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Wagstaff’s Picks: Belmont Stakes 2017 June 8, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Horse Racing.
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The house feels weird without my cat around. It seems bigger. It’s definitely quieter. And making some chicken salad yesterday without her pestering and bullying me for some felt very lonely.

So I’ve been keeping busy. I’m refining the story outlines for two more books and preparing another for publication in the next few months. Watch this blog for updates! This new book will be the start of a second series, a scifi adventure series for older kids, but certainly one that adults could also enjoy. As much as I bitch about living in the age of terminal adolescence, I may as well try to cash in on it.

And speaking of cashing in, I’ve gone through the lineup and past performances of this year’s Belmont Stakes entries, and have the following thoughts.

The first thing I always do when handicapping the Belmont is to compare the well-rested horses with the ones who have run in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Horses who have run the Preakness have fared the worst in the Belmont for the past decade, and horses running in the Derby as well as the Preakness have also crapped out. However, some horses running in the Derby and skipping to the Belmont have done relatively well.

Between those historic patterns and some low speed figures and class problems, I eliminated a number of entries from my picks. Then I look for horses who can close after running a long route. The mile and a half length of this is usually key to picking the winner.

This field, honestly, is a mess. Normally I look at a big-time stakes race like this and I can make arguments for three or four horses winning. This year’s Belmont is like handicapping some low-end claimer race where you try to figure out who is the lest likely to lose. There no strong indicators to me this year, just horses with more question marks than others, although the odds make things interesting.

As erratic as #3 Gormley has been, making the HUGE assumption that he’s back in his Santa Anita Derby form based on recent works would give him an edge here. But this horse has been a roll of the dice nearly every race, you never know what you’ll get. He’s got the potential to be in the front or near the front as they make that final turn. Whether or not he pours it on at the finish is anyone’s guess.

I’d think morning line favorite #7 Irish War Cry will be competitive, but again, here’s a horse that fades towards the end. I could see a duel with Gormley and them tiring each other out so that some other horse passes them with a late burst.

And that horse? Well, if I had to pick potential late surprises, I’d have to go with (a) the wildcard factor of #11 Epicharis who has only run in Japan and Dubai but has done well (and is, at 4-1, the next lowest odds after the morning line favorite) and (b) #9 Meantime, at 15-1 but coming off a great Peter Pan Stakes, with excellent recent works, the addition of Mike Smith in the saddle, and a giant question mark as to whether he can compete at this level or sustain the distance, since he tends to start with a burst of speed. Will Smith temper that enough to save some for the end? You got me, but I wouldn’t throw him out.

I don’t think #8 Senior Investment will win, but this horse is a strong late closer, and ought to figure into any Trifecta/Superfecta type exotics. Ditto for #6 Lookin’ At Lee, who ran fairly well in both the Derby and Preakness, but history tells us that running against better-rested horses over a mile and a half is not a good indicator for getting into the winner’s circle.

So, if I had to put horses in the Win/Place category, I’d have 3,7,9 and 11. And then I’d throw in 6 and 8 for Show/Fourth. Feel free to waste your money along with mine. Because this is AMERICA!

 

 

 

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