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Wizard's Major Stakes for Saturday, June 7th, 2008

Belmont Park Belmont Stakes

Race Synopsis
I have waited thirty years for our twelfth Triple Crown winner. The memory of Secretariat winning by thirty one lengths in 1973, was the most electrifing moment in my forty years of following this sport. I will never forget the roar of the crowd and the adulation given to the horse they called "The Big Red Machine". I was in attendance when Seattle Slew galloped to victory in 1977 and Affirmed won in 1978. Both were great horses, but not in the same league as Secretariat.

In the years following Affirmed's win, I have witnessed horses going for the Triple Crown, only to be ovetaken in deep stretch. One of the greatest rivalries of all time was Affirmed and Alydar. In all three Triple Crown races, Affirmed would not let Alydar prevail. In any other year Alydar would have been a Triple Crown winner. The most excruciating defeat was Victory Gallop running down Real Quiet in 1998 in the shadow of the wire. Several horses who looked like standouts were upset in the "Test Of Champions".

What should we expect on Saturday? I feel Big Brown finally will break the thirty year slump. Only the Japanese horse Casino Drive can upset the horse who has been dominant in in all five of his starts. Big Brown is no Secretariat, but the anticipation of a new Triple Crown winner is just as electric as it was in 1973. It will be very interesting who goes to lead. Will it be Big Brown or Casino Drive? Can both hook each other on the far turn and battle tooth and nail to the wire. Or will Big Brown, dispose of that rival and go on to a convincing victory. We will find out as the sun begins to set on Belmont Park.

The Field from the rail out
# Name ML
6 DA' TARA 30/1

First Selection: (1) BIG BROWN (Dutrow Richard E/Desormeaux K J)

It is no secret that I have picked Big Brown to win the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown, after having selected him in the Florida Derby, The Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness. He has silenced many critics who felt he could not overcome post twelve at Gulfstream Park, and post twenty at Churchill Downs. They said history had proven both feats were impossible to overcome. Only great horses overcome many obstacles. Big Brown is on the brink of greatness. These same critics also say that he is beating up on a weak crop of three year olds. They are seeing the glass half empty rather than half full. He is crushing his opposition. The speed figure gurus, say the numbers he has earned are not that fast. How can they be? Once he distances himself from the field, he is always geared down. If Kent Desormeaux had asked him for his best, who knows what his “numbers” would be.Big Brown has overcome bad quarter cracks, which developed after his eye opening victory in his debut going two turns on the turf. It is scary to imagine, that as good as Big Brown is on the dirt, he could be even better on the grass. A few days after the Preakness, he had developed a quarter crack to his left front foot. Once again, Big Brown and trainer Richard Dutrow had to overcome another obstacle, with the help of Ian McKinlay, the best hoof lameness specialist in the business. Following a 1 1/8 mile gallop at Belmont Park last Friday, Dutrow proclaimed, “He looks unbelievable. There’s no way in the world that there’s any horse that could be doing better than Big Brown. That’s impossible”. Dutrow believes that Big Brown looks better now than he did in the Kentucky Derby. He “definitely” has gained weight since then. Dutrow has been criticized for being too outspoken and full of himself. That’s a quality I love about him. In all the years I have known him, he has never been any different. These critics are just jealous of his success and the fact that he always backs up his bold statements with positive results. Bravo to him! Finally, the racing world has discovered the best trainer in the country. Dutrow has proven it, winning countless times with claimers as well as top class runners. His resume includes a Breeders’ Cup Classic victory with Saint Liam. Dutrow won last year’s Breeders’ Cup mile winner with Kip Deville, (who had worse feet than Big Brown). He won two races on Dubai World Cup Day last March, with Diamond Stripes in the Mile, and Benny The Bull in the Sprint. Dutrow is now on the brink of his greatest accomplishment. Big Brown could add his name to the list of eleven winners, beginning with Sir Barton in (1919) and ending with Affirmed thirty years ago. In between were Gallant Fox in (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978). The question is not whether or not Big Brown is as good as these illustrious Triple Crown winners, all that matters is that his name be added to the list.

To illustrate how difficult it is to sweep all three races, there have been twenty horses that have won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but lost in the Belmont Stakes. Eight have run second.

