By Brian Monzo
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The 145th running of the Belmont Stakes will take place on Saturday.
We’ve looked at some of the undercard, now it’s time to break down the big one. The one that matters most. With $1 million at stake and some of the best 3-year-olds running the 1.5-mile Belmont track, it’s truly one of the hardest races in the world to win.
Unfortunately, we will not have a Triple Crown winner. Orb won the Kentucky Derby and despite being the favorite in the Preakness, could not get the trip and Oxbow was able to wire the gang. Disappointing for sure, but it doesn’t take away from how great this race will be.
There could be some rain in the forecast, which we all know will not make a difference to Orb, who won the Derby in slop. It may present problems for others. That said, it could be fine outside.
Let’s look at the field by post position:
Frac Daddy draws the rail and could flash some early speed. Alan Garcia is a good jockey, but whether it’s nice out or it’s a monsoon, I don’t see this horse having enough to make much of a difference. Not leaving on any tickets.
Freedom Child won the Peter Pan Stakes last month in the slop at Belmont by 13-plus lengths. He has a ton of early speed and I think he will be a huge factor as far as the pace, but I don’t think he fits here.
Overanalyze is very interesting. He is trained by Todd Pletcher and gets John Valezquez on his mount. He wasn’t able to do much in the Derby and seems like the kind of horse that needs a perfect trip to get it done. That said, he has the pedigree to run and the connections to get it done. And if he runs like he did in the Arkansas, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him win this. I am going to see how the betting crowd feels, but I plan on using on most tickets.
Giant Finish may try and get to the lead, but I don’t think he can match the early speed of Oxbow, Palace Malice or even Freedom Child. He gets legendary jockey Edgar Prado on the mount, and if he finishes in the top 10, Prado is the reason why. I am throwing out.
Orb gets the chance to win another big one, and this time at home. It’s really a shame he drew the rail and was not able to fire in Baltimore, because this could have been really special. No excuses though. He didn’t get it done at the Preakness, but gets a chance for glory again here. I think his post is much better. Joel Rosario will be able to put him exactly where he wants to be and can move him around the far turn and come home on top. He is going to be the chalk and rain or shine, it’s going to be tough for anyone to beat him. Huge shot and has to be left on every ticket.
Incognito didn’t have much of a shot in the Peter Pan, and I don’t think he has a shot here. The McLoughlin-Oritz connection is solid, but don’t think this horse can compete here. Could sit close to the leaders, but should fade.
Oxbow got the absolute perfect trip in the Preakness. He set his own pace and won the race with ease. Gary Stevens is one of the best jockeys of all-time and he showed why. That won’t be the case here. He will get some early challengers in Palace Malice and Freedom Child and while the distance shouldn’t be an issue, I think the pace will be the factor here. Would love to see Stevens get this, but I think the luck runs dry. Will not play on any ticket.
Midnight Taboo goes for the Mike Repole group (one of three) and Pletcher but would really need to pull the miracle off to win. Has run decent in his three races, but none were graded and none were mind-blowing. Should be 2-3 lengths off the lead, but won’t get much close than that.
Revolutionary was my top choice in the Kentucky Derby, but had some bad luck in that race. He was bumped early, and having the rail didn’t help. I think Calvin Borel waited too long to get him going and getting Javier Castellano back is huge for this horse. I think he will sit back from the lead early and make an early move to the lead down the stretch and force Orb to catch him. I don’t know if he will be able to hold Orb off, but this horse has a winning mentality, as shown in the Louisiana Derby and I really think he has the talent to get this done. He is likely to be the third betting choice, and if 9/2 holds, it’s a must play. I am making Revolutionary my top choice.
Will Take Charge was the victim of bad luck in the Derby when he had to stop when Verrazano stopped and was too worried about Orb to do anything in the Preakness. I like Jon Court getting back on the mount and in a race where the finish line never seems to come, a horse like Will Take Charge can do some damage. I am not sure he can win this, but I will leave on all my exotic tickets. Hoping he gets a piece as he was run hard in both races.
Vyjack to be is the hardest race to view here. He was ultra impressive in every race before the Derby and ran a dud that day. This is a horse that likes the distance and gets Julien Leparoux, the best closing jockey in horse racing and to me that makes him appealing. If all breaks well, he should be flying late and I trust Leparoux to have him revved up for the final turn. Will leave on trifecta and superfecta tickets.
Palace Malice gets Mike Smith back, and if he does what he did in the Derby, he will be the main reason why Oxbow is toast. I can see Smith trying to get horse to the lead and run the half mile in 46 seconds, but even that is too fast and I am not sure he has the ability to do much here. Good horse, but not good enough at this distance against some of the best runners.
Unlimited Budget is one of the top fillies in the country and Pletcher is not afraid to use her. I was a huge fan of this filly up until the Kentucky Oaks. I know there was contact in that race, but I think she had every chance to win and couldn’t get it done. I respect this horse, and Rosie Napravnik will have her running her best, but I don’t think she can win.
Golden Soul is going to get a lot of money due to how he ran in the Kentucky Derby. His placing finish was incredible, but a lot of that had to do with the slop and the early pace. I don’t think Palace Malice will run the half-mile in 45 seconds again, and even if he runs a little slower, there’s a lot more track to cover. Call me crazy, but I am dismissing Golden Soul here. A lot of of bad things will have to happen to other horses for Golden Soul to get that run again. I don’t see it.
So, here is the breakdown:
Pick to win: Revolutionary
Huge shot to win: Orb, Overanalyze
Will be used on exacta, trifecta and superfecta bets: Revolutionary, Orb, Overanalyze, Vyjack, Will Take Charge and Unlimited Budget
Throw out: Golden Soul, Freedom Child, Oxbow
Let’s hope the weather holds up!
Follow Monzo on Twitter for last-minute thoughts and his picks leading up to the race: @BMonzoWFAN.
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