Belmont Stakes Service Plays
Re: Belmont Stakes Service Plays
2 DUNKIRK 4/1 Dunkirk did not exactly make an immediate splash in the water. He never had a chance to. This well-bred son of Unbridled’s Song never made it to the races as a two-year-old. Minor shin problems placed his racing career on hold. One has to believe that at some juncture, as a juvenile, this Todd Pletcher trained runner showed some type of promise. So, Dunkirk was given all the time necessary to put that problem behind.
When Dunkirk finally made his belated debut at Gulfstream Park on January 24, he did so with a steady, prolonged, and evenly-spaced, workout regimen at the Palm Meadows training center. To say he was well-prepared would be understated. Despite working out away from prying eyes at Gulfstream Park, Dunkirk was bet down to an 8-5 favoritism. There are some secrets that are not meant to be kept. Overcoming a lethargic start that day, with jockey Edgar Prado aboard, Dunkirk was forced to subsequently steady around the far turn. Undeterred, when he was finally in the clear, he accelerated nicely in the stretch to gain the lead, eventually winning by 5 3/4 lengths under modest encouragement. Dunkirk had lived up to his advanced notices, and even better things lay ahead for him. Dunkirk returned to the races rather quickly, tackling a field of preliminary Allowance runners around two turns on February 19. In addition, he would stretch out to 1 1/8 miles, and would be saddled with an outside post as well. Dispatched as the 6-5 favorite, Dunkirk was impressive once again in victory. A wide trip while losing valuable ground throughout, did nothing to discourage him, as he improved his position heading into the far turn under new jockey Garrett Gomez. Upon entering the stretch, he was kicked into overdrive, spurting away to a daylight lead and then continued to the wire. Dunkirk had accomplished much in a relatively short amount of time. And yet, even more would be asked of him the following month, as he would make his stakes debut in the Grade 1 Florida Derby.
In my opinion, the Florida Derby was a two-horse affair between Quality Road and Dunkirk. A sense of urgency was present for Dunkirk to win the Florida Derby as he had not won a penny of graded stakes money. A win would ensure him a spot in the Kentucky Derby. A second-place finish, or worse in the race, would place him on the bubble. Dunkirk not only had to beat six rivals in the Florida Derby, but he had a significant speed bias to overcome as well. His off-the-pace running style would not be flattered by the prevailing bias, and he would be disadvantaged by a lack of pace in the race as well. Also, he had never faced a horse that was even close to the caliber of Quality Road. But, Dunkirk didn’t know all that. When Gomez ‘chirped’ to him halfway down the Gulfstream Park backstretch, almost instantaneously, Dunkirk was in full stride. He made up ground so rapidly that jockey John Velasquez, who was aboard Quality Road was caught off guard as Dunkirk gained a brief, but tenuous lead. However, Quality Road was nowhere near done. The eventual winner responded readily when asked to quicken, slowly edging away from Dunkirk in the final furlong to register a 1 3/4 length victory. Dunkirk acquitted himself quite well in defeat. In fact, it was his best effort to date, despite finishing second, he gave away a huge tactical edge to the winner over a speed-biased track. His sustained bid from the backstretch to the furlong marker virtually sapped all the energy out of him, and he could not complete what he started, despite giving it his all. Of course he was tired ‘pulling up’ after the race. He had just run the race of his life in just his third career effort, and he was playing ‘catch-up’ due to an unscheduled late start.
Following the Florida Derby, Quality Road was going to be my selection to win the Kentucky Derby. I felt he had the most upside of all his three year old rivals. He possessed excellent tactical speed, a pedigree to handle the 1 ¼ mile distance, and a top trainer in Jimmy Jerkens calling the shots. Unfortunately, for Quality Road, and his connections, he developed a quarter crack in his right front foot shortly after the Florida Derby, which made his status for the Derby uncertain. A second quarter crack was spotted less than two weeks before the big dance. On the Monday before the "Run for the Roses", Jerkins declared him out of the race. With the likely favorite on the sidelines, the big money would be spread out between Dunkirk, Friesan Fire, and Pioneerof the Nile. I knew where my money was going, and that was on Dunkirk. My reasoning was simple. If I felt that Quality Road was the best three year old, and Dunkirk ran a strong second to him, despite his lack of seasoning, any improvement would be more than enough to handle what I felt were a bunch of mediocre three year olds!
Dunkirk arrived at Churchill Downs the Tuesday before the Derby. I had heard from a reliable source that he acted up badly when schooling in the paddock the following day. I was concerned about this behavior, and hoped that he would become more relaxed as he got more acclimated with his new surroundings. I did get my chance on Saturday, as I watched intently when Dunkirk was led in to his stall to be saddled. He showed no signs of being unsettled and at no point did he fight his handlers. Once the tack was put on, and he was led into the walking ring to circle around his admirers, Dunkirk took in all sights very calm and collected. I felt that he was now ready to do battle with his eighteen rivals.