What would happen if Big Brown faced a stiff challenge in the stretch? He has always won so easily, that he has never had to look a horse in the eye during the stretch. This is a question asked by many people. The answer is, it won’t matter. Big Brown will be up to the challenge. In my Kentucky Derby write up on Big Brown, I told readers that he had easily outworked an older stakes winner named Diamond Stripes just prior to the Florida Derby. He was looked in the eye from the far turn to mid stretch, before pulling away with complete authority. Dutrow now knew he had a potential star in his barn. (Diamond Stripes came back to win the $1 million dollar Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup day).

With “eye opening” victories in the Kentucky Derby and The Preakness, Big Brown will enter the starting gate against eight other rivals to the roar of one hundred twenty thousand fans on their feet at Belmont Park and millions more with their eyes glued to their Television. As Big Brown enters the far turn, the noise will be deafening. Should he take a commanding lead turning for home, the rest of the field would have to sprout wings, to prevent him from winning the Triple Crown. Should he pass the wire, the 12th Triple Crown winner, there will be a standing ovation, as he begins his assent into the winner’s circle.

Just like the great Seabiscuit, who was able to ease the pain of many during the great depression, Big Brown, will also become a well deserved racing icon. He will show that in tough times, there can be someone who can impact us in so many positive ways, proving that greatness and a belief in a hero can still exist.

Second Selection: (5) CASINO DRIVE (Fujisawa K/Prado E S)

There is no doubt the owner of Casino Drive had the Belmont Stakes as their main objective when he was purchased for $950,000 at the 2006 September yearling sale at Keeneland. His dam, Better Than Honour, had produced Jazil, who was victorious in the Belmont Stakes that year. Little did they know, that one year later, the filly, Rags To Riches, would upset Curlin in the Belmont. If Casino Drive defeats Big Brown on Saturday, Better Than Honour will have produced the last three Belmont Stakes winners. This feat is as amazing as trainer Woody Stephens winning five consecutive Belmont’s from 1982 to 1986.Casino Drive is a formidable rival to Big Brown on Saturday. He is a fresh face that has been well managed by top Japanese trainer Kazuo Fujisawa. Casino Drive was unraced as a two year old. He made his debut on February 23 at Kyoto racecourse. It is always difficult for a horse to win first time out going a distance of ground. Casino Drive was sent off 1-5 odds against twelve other rivals. He was sent right to the front, wiring the field by eleven lengths under a hand ride. Several horses who were left in his wake, returned to run well in subsequent starts. Fujisawa wanted to start Casino Drive one more time before shipping him to the US. The plan had to be scrapped after an influenza outbreak in Japan forced Casino Drive to be moved around to different training centers to avoid contracting the illness. An audible was called, shipping him instead to Belmont Park for the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes. This was a very astute move, to giving Casino Drive a race over the Belmont main track. He was heavily bet to win the race with Big Brown’s regular rider Kent Desormeaux in the irons. Unlike his maiden win when he went right to the front, Desormeaux rated him in fourth position after breaking slowly from the gate. He settled nicely down the backstretch. When the field turned for home, Casino Drive skimmed the rail to take command and drew off by six widening lengths. The pace and final time were excellent. With two impressive races under his belt and nearly a month to recover from the Peter Pan, Casino Drive will attempt to upset Big Brown and make him the twenty first horse to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, only to fall short in the Belmont. Three days before the Peter Pan, Casino Drive worked a very quick five furlongs, which Fujisawa felt he needed to do because he had not raced in eleven weeks. This has not been the case preparing him for the third leg of the Triple Crown. Casino Drive worked so slowly on May 28 with Japanese rider Yoshi Aoki aboard, that it was not even recorded in the Daily Racing Form. Fujisawa stated this was his plan. He came out of the Peter Pan in perfect shape so that he would be fit enough to handle the 1 ½ mile distance. Last week, the connections of Casino Drive decided not to ride Japan’s best jockey Yutaka Take who rode him to victory in his debut. They thought it best to give the mount to an American rider. Edgar Prado will get the call on Saturday. They could not have selected a better jockey. The decision to ride Prado was made because of his success in the Belmont Stakes. He has won this race twice. Both times he upended Triple Crown bids. Prado was aboard Sarava at 70-1 to upset War Emblem in 2002. Two years later, he guided Birdstone to defeat the unbeaten Smarty Jones at 36-1. Will history repeat itself Saturday with Prado guiding Casino Drive to an upset victory over the undefeated Big Brown? There are reasons I believe this will not happen. Casino Drive never raced as a two year old. He comes into the Belmont with only two races under his belt, spotting his main rival’s racing experience and mental maturity. Big Brown is making his sixth career start in the Belmont Stakes. He has had time to develop after his maiden victory at Saratoga, and to overcome physical problems under the watchful eye of Richard Dutrow. In each race as a three year old, Big Brown has gotten stronger and more dominant. His best career race could come Saturday. The training regimen in the US is very different than overseas. There is more emphasis on speed and timed workouts here, in contrast to long gallops through pristine settings. Casino Drive has prepared for the Belmont in a manner consistent to what he has gone through in Japan. Dutrow knows exactly what it takes to win a race like the Belmont. This gives Big Brown another big edge. Desormeaux knows how to ride him to perfection. Big Brown knows when he is called upon to accelerate, he responds to his rider’s cue immediately. Casino Drive will be ridden by Edgar Prado for the first time. This is not necessarily a big disadvantage. Nevertheless, there is something to be said of familiarity between horse and rider. Even a change of diet and weather conditions can have an impact on Casino Drive. How he will respond to all these variables is difficult to assess. The bottom line is this is Big Brown’s home court. Casino Drive is a stranger in a strange land.Both Big Brown and Casino Drive have a similar versatile running style. Each can go to the front or stalk. This makes for a very intriguing match up. With a lack of early speed in the Belmont, I expect one on the lead and the other stalking. Both horses and riders will be eyeballing each other as they reach the far turn. It’s at that point, I expect the battle for supremacy to begin. In the end, it will be Big Brown galloping into the history books.

