It’s Belmont Stakes Day…

The weather has cleared, the main track is listed as good to start the day and the only turf races lost are the 12th and 13th.  It’s Belmont Stakes Day and if you’re a NY racing fan then it is your Christmas.  Let’s take a look at the stakes races and see if we can make some money:

TRUE NORTH

#6 FABULOUS STRIKE ran far too well to lose in the Carter last time out as he set all the pace before being outfinished by multiple GSW Kodiak Kowboy.  He has been training at Penn National since the Carter and is clearly in great shape, based on his two most recent 5 furlong drills.  He is drawn outside today, which is a favorable spot for a horse trying to be speed of the speed.  They’ll have to catch him to cash.  #1 BENNY THE BULL hasn’t been out in 11 months as he was retired before being put back in training by the IEAH Stables.  He has a big closing kick and should get a perfect pace setup today but isn’t running a horse like Fabulous Strike down a tall order in your 1st start back in nearly a year?  #5 DESERT KEY ran a disappointing 2nd to a lifetime allowance horse in Drift King last time out and that really cast a shadow over whether he’ll be a legitimate sprint division player this year.  He should move forward in his 2nd start off a layoff and his ability to stalk the pace makes him a big threat to take the top prize here. 
PICKS: 6-1-5

JUST A GAME

#5 FOREVER TOGETHER is the de facto queen of the older filly/mare turf division and until she’s beaten she gets to hang onto that perch.  There are things to question about her as she will have to get her run started a bit earlier going a mile today.  Jockey Julien Leparoux will also have to make sure she doesn’t fall too far behind, but that’s something she hasn’t done at all recently.  #1 CARIBBEAN SUNSET is a bit cheap but he has a few strong angles working for him.  He loves boggy turf and has had a tendency to move forward in her 2nd start off layoffs.  She’ll need to stalk the pace intently from the inside in order to be successful.  #8 MY PRINCESS JESS scored in the Beaugay last time out when she enjoyed a perfect trip under Cornelio Velasquez in her first start off a layoff.  She ran the best race of her career that afternoon and really seems ready to try Grade I company for the first time.  She should stay within striking distance today in the early stages and might get the jump on the top pick.  PICKS: 5-1-8

WOODY STEPHENS

#4 MUNNINGS made his first start of 2009 on Kentucky Oaks day and he finished a game second beaten by an absolutely perfect trip winner who rode the rails under Calvin Borel.  He moved prematurely in his last start and was wide when rallying into the lane.  He should move forward in his 2nd off a layoff and trainer Todd Pletcher has kept this guy busy in the morning.  #2 THIS ONES FOR PHIL has run an unlucky 2nd in two consecutive races though he was placed 1st via disqualification in the Swale at Gulfstream.  He is faster than his rivals today and should be very strong in the lane based on the cutback in distance.  Trainer Rick Dutrow, Jr. can’t possibly let a big day like this get by without winning at least one race, so consider this guy the one to beat.  #1A EVERYDAY HEROES was purchased by Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stable after a smashing win in the Hirsch Jacobs on Preakness day.  He has a great deal of early speed and might end up being the speed of the speed in this spot.  He goes 2nd off a layoff in this spot and just worked a scorching half-mile at Delaware, so look for him to be firing right from the start.   PICKS: 4-2-1/1A

ACORN

#4 FUNNY MOON seems like the now horse as she has come to hand at once with two wins following a strong debut.  She scored nicely in the slop in her 2nd career start at Gulfstream and that win sticks out as there’s an excellent chance they’ll race over a sloppy track on Saturday.  That victory came on the same program where a field of N1X allowance horses went the same distance 1.7 seconds slower.  Her decisive win against N1X company last time out was quite impressive as well as she thoroughly handled the well-bred filly Solo Piano, who came back to win on the turf on Wednesday.  Trainer Christophe Clement spots his horses well and he had this race picked out as soon as she won last time out.  The prospect of getting 8-1 on an up and comer who has one of the fastest one-turn Beyer figures in this race seems outstanding.  #1 CASANOVA MOVE didn’t have the best of trips in the Black Eyed Susan last time out as the 17-10 favorite.  She was wide every step of the way and was pace disadvantaged as the opening half was a soft :48 and 2/5.  The cutback to one turn should have her stronger in the stretch drive as she returned from Maryland to work well twice.  Like the top pick, this gal should get a great pace setup and be moving in the right direction when it counts.  #8 JUSTWHISTLEDIXIE is very likely to be an overbet favorite in this spot as her connections are known to hit their horses hard at the windows.  She had an absolutely perfect trip in the Bonnie Miss as the pace in front of her was incredibly fast and collapsed all at once.  She is arguably more effective at a mile and her recent workouts are quite strong, so it seems imprudent to toss her, but equally so to marry yourself to her in the multi-race plays.

MANHATTAN

Even a die-hard #5 GIO PONTI fan like yours truly was ready for this son of Tale of the Cat to make a big step forward headed into the Frank Kilroe Mile and that’s exactly what he did in his last start.  He has been very good when fresh as he broke his maiden at first asking then won the Hill Prince off a 7+ month layoff.  Towards the end of last year he finished 7th in the Hollywood Derby after encountering horrible traffic trouble.  He now stretches back out to a distance that he’s been successful at before and his style should put him in mid-pack early, which would enable him to beat the closers to the punch.  #6 WESLEY is exiting the Dixie on Preakness day, an event where he encountered a serious amount of trouble in the nine furlong voyage.  He was away poorly, raced far, far behind an ordinary pace then was completely shut off when he was in the midst of his move in the final quarter-mile.  He now steps up class wise but he should appreciate the added ground they’ll traverse this afternoon.  #12 COWBOY CAL is as honest as the day is long as he’s been in the exacta in 10 of 13 career starts.  He stretched Einstein down to the wire last time out in the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs and should  get a good stalking trip one of these days.

BELMONT

#2 DUNKIRK deserves an opportunity to make amends for a poor effort in the Kentucky Derby and trainer Todd Pletcher believes that the short layoff and gradual lead-up to this race will make this impeccably bred youngster very tough.  He has a big late kick but has run from mid-pack with success in the past and given the nature of the pace in here, he could easily find himself closer to the pace.  #7 MINE THAT BIRD is looking to become the first since Thunder Gulch to win the Derby and Belmont.  He probably won’t be within striking distance early, but that doesn’t preclude him from getting there late.  The slow pace that’s expected will work against him but he is faster than the other competitors in here when push comes to shove.  Expect him to be on the move in the late stages.  #3 MR. HOT STUFF, like the top pick, was given time to get his act together after a poor effort in the Derby.  He hasn’t proven he does or does not like a fast dirt track, but there’s plenty of reason to consider him a minor player meant for the exotic wagers.

Good luck on Belmont day!

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