my top choice Tax. He makes his debut at Belmont (just as many in this field are) but he’s been working over the strip and I’m confident that the horse we saw at the Preakness will not be the same colt you see on Saturday. The blinkers are off. With a smart ride by Mike Smith, even with the possibility of just a moderate pace, I have seen enough out of this colt to suggest that he will be flying later in the race. He’s been an under-achiever considering his overall backing at the window ever since he was ignored in his debut winning going away after bobbling at the start at a robust 17-1. Purchased for $410,000 and also sired by Tapit, his connections have great expectations for him.
Don’t ignore, especially in your deeper gimmicks, as he has enough raw talent to better my rating.
#9 War of Will
Let’s just say this guy has had a very interesting three-year old campaign. He’s coming off his smashing victory in the Preakness Stakes where he sat a near perfect trip, seizing a huge inside opportunity and then leading it all the way to the wire. Fittingly enough, consider it revenge for all that happened to him in the Kentucky Derby and during his trip in the Louisiana Derby.
I’m sure many who follow my column will wonder why I have him as my 5th selection in this field of 10, especially since I have backed him tremendously in prior races. Well he did draw the # 9 hole which isn’t overly concerning, and there’s little doubt he too will show solid tactical speed, perhaps even faster than some others; however, considering his path during this year, I’m not entirely sure he wants this distance. I am hearing he came out of the Preakness feeling fine, and Mark Casse is bubbling with confidence. I’m just getting the feeling that he could take a step back from his best, and I simply don’t trust the distance, especially knowing that his odds will be low. There’s no doubt he’ll be one of the top two betting favorites, so with that he deserves respect and contending consideration. Can he win? Absolutely, but in this spot, the horses I have above seem to be more appealing.
I originally had him as my 3rd choice, but moved him down to 5th after further review and film study.
# 3 Master Fencer
I mean no disrespect, but I’ve never been a fan of Japanese horses coming in to race here in the U.S. He did however, run a gritty race in his U.S. Debut at the Kentucky Derby. Most importantly, I was impressed how he willingly finished amid the treacherous slop at Churchill that day. So I’ll give him an A for effort and an A for showing me some heart. His pedigree is actually rather dynamic. His sire, Just A Way, won a few major Grade 1s during his career and the Dam,Sexy Zamurai, was a proficient router. So yeah, there are some inviting pluses with this guy. This is why I’m giving him an outside shot to better my rating and perhaps hit the board, especially in your deeper gimmicks and multiple Superfecta combinations. Julien Leparoux is no stranger to big races and will always give you an honest ride.
Look for this guy to do his best running later in the race, especially during the final furlong.
# 8 Intrepid Heart
Here we go, there’s always a promising new shooter in the race. After only 3 lifetime starts, and never running as a two year old (the only one in the field) Todd Pletcher saddles Hall of Famer Johnny Velazquez . Intrepid Heart goes for the gold here after running a solid race; albeit only a field of 5, in the grade 2 Peter Pan over this same Belmont Strip. The connections are excited with the opportunity, purchased at a big $750,000 number and now ambitiously entered here to capture the glory of this storied Grade 1. They have worked him habitually over the track and now add blinkers too. He’s my 7th choice because I simply do not endorse horses to win this race with extremely limited experience. I love the optimism but I will simply pass on him. I will follow his career because his pedigree screams success, Tapit over a Touch Gold mare is rather interesting.
Remember Touch Gold won this race back in 1997.
#7 Sir Winston
Joel Rosario is back up for Mark Casse, which represents the trainers 2nd entry in this field. He comes off running a career best Beyer at 100, in the grade 2 Peter Pan, the same race as my selection above him. I like his pedigree, but I do not appreciate his 0 for 5 record on a fast track. Prior to his last race, he had many chances and he failed to produce. I do feel he’s capable of a strong close, but his overall numbers and past performances are simply below many of these.
I simply feel he’s not a true Grade 1 horse, so I’m expecting him to have greater success facing lower in caliber to this field.
# 2 Everfast
Yeah, this guy certainly surprised this handicapper/writer with his fast closing 2nd in the Preakness Stakes, running his career best figure and providing the flame to an insane $947.00 exacta under War of Will. Now they switch to Saez and Dale Romans has proven to have the propensity to hitting the board in big races ( he’s run 3rd four times in the Belmont Stakes). But, I’m feeling strongly that this colt gave his best while others ran poorly in the Preakness. He’s only 1 for 11 and even though his pedigree is favorable for this distance, I simply do not feel his overall ability. I’m expecting him to flatten out and finish off the board.
Passing on him.
# 1 Joevia
Let’s just call this guy the race rabbit. Draws the rail and has natural gate speed. He could easily get the lead and perhaps draw clear by a few lengths, but I seriously am expecting him to tire badly, just as he did finishing 13+ lengths behind Tacitus and Tax at the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
I wish his backers well, but to me, he’s a complete throw out and will not be used on any wagering tickets.
Ok, so there you have it, as always your questions and comments are always valued and appreciated. It’s going to be a great day at Belmont with a fabulous card packed with Grade One fields, Let’s go and make some coin….
All the best always,
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