Belmont Stakes · Handicapping · Triple Crown

Belmont Stakes 2015 Full Card Selections


HRS Belmont Stakes CoverageOn Saturday, American Pharoah runs for history, a Triple Crown.  11 have done it before him.  13 have failed since the last.  Can American Pharoah be the 12th or the 14th?  When the Belmont Stakes goes off just before 7pm, we will find out what list American Pharoah will become a part of.  But before that happens, Belmont Park carded a nice slate of stakes races for the undercard.  Just for your viewing pleasure, here are my picks and analysis on each stakes race of the day.

  • Easy Goer Stakes (Race 1)
    • This race has three obvious favorites, Stanford, Japan, and Nonna’s Boy.  Stanford was the runner up in the Louisiana Derby, a week Kentucky Derby prep, but does have a “victory” over Nonna’s Boy, one place higher in the Saratoga Special, albeit a 6th for Stanford.  Stanford, however, hasn’t been able to string together two straight victories.  But I think that he has a chance off the layoff.  I doubt the Coolmore group would keep a share in this horse if they didn’t think there was a chance of him doing something.  Nonna’s Boy comes out of the Gold Fever Stakes at Belmont Park, losing by 3 3/4 of a length to an undefeated El Deal.  Japan is right off an impressive maiden win at Churchill Downs, winning by 7 lengths as the heavy favorite.  My pick was Donworth, but he has been scratched so I have to go with Japan.  I was very impressed with his runner up finish at Keeneland and just improved when he broke his maiden.  Although it will now just be a three horse race (literally), Japan could be a price (of maybe 4-1), which could be the best value of the three.
  • Woody Stephens Stakes (Race 3)
    • The last two winners of this race have run in the Pat Day Mile (formerly the Derby Trial).  Competitive Edge comes out of a drawing away win in that race.  Competitive Edge is my top choice in the first graded race on the card.  Cinco Charlie is hard to ignore with his running line.  The winner of last years Bashford Manor has been in the money in all but one of his starts, most at stakes level.
  • Jaipur Invitational Stakes (Race 4)
    • This is the first race of the day with a large sized field.  This turf sprint for older horses has been won by mostly turf specialist trainers.  Wesley Ward tries for two straight with Shrinking Violet, the winner of the Monrovia back in January.  With only two starts this year, she if fresh and gets turf specialist Kent Desormeaux aboard.  Christophe Clement returns to Belmont Stakes day with Summation Time, a three time winner, making his first start in stakes company.  While the class wasn’t much, his win last time out in Allowance Optional Claiming company was a second off the track record, and already has a win over the Belmont Park surface.  Definitely a live longshot in here.  But my pick goes to Chad Brown, who trains for Al Shaqab racing (those of Treve fame), with Helwan, the French shipper.  He broke his maiden a year ago at Longchamp, followed by wins later in the year at La Teste De Buch and Maisons-Lafitte.  An interesting fact about this French horse, the horse that beat Helwan in his first race, Avenir Certain, ran in the 2014 Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe, finishing 11th ahead of some good horses like Tapestry, Gold Ship, and Ivanhowe.  And his latest win came over Farmah, a winner of a Group Two race in Italy.  It is a stretch for this horse to fit, but with Jose Ortiz aboard and with some great workouts, all signs point to a US debut win, and I believe that he may follow it up with a win at the Breeders Cup later this year, but let’s focus on Belmont Park for now.
  • Ogden Phipps Stakes (Race 5)
    • The first Grade One of the day, this race for older fillies and mares is awfully small for being a million dollar race.  Untapable headlines the field, and probably wins this race easily.  However, a horse I will watch for is Princess Violet.  She had a 9 length loss to Untapable in last year’s Mother Goose, and won the Madison at Keeneland this Spring.  The Madison has been a very worth Grade One, with many quality winners like Groupie Doll and Judy the Beauty coming out of that race.  While I will include Untapable in any multi race wager with this race, Princess Violet is my top pick.  To round out the trifecta, put Wedding Toast in there, who absolutely loves Belmont Park and is hard to keep out of the money.
  • Brooklyn Invitational Stakes (Race 6)
    • The first mile and a half race on dirt for the card, the Brooklyn has a strong field.  Effinex comes out of a mile and a quarter race, beating Red Rifle, Wicked Strong, and Micromanage.  Red Rifle didn’t appear to stay in the Belmont Gold Cup Friday, but had a nice star and held the lead for a mile and a half on turf.  V.E. Day heads to this spot and tries to go 3 for 3 with turf-to-dirt patterns.  Ever Rider was brought to the states for the long distances and good do well in this spot.  But the money falls for Coach Inge who put up a monster performance on the sealed Aqueduct track back in April.  He gets a well deserved layoff and could relish this distance, and if Micromanage becomes a scratch, give him a nice price.  I would say that Effinex is a nice play underneath.
  • Acorn Stakes (Race 7)