Third Selection: (4) DENIS OF CORK (Carroll David/Albarado R J)

In five career starts, Denis Of Cork has run one disappointing race. In the Grade 2 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, he ran a disappointing fifth as the overwhelming favorite. Some horses just do not handle an unfamiliar surface, and he was one of those. Denis Of Cork was also victimized racing wide throughout on track which favored inside speed. He was hindered by a slow pace set by the winner Recapturetheglory as well. Prior to this race, Denis Of Cork reeled off three straight victories. I was very impressed by his win in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. He was taken back far off the pace, then sustained a strong wide rally, to sweep on by the embattled leaders. Denis Of Cork ran his best race in the Kentucky Derby. Breaking from post sixteen, he dropped back to last in a field of twenty. He steadily made up ground to run third, 3 ½ lengths back of the filly Eight Belles, who ran a remarkable race. Denis Of Cork does his best running spotting the leaders several lengths, then closing late. He has always benefitted by fast paces. He is not expected to get those quick early fractions on Saturday. The pace should be nothing more than honest. He will be reunited with jockey Robbie Albarado, who might have to urge him early on. This will help him avoid having him not drop too far back.It is a misconception that 1 ½ miles benefits horses with his style of running. History has proven that horses with tactical speed, win the Belmont. Denis Of Cork is not expected to win. I do think he is talented enough to land a piece of the pie. He is bred both sides to handle the distance. He benefits from not having raced in the Preakness. This gave his trainer David Carroll over a month to freshen up for this race. In the interim, Denis Of Cork has worked very well in the morning.

Fourth Selection: (7) TALE OF EKATI (Tagg Barclay/Coa E M)