As a result of intermittent showers on Friday, which became heavier throughout the evening, the main track was listed sloppy on Saturday. The forecast called for more rain throughout the day, but it never materialized. Without any sun, and cool weather throughout the afternoon, the track never dried out. When the Derby rolled around, it was evident that the field would be running over a very tricky surface. The track was saturated with water and very heavy to the hooves running over it. It is track conditions like this, which plays havoc to form. Horses either relish the goo or hate it. In the case of the 50-1 upset winner Mine That Bird, who took to the track like a fish takes to water, the rest of the field, who were left in his wake, were just spinning their wheels over it. On first glance, you might think that Dunkirk fit this profile, but on closer inspection, it was not the slop that did him in, it was his journey, and it was horrific from the start. As soon as the gate opened, Dunkirk stumbled badly and almost went down. Jockey Edgar Prado had to hold on for dear life not to fall off, but his uncanny riding skills, allowed him to stay aboard, and get Dunkirk back on stride. As he approached the first turn, Prado had to put on the brakes as he was forced to take up when squeezed between horses. Dunkirk found himself towards the back of the pack. He was able to launch a mild rally, approaching the far turn, but it was short lived. The best he could do was run eleventh, in a “better than it looked” performance.
Dunkirk’s connections showed no interest in running him in the Preakness two weeks later. Instead he would ship back to his home base at Belmont Park to prepare for the Belmont Stakes. It took only sixteen days to recover from this hard effort. Dunkirk worked 4 furlongs on May 18. His time of: 47 1/5 breezing, was the quickest of sixty horses who worked the same distance that morning. He was back on his game and ready to redeem himself.
What should we expect from Dunkirk in the Belmont Stakes? He was my selection to win the Kentucky Derby and he will once again be my choice to earn top honors in the third leg of the Triple Crown. The Belmont Stakes is considered The Test of Champions. The 1 ½ mile distance is uncharted waters for all three years. Many talented horses that have looked like sure winners with an eighth of a mile to the finish line, simply run out of steam. The Belmont Stakes has proven not to be kind to deep closers, like Mine That Bird, who figure to be overbet off his Derby win and a fast closing second in the Preakness. Many people will believe that if he can make up so much ground at a shorter distance, then he should benefit the longer he goes. Horses that have tactical speed, win most Belmont’s, especially if they can relax early on in the race, and receive a well timed ride, as they make their move to the lead. Those who are racing towards the back of the pack expend too much energy to catch up. Because of the distance, Dunkirk will race in mid pack, and make his move on the far turn. He has a long stride that will benefit from the wide sweeping turns at Belmont, in contrast to the tighter turns, like he would have had to negotiate at Pimlico in the Preakness. Trainer Todd Pletcher is making a jockey change to John Velazquez, who is Pletchers’ main go to rider. Velazquez has not been aboard Dunkirk before. He had ridden Quality Road to victory in both the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby, in preparation for the Kentucky Derby. Pletcher hooked up with Velazquez to win the 2007 Belmont Stakes aboard the filly Rags to Riches, who then upset two time horse of the year Curlin.
6 CHARITABLE MAN 3/1 If you are looking for a stranger to back in the Belmont Stakes, Charitable Man fits the bill. In a year where the three year old crop is at best just an average one, a fresh horse, which has not been put through the rigors of the Triple Crown trail, must be respected. When you also throw into the mix that Charitable Man has excellent tactical speed, is based at Belmont Park, and is trained by one of the finest horseman in the country, it just adds to his allure. Charitable Man could not have been more impressive when he won his debut last August at Saratoga. Right from the start, he zipped to the lead, put away pace pressure on the far turn, and drew off to a convincing win in very fast time. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin thought so much of Charitable Man’s victory, that in his first start at Belmont Park he quickly moved him into stakes company in the Grade 2 Futurity. Bet down to the 7-5 favorite, he did not disappoint. Despite scoring by only one length, his win was much more impressive than it looked on paper. In his debut, Charitable Man went wire to wire. In the futurity, he was taken back towards the rear of the pack in a seven horse field. On the far turn, jockey Alan Garcia let him loose with a wide sweeping move, and within an instant, Charitable Man inhaled his competition. He needed only a strong hand,urging to post his second impressive victory. Two weeks after the Futurity, McLaughlin discovered the colt had a saucer fracture in his shin. This untimely injury required surgery and a screw had to be inserted in his leg. It was removed in early December. His rehabilitation took place in the pool (called an Aqua-ciser). Soon,Charitable Man was on his way to a complete recovery. He returned to training at the end of January. It wasn’t long after, that his connections began to get Derby fever.
Charitable Man did most of his training at Palm Meadows in Florida. Each workout was stronger than the previous one. He had accumulated a $150,000 in graded earnings, based on his win in the Futurity as a two year old, which put him in the running for a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby. All he needed was to hit the board in the Grade 1 Bluegrass at Keeneland, to secure his spot in the gate. McLaughlin knew that it would be a tough task for Charitable Man to win a Grade 1 race off a seven month layoff and an injury which could have been a career ending one. When he drew post nine, his prospects became dimmer. Time was running out, so there was no other recourse but to run. Charitable Man had never run over a synthetic surface, but a few weeks prior to the Bluegrass, he was shipped to Ocala (OBS), and was able to train over it. He showed a fondness for the surface, which gave his connections confidence that he could handle it at Keeneland. Nevertheless, many horses work