HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, June 9, 2022 — When it comes to overthinking Triple Crown races, I’m as guilty as the next handicapper. If I weren’t, why wouldn’t I simply take We the People, the blowout winner of the Peter Pan Stakes who looms lone speed in the eight-horse Belmont Stakes?
Several reasons: For one, he was unraced at 2, and while he owns the best last-race figure in this field, that was his fourth start in 91 days. So, what? He has developed an awful lot in a short period of time, that’s what. And the Belmont is, of course, 12 furlongs around two turns, not nine furlongs around one.
The Belmont always has been a rider’s race. And jockeys know that, at any distance, they can’t allow a talented leader get away too soft.
Jockeys don’t want to be a sacrificial chaser and never want to be criticized for moving too soon. In this case, however, they know they won’t be successful unless they proactively react to prevailing dynamics.
Ideally, the idea is to apply just enough pressure to weaken the leader while keeping something to finish with. We think Jose Ortiz will do just that aboard Nest, the stoutest bred horse in Belmont-154.
Todd Pletcher measures his words carefully, always has. But he is credible, and when he says that Nest was Triple Crown nominated specifically for the Belmont and “not the first two,” believe him.
Nest has enough pace to stay in range without the enervating chase. She won’t have to make the sustained run like she did in the Oaks, and she can kick on strongly. Re-watch the Ashland.
But then everyone will be closer to the leader, knowing the dynamics of race shape and the nature of marathon racing. If not, this mile and a half race could be over before the leader has gone a half-mile.
With the possible exception of two horses, a good case can be made for the other six. So, as they say, “got a hunch, bet a bunch.”
Ticket Toppers: Nest (8-1), Mo Donegal (5-2), Rich Strike (7-2), We the People (2-1)
Value-Win Bet: Nest at 9-2 or greater
Exotica: Trifecta Key Box Nest with the three horses named above and Barber Road (10-1)
Grade 1 OGDEN PHIPPS Race 7
The Skinny: Only five horses but four can win. Two are defending champions and get the headlines here: Letruska (6-5) and Malathaat (5-2). Search Results (9-2) is coming from a career effort and is 2-for-2 at Belmont. If the pace gets crazy, Clairiere (3-1) will be coming fast.
Ticket Toppers: Letruska, Malathaat
Win-Value Bet: Malathaat at 2-1 or greater
Exotica: Exacta Box Ticket Topper. Three-horse exacta box with Search Results. Three-horse exacta box with Clairiere
Grade 1 JAIPUR STAKES Race 8
The Skinny: Turf sprint stakes seldom are won easily, this one’s no different. Arrest Me Red (5-2) was very sharp winning the G2 CD Sprint, improved incrementally, has won here and stretches to his optimal distance. Casa Creed (9-2) is the defending Jaipur champion and is 2-for-3 in Elmont. Gear Jockey (6-1) is one of those hard luck types and the wide draw doesn’t figure to help, but the switch back to Lezcano does.
Ticket Toppers: Arrest Me Red, Casa Creed, Gear Jockey
Win-Bet Value: Either taking Casa Creed at 4-1 minimum or Gear Jockey at 6-1 or more.
Exotica: Exacta Box the three ticket toppers.
G1 METROPOLITAN HANDICAP Race 9
The Skinny: It was supposed to be Flightline (3-5) vs. Life Is Good. What we got is Flightline vs. Speaker’s Corner (8-5), just as good a battle. The Met Mile usually draws a large field but these two chased most entrants, especially the former.
Ticket Toppers: Speaker’s Corner, Flightline
Win-Value Bets: Speaker’s Corner at 2-1 or greater
Exotica: Trifecta part wheel the ticket toppers first and second with Aloha West (6-1) and Happy Saver (8-1)
G1 MANHATTAN STAKES Race 10
The Skinny: Will Santin (7-2) run back to his recent G1 score in the Churchill Downs Turf Classic? If he does, he should repeat. The run was his second of the year and Brendan Walsh added blinkers which obviously moved the 4-year-old up. Stretching out another furlong, he can shake loose if he jumps well beneath Tyler Gaffalione. Gufo (2-1) always will be pace dependent but hits hard and owns a big late kick. Adhamo (4-1), one of four Chads, also will benefit from more ground; 2-for-4 at this trip and 2-for-9 doing anything else and Prat takes the re-ride.
Ticket Toppers: Santin, Gufo, Adhamo
Value-Win Bet: Santin at 7-2 or greater
Exotica: Three-horse exacta box. Trifecta wheel using the three ticket toppers and adding L’Imperator second and third
BELMONT EVE PROGRAM
For all the hand-wringing over short fields and even shorter odds on the Belmont-154 program, the racing gods and horsemen have assured that not many first prizes will be easily won on Friday.
We chose two events:
The Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup, a two-mile marathon featuring a Todd Pletcher speedster likely to shake loose and owns a win at the distance–albeit over completely different ground at Gulfstream Park–versus two interesting European ship-ins, among others.
Early line favorite Outbox (2-1) exits a pair of Group races in Great Britain for Archie Watson and riding sensation Hollie Doyle. The German bred Loft (4-1) hails from a country known for its long-winded stayers.
Can they handle Abaan (5-2), the Todd gelding getting class relief from recent U.S. competition, but an unknown against his Euro rivals? We’ll know Friday at approximately 4:42 pm.
The second race to our interest was the 11th, also on turf, but for filly sprinters going six furlongs.
If it’s a graded turf sprint, believe that it’s going to be contentious. This one is so contentious in that the Chad Brown won’t saddle the early favorite.
That role will be played by the Brad Cox-trained Caravel, listed at 4-1. She is meeting a dozen rivals on Belmont’s Widener Course after chasing the boys in the G2 CD Turf Sprint last out. On first pass, we left seven of the 13 entrants open.
In the Belmont Gold Cup. we opted for upside vs. proven form, even if the early line favorite was a close-up third behind Yabir at Newmarket on APR 29. However, the gelded 7-year-old never was in his last start 15 days later at Newbury after the tactical racer dwelt in the stalls, losing all reasonable chance.
With seven fleet fillies to choose from, we’re taking whatever value should be available on Star Devine (10-1), second to the classy Campanelle in her season’s debut at Keeneland.
The Jorge Abreu-trained miss broke her maiden on debut at this trip, and was third in Belmont’s 7F Soaring Softly subsequently. Her best form has been sprinting thus far, and she rates to improve in this spot.
G2 BELMONT GOLD CUP Race 8
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Outbox
WIN-VALUE PLAY: Loft to win at 4-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Three-horse exacta box Abaan, Outbox, Loft. Trifecta and Superfecta part wheel the three exacta horses first and second with each other and adding price shots Cibolian (10-1) and Novo Sol (10-1)
G3 INTERCONTINENTAL STAKES Race 11
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Caravel
WIN-VALUE PLAY: Star Devine to win at 6-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Three-horse Exacta Box Caravel, Star Devine, and price shot Illegal Smile (10-1). Trifecta and Superfecta part wheel Caravel and Star Devine first and second, and first and third, with Tobys Heart (5-1), Robin Sparkles (10-1), Assertive Style (30-1), Illegal Smile (10-1) and Miss J McKay (9-2).
All suggested multiple wagers are at minimums available. Straight plays are $2 units. When more than one horse is listed per category, preferences are listed in graded order.
this is a live column and will be updated throughout the weekend, including sequential wagers