Following his fourth place finish in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Barclay Tagg decided to point Tale Of Ekati to the Belmont Stakes. Once thing Tagg knows is that his colt likes this track. He is two for two over “Big Sandy”. As a two year old, Tale Of Ekati showed he had quality, winning his debut impressively. He followed by a second place finish and then a win in the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont. All three victories were in sprints. Tale Of Ekati would get his chance to be crowned the two year old Eclipse Award winner, if he were to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Monmouth Park. A week before the Juvenile, Tale Of Ekati ran much too fast in a workout at Belmont. Tagg was disgusted with the ride, knowing that his colt expanded too much energy that morning. Even with a week to recover, he knew the workout took too much out of him, leaving very little left in the tank for the Juvenile. The track was a quagmire the day of the Breeders’ Cup. Tale Of Ekati would be racing over a sloppy track for the first time. Whether it was the conditions, or the workout, he came up empty in the stretch, beaten by seventeen lengths.
Tale Of Ekati made his first start as a three year old in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, in March, at the Fair Grounds. He showed little, running sixth, beaten nearly by seven lengths. Obviously, he needed that outing. In his next start, in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, Tale Of Ekati showed he was back with a vengeance, scoring a game win over two year old champion War Pass. He tracked a very fast pace, and then rallied inside the drifting War Pass, to score a hard earned half length victory. The final time was very slow. Tale Of Ekati had earned a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby.

Despite being beaten by eleven lengths in the Derby, his performance was better than it looked on paper. He made a strong middle move into the fastest part of the race. Tale Of Ekati was unable to keep pace with the top three finishers in the stretch, but still managed to defeat sixteen other horses, with his fourth place finish.

Having five weeks to recover, Tale Of Ekati will try to improve on his Derby performance Saturday. He certainly is in the mix to hit the board, but I have some reservations about him. He has a history of breaking awkwardly from the gate. He cannot afford to do this in the Belmont. Tagg has not been happy with way Tale Of Ekati’s rider Eibar Coa, has worked him in the morning. On May 20 at Belmont, his workout was much too fast. Unlike last year’s preparation for the Juvenile, Tagg knew he had some time to correct this mishap. He scheduled a six furlong drill six days later. This time Coa worked Tale Of Ekati too slowly. Tagg was livid. He had one more chance to correct the ship. Six days later Tagg finally got the workout he wanted, which was a nice six furlong breeze. How Tale Of Ekati will respond to his workout regimen and the 1 ½ mile distance is anyone’s guess. Like several others in the race, he will be used underneath in superfectas. I don’t expect him to be any danger to upset Big Brown. He will also have to run a career best race to run down Casino Drive for second.

Fifth Selection: (3) MACHO AGAIN (Stewart Dallas/Gomez G K)

Macho Again surprised me when he ran a very good second in the Preakness. I did not feel that he would be at his best going 1 3/16 miles at Pimlico. All three of his wins have been around one turn, all at distances less than a mile. I was proven wrong, when Macho Again got up to nip Icabad Crane for the place. He was steadied on the turn, and then rallied wide through the stretch. What can we expect from Macho Again in the Belmont? I like the fact that his best form has been on conventional dirt surfaces. His worse two performances were on polytrack. Macho Again has proven that when he is in the hunt turning for home, he digs in and fights on to the finish. This will not be good enough to be a threat to Big Brown or Casino Drive. Macho Again has proven that he is on equal footing with several of his rivals, at a distance which is foreign to all of them. Macho Again will be used on several of my superfecta tickets.

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The Remainder of the Field (In order of preference)

(10) ICABAD CRANE (Motion H Graham/Rose J)

Icabad Crane was my “dark horse” in the Preakness. I felt that he would pose no threat to Big Brown, but could handle the rest of the field. Sent off at 22-1 odds, he ran third, beaten a half length to Macho Again, despite being stopped at a crucial point approaching the stretch. Regular rider Jeremy Rose said “to get stopped the way he did and come back on and finish, it was an excellent race. The more distance for him, the better”. I agree. Icabad Crane has steadily improved with each start. He has never run worse than third in five career outings, winning three races. Trainer Graham Motion is a master at developing horses. This talent has been on display with Icabad Crane. Another reason I feel he suits the 1 ½ mile distance is that he’s a tough little horse who rates kindly and never fights the rider. When Rose asks him to run, he responds immediately. Rose knows what it takes to win the Belmont. He was aboard Afleet Alex, who won the Belmont Stakes three years ago, by seven lengths. “I actually think the Belmont is the easiest of the Triple Crown races to ride. You just want to keep your horse relaxed early, just sit on him, and find a spot. Saving ground is a big key at Belmont. You don’t want to lose ground”.

(9) READY'S ECHO (Pletcher Todd A/Velazquez J R)

When Ready’s Echo made his debut last summer at Saratoga, I was impressed. He was able to make up fifteen lengths on the leaders from the top of the stretch to the wire, to snatch second. His slow starts and a good finishing kick have been on display at all four outings. Like Da’Tara, Ready’s Echo has only won one race, and that was his maiden breaker, going seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park in March. He has run once in Stakes Company. In the Peter Pan, Ready’s Echo once again broke slowly and spotted the field many lengths. He made his usual late run to be a no threat third to Casino Drive. Following that race, Ready’s Echo’s connections were seriously contemplating a switch in surfaces to grass. He is bred very well on both his sire and dam side to relish the turf. They opted instead, to run in the Belmont Stakes at 1 ½ miles. Ready’s Echo’s running style is not suited at all to this race. Once again he will spot the field a country mile and have to use up a lot of energy on the backstretch just to reach contention. It is unlikely that Ready’s Echo will be able to sustain this closing move through the stretch. It may appear that horses that close ground from well off the pace will benefit by the longer distance. Past runnings of the Belmont have shown this is not the case. Deep closers just do not win. Horses with tactical speed and those that run in mid pack, are the ones who win this race.

(8) ANAK NAKAL (Zito Nicholas P/Leparoux Julien R)

Anak Nakal had done nothing as a three year old to suggest that he can be a factor in the Belmont. Both his wins came as a two year old. He has no early speed and closing punch. Anak Nakal did break his maiden first time out going 7 furlongs, as part of an entry at 17-1. I will only use him fourth on a saver superfecta ticket, in case he passes tired horses late.

(2) GUADALCANAL (Seitz Fred/Castellano J J)

Guadalcanal was a last minute entrant to the Belmont Stakes. I am shocked that owner/trainer Fred Seitz would even entertain thoughts of running him. Seitz is no dummy. He owns a major breeding farm in Lexington, Kentucky called Brookdale. His stallion Roster is tremendous. At his farm stands Crafty Prospector, Forest Wildcat, and Silver Deputy among others. Deputy Minister also stood at his farm before he passed away. Seitz decided to become a trainer while still operating his farm. He has 170 starts, winning 17 races (10 %). Guadalcanal was a $28,000 yearling purchase. He was then bought for $27,000 as a two year old. The original owner of this colt was Track Ho Farms and the trainer was Joe Cantanese. Following his strong second in his career debut, Seitz purchased him privately for an undisclosed amount. Guadalcanal has started five times for him. His first two starts, for his new mentor were on dirt, where he was beaten a total of 43 lengths. He showed dramatic improvement on April 19th when third on polytrack at Keeneland. Seitz switched him to grass last time out and stretched Guadalcanal to the Belmont Stakes distance of 1 ½ miles. He made a powerful sustained run to be beaten only by a nose.It is difficult for me to fathom how a horse that has not even broken his maiden, can be competitive on dirt at this level. The fact that he does have a big race at the distance is a plus, but doing it on grass is far different than running on dirt. I can only imagine two reasons Seitz would run him in this spot. The first being, that he feels he could hit the board, which would increase the value of Guadalcanal as a sire. The second, is because tickets to the Belmont are so hard to come by, it is worth shipping the colt up to land some good seats for himself and his family. Dear Mr. Seitz: I can use an extra ticket for my daughter. I promise I won’t sell it on e-bay for $4000.00. Your friend, “The Wizard”.

(6) DA' TARA (Zito Nicholas P/Garcia A)

I would like to be diplomatic and say that I do not understand why Da’Tara is entered in the Belmont. He has only one career win, which came over the slop at Gulfstream in early January. He does not give any indication that he is ready to travel 1 ½ miles at this point in his career. Da’Tara has run in three straight stakes races. His toughest assignment was in the Florida Derby, a race in which he met Big Brown. He was beaten by 24 lengths. I strongly believe that horses should be placed at their proper level and condition. Da’Tara is eligible to run in an entry level Allowance race. To throw him against the wolves on Saturday is not the right thing to do with a horse that has a future. He needs to be given every chance to develop his confidence, not ruin it.

Wagering Strategy
The only wagering strategy for the Belmont Stakes is to attack the Superfectas. The Super is the most difficult wager to make, because the winning ticket must have the first four finishers in exact order. This is the only play to make if we have any chance of showing a nice profit. I am taking a stand that Big Brown will win the race. All of my suggested plays indicate this. Casino Drive will be used on several tickets in the second spot, but in case he runs third and even fourth, we are covered. In the event this is the case, the Super will produce an excellent payoff if we hit our other combinations. Each play was carefully mapped out, and each listed play is given for a $1 wager. My total suggested play is $230. Obviously, if this amount is more than you can comfortably afford, you can select which play(s) are right for you. I have listed the plays in order of preference, so if I was to suggest reducing the total investment in this wager, I'd suggest taking off Ticket 7, then Ticket 6, and so on.

NOTE: Total cost of each ticket is based on a $1 wager.
Ticket 1: 1 / 4-5-7 / 3-4-5-7-9-10 / 3-4-5-7-9-10 = $60
Ticket 2: 1 / 5 / 3-4-7-9-10 / ALL = $35
Ticket 3: 1 / 4-5 / 3-4-5-7-9-10 / 3-4-5-7-9-10 = $40
Ticket 4: 1 / 3-4-7-9-10 / 5 / ALL = $35
Ticket 5: 1 / 5 / 3-4-7-9-10 / 3-4-7-9-10 = $20
Ticket 6: 1 / 3-4-7-9-10 / 5 / 3-4-7-9-10 = $20
Ticket 7: 1 / 3-4-7-9-10 / 3-4-7-9-10 / 5 = $20

Win or lose, I spent a lot of time on this sheet. In my opinion, it is the best piece of writing that I have done in twenty years as a professional handicapper. I have a special rooting interest in this year's Triple Crown. I have selected Big Brown in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. If he were to win, I would have also hit the Triple Crown. Obviously, picking Big Brown in the Preakness and the Belmont is nothing to get excited about because of how heavily bet he was. It was the Derby that was clearly the most difficult to hit. I am also rooting for my friend, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. He is a character, who is not afraid to speak the truth. He is man of courage and strong conviction. In the years I have known him, he has fought off many of the demons we all have. Dutrow has proven that he is the finest trainer in the U.S. He has done it with claimers and in recent years with champions. Being a true New Yorker all my life, I also feel it is special that the individuals who own Big Brown live in my neck of the woods.

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Belmont Analysis

What a great day for racing. We have a legitimate shot at the first triple crown winner in 30 years. From a betting standpoint there is not much value and Big Brown is a legitimate odds-on favorite for the final leg. It is hard to go past and quite frankly, as a fan of racing, I dont want to be rooting against the best shot at the honor in 30 years. Here is a quick synoposis of the field from my perspective:

Big Brown: Class of the field. Hoof little worry should handle a pretty weak group of three year olds

Guadalcanal: A maiden against this Big boy; NOPE Macho Again: Trouble in Preakness, still way back.

Denis of Cork: Skipped middle leg after needing the Derby; where he didn't come into the race on best of terms

Casino Drive: Japanese hope is the wildcard but hard to come back here after Peter Pan

Da'Tara: Zito says he'll go to the front, can you spell DOOM

Tale of Ekati: Won slow Wood here, dont like Tagg and a minor share is all I see from this guy

Anak Nakal: Zito's other horse is looking to benefit from fast pace. May be better later in the year

Ready's Echo: 3rd in Peter Pan, another pace factor. Pletcher owns track but dont think this guy is good enough

Icabad Crane: Had some trouble at key point in the Preakness. May be second best here and might have a big one in him; Second Choice

Look, the race is Big Brown's to lose. The pace could be crazy fast and if Kent gets sucked up too far or taken out of his game something strange could happen.