    • Honestly the hardest race to handicap on the day, the Acorn is the third leg in one configuration of the Triple Tiara (and the first in another configuration).  Condo Commando returns to New York and hopes to get a win here.  However, the other horse running on Kentucky Derby weekend is where my top choice is.  Promise Me Silver is 8 for 8, and won her first start in graded stakes company in the Eight Belles on Oaks day.  Even though she is extending to a mile, a one turn mile should be no problem.  Use Curalina for Pletcher and Velazquez underneath.
  • Just a Game Stakes (Race 8)
    • Another race for fillies and mares, this time at a mile on turf, brings back many from the Churchill Downs Turf Mile Stakes, including the winner of this race last year, Coffee Clique.  Coffee Clique went with the same pattern as last year, Gulfstream Park, CD Turf Mile, then Just a Game.  But no value.  The former French runner Filimbi for Bill Mott and Juddmonte, Filimbi, finished second to Ball Dancing in the Jenny Wiley at Keeneland.  Her dam was Flute, winner of the Alabama and Kentucky Oaks for the late Robert Frankel and Juddmonte and her sire won the Malibu and Strub stakes for the same connections.  Juddmonte goes with Frankel’s successor of the green and pink Mott, for Filimbi, and just seems so strong in this spot.  I think Filimbi will hold a spot on for second, but Photo Call, the Irish bred will make her 4th start in the states a winning one in this spot, picking up the pieces of a highly contested pace, and give her sire Galileo another win on US soil.
  • Metropolitan Handicap (Race 9)
    • Probably the most interesting race on the day, Breeders Cup Classic winner Bayern and last years Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist lock horns in the Met Mile.  Bayern needed his last race and should be better in here.  However, he faces a tough field, including Godolphin Mile winner Tamarkuz, who gets Lasix for first time with McLaughlin, Wicked Strong, Pants On Fire, and Tonalist.  I think that Tonalist will relish this spot and should win easily.  Definitely a strong single.  Underneath, include Pants On Fire who just always seems to finish in the money as well as Tamarkuz, who beat Frankyfourfinger in the Godolphin Mile, a horse that beat the Dubai World Cup winner Prince Bishop.  Private Zone, one of the worlds highest rated horses, is also a play, but I don’t like this spot and would like to see him sprinting than at a mile.
  • Manhattan Stakes (Race 10)
    • With one final race before the Belmont Stakes, we go to the turf for a mile and a quarter Grade One race.  Chad Brown won this race last year with Real Solution and will try again with three entries in this one.  Twilight Eclipse comes out of the Man O’War as the favorite, and has been very well placed, usually just behind Main Sequence.  Hard to go against Twilight Eclipse here.  Another interesting horse is Legendary, who is 3 for 3 at Belmont Park, including a win in the Grade Three Knickerbocker.  Returning to Belmont can help.  Wolfgang Figge trains his first US runner of his career in this spot with Magic Artist.  International jockey Cristian Demuro ships in for this Darley runner.  While I don’t think he is good enough to finish on top in his debut on US soil, definitely in the exotics.  But with no Main Sequence in this spot, I think Twilight Eclipse gets another big turf win without his rival.
  • Belmont Stakes (Race 11)
    • Finally, it is time for the big one, the Belmont Stakes.  American Pharoah is the heavy favorite to win the Belmont Stakes, and of course the elusive Triple Crown.  My heart will be with him, but not my money.  I want value in this race and there will be a ton of it.  I see Materiality challenging American Pharoah early, but unlike what Smarty Jones did, American Pharoah will let Materiality be loose on the lead.  Materiality is bred for the distance, but won’t have the speed to get past American Pharoah late.  Frosted is another bred for the distance, and should help clean up and exotics.  However, my money goes to a horse I loved before the Kentucky Derby and thought that the Belmont Stakes would be the perfect spot for him.  I even said that if he could win the Kentucky Derby, he would win the Triple Crown (due to me seeing the second and third legs as much easier and better spots for him).  Mike de Kock is an internationally acclaimed trainer and has a 17% win rate and 65% win and place rate for a reason.  His 2,859 wins world wide, with wins in South Africa, Dubai, England, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Turkey, and North America firmly put him as one of the top trainers in the world.  He has even said that he may have a stable in the states in the next few years.  Mubtaahij is made to run longer.  Mubtaahij is sired by Dubawi, who sired two Dubai World Cup winners, as well as many winners at a mile and a half.  He will get a much easier and cleaner journey in the Belmont Stakes than in the Kentucky Derby.  And his numerous breezing works at Belmont Park (in South African fashion) helps.  Put Irad Ortiz aboard and this is a great horse to pick up the pieces late and possibly upset this field.

Good Luck to Everyone, especially American Pharoah, Victor Espinoza, Bob Baffert, and Ahmed Zayat as they go for the Triple Crown.  The Belmont Stakes goes off at 6:50pm on NBC.

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