Saturday is Stars and Stripes Day at Belmont Park, and it marks the beginning of the end of Belmont’s spring-summer meet. Some of the best horses on the grounds will be in action, and several stakes races drew shippers from as far away as Europe. I’ve got several multi-race tickets, and there’s a chance we’ll be able to build a nice stake ahead of the upcoming Saratoga meet. Let’s get to it!
$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1
80 Bets, $40
This ticket is built around a pair of horses that will likely be consensus singles. However, if we can get a price or two home around them, this could return a healthy sum.
The first single comes in the opener, a maiden race for 2-year-olds. That’s #4 SOCIAL PARANOIA, the lone entrant in this field with experience. He was a close-up second last time out behind Fully Loaded, who came back to win an allowance event Friday at Gulfstream Park. Any improvement off of his debut would make the 6/5 morning line favorite tough to beat.
The second race is an optional claimer that could double as a minor stakes race almost anywhere else in the country. #6 BREAKING THE RULES is the tepid morning line favorite, but he’s no cinch, and there are a few mid-level prices with big shots. #2 LIFE IN SHAMBLES ran against some tough competition at Aqueduct last winter, while #9 STREET VISION is 2 for 2 since being claimed by David Jacobson. I think both are must-uses in what strikes me as a fascinating event.
The third race, however, seems much more clear-cut. #8 AMERICAN GURU will likely be a heavy favorite, and for good reason. He’s a nose away from being undefeated, and based on the numbers, he’d have to regress pretty significantly off of his last two starts for the others to have a shot.
The fourth is a turf route contested at the 10-furlong route we’ll see in two Grade 1 races later on in the program. #5 RED KNIGHT seems logical, but all of his wins came against state-breds, so I can’t simply single him and move on. A horse that intrigues me at a bit of a price is #1 COUNTY COURT, who won impressively two back before rating in a paceless event in May. A return to the two-back form would make him a contender, and at 6-1 on the morning line, he could knock out plenty of tickets.
The payoff leg is a tricky allowance race, and you’ll want to go as deep as you can. #6 NIGEL’S DESTINY is the morning line favorite, but steps up in class off of a win over a weak field. I’ll use him, but I prefer #8 MR. DOUGIE FRESH, who was a close-up second in a fast race for the level last time out. Additionally, #7 FALLINGINLOVEAGAIN is worth a look at a big price. He won first time out (albeit against weaker foes), has been working well since coming to New York, and attracts Javier Castellano.
$0.50 Pick Five/Pick Four: Race #6/#7
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108/54 Bets, $54/$27
There’s no lag time, as we end one Pick Five before quickly starting another. Important note: The Pick Five is only available through one ADW website. If you prefer to play a Pick Four, simply act as though the sixth-race selections don’t exist (which chops the ticket price in half).
The sixth race is the Grade 3 Dwyer, and I’m not getting cute. #6 MENDELSSOHN is my top pick, as I simply think the Kentucky Derby is an absolute throw-out. He was eliminated at the start, and he will be tough if he breaks cleanly here. I’ll also use #3 RUGBYMAN, who adds blinkers after a tough beat in the Easy Goer on Belmont Stakes Day.
The seventh is the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship. #1 LIMOUSINE LIBERAL and #2 WHITMORE are world-class sprinters, but the horse to bet may be #4 SHAFT OF LIGHT, who cuts back after a tough beat in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile. For such a high-profile sprint, there isn’t much early speed signed on. If Shaft of Light gets out early, he could be tough to catch when the real running starts.
The eighth is the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks, and this struck me as the best betting race on the card. You’ll get a price on whatever horse(s) you like, and I felt the need to go deep. The longshot of the group is #3 PAVED, who’s 12-1 on the morning line but runs like a horse that will appreciate the 10-furlong distance. She’s got enough tactical speed to not be too far back early, and if she shows the late kick she displayed in the Grade 2 Honeymoon, she’ll have a big shot.
My single comes in the ninth, the Grade 2 Suburban. Bob Baffert has two in here, but while #5 DR. DORR is the morning line favorite, I prefer #8 HOPPERTUNITY, who’s 2 for 2 at Belmont and won the 2016 Jockey Club Gold Cup at this route of ground. His lone loss this season came over a speed-favoring track in the Grade 2 Alysheba, and even if he’s lost a step at age 7, I think he’s the horse to beat if he fires his best shot. He’s 9/2 on the morning line, and I’m hoping we get that price.
The payoff leg is the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, and I’m going three-deep. #7 CATHOLIC BOY and #3 ANALYZE IT finished 1-2 in the local prep for this race, and both could win, but European shipper #4 HUNTING HORN looks very dangerous. He’s improved with every start to this point in his career, and his recent Group 3 win was incredibly impressive. I’m always partial to European shippers adding Lasix, as he does, and I need to have him on my tickets.