Big Brown is yet to face adversity and have to chase into the stretch. He looks very tough to beat. Icabad Crane had some trouble in last and may have been closer at the end. Because he may be some value and i think he has the best shot at an upset, I will place a few dollars on Icabad Crane to satisfy my 'value' side. Enjoy the races

The Bets:
$50 Exacta Big Brown/Icabad Crane
$25 Exacta Icabad Crane/Big Brown
$25 Tri Big Brown/Icabad Crane/Denis of Cork,Anak Nakal
$10 Tri Icabad Crane/Big Brown/Denis of Cork, Anak Nakal $15WPS Icabad Crane
Total Wagers: $190.00

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Dave Litfin

1. Big Brown 2. Anak Nakal 3. Denis of Cork

Recent history says this is not the time to send it in on a horse going for the elusive Triple Crown. This year's candidate has only the second best last-out Beyer and will run with a patched quarter crack on his left front hoof. Unless you're selling framed win tickets from the three-race series on eBay at a nice mark-up, 2-5 is about all Big Brown can do for you. At the same time, taking perhaps 3-1 on Casino Drive to win the Belmont as a clear second choice doesn't seem like much of a bargain, either, no matter how impressive he was in the Peter Pan. As exacta bettors eventually learn from painful experience, the two best horses aren't always the most probable one-two finishers. Such a scenario could occur with Big Brown and Casino Drive, who will probably indulge Da'Tara with the early lead while positioned in front of the others in a game of cat-and-mouse, and quicken in tandem around the far turn. Whichever one survives an enervating duel probably wins, but the other is vulnerable to any of several late-running types that don?t look as good on paper. Big Brown could run back to his Kentucky Derby figure and invite comparisons to the all-time greats. Or he might have too much pent-up energy after missing several days of training He was trying to get away from me early,said his exercise rider, Michelle Nevin, after Tuesday's workout and find himself running on fumes by the quarter pole. Based on his pedigree and two blowout wins nearly 7,000 miles apart, Casino Drive might be a truly special horse; or this might be a case of too much, too soon. Either way, it's quite possible one will crack, but probably not both. To capitalize in the exacta, it makes sense to key one of them and try to get someone else to pick up the pieces for second. I will bet Big Brown is the survivor, and key him over the 3-4-7 finishers from the Derby. For every $1 using Denis of Cork (improved 10 positions in the final quarter, candidate to improve) and Tale of Ekati (hot trainer, horse for course), I will take $2 with Anal Nakal in the hopes he can provide Nick Zito with his seventh runner-up finish in the Belmont. Most recently, the Zito-trained Birdstone ($74) and Andromeda's Hero (second at 11-1) each ran eighth in the Derby and improved five weeks later.

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Casino Drive scratched from Belmont with hoof injury
June 7, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) -Casino Drive was scratched from the Belmont Stakes hours before the final leg of the Triple Crown on Saturday morning due to a bruised left hind hoof.

Racing manager Nobutaka Tada for Casino Drive's Japanese connections said the horse was fine during a three-furlong jog early Saturday, but appeared to be favoring the hoof while receiving a bath following the workout.

Casino Drive was the early second choice behind Triple Crown favorite Big Brown.

Tada said the decision to scratch the Peter Pan Stakes winner was a precautionary measure. He classified the injury as minor, but didn't want to take any chances during the grueling 1 1/2-mile race.

Casino Drive developed symptoms on Friday, and was held out of his morning gallop. He was treated with ice overnight and showed no ill effects while on the track early Saturday.

``It's not serious, it's just a matter of timing,'' Tada said. ``The horse is OK.''

The horse will be shipped back to Japan on Tuesday, but could return later this year to run in the Breeders' Cup.

Casino Drive may have a stone bruise, which can be caused by walking on hard, rocky ground. The colt has been walked all over Belmont Park's horse paths this week, a training technique favored by the Japanese. American trainers typically gallop or jog their horses on the track in the days leading to a race.

``It's very sad,'' Tada said. ``Many people support us. It's sad that we couldn't meet the expectations.''

Tada said he wasn't sure if scratching Casino Drive would make it easy for Big Brown to become the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years.

``I don't know (but) I'd like to see him win,'' he said.

Big Brown's trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. was not available for comment. The brash Dutrow had downplayed the threat of Casino Drive all week, saying there was no horse in the field talented enough to take on his talented bay colt.

Big Brown, who had an acrylic patch placed on his front left foot Friday to repair a small crack, was resting comfortably inside Barn 2 on Saturday morning. A retaining wall was set up outside the barn to keep the media and well-wishers at bay.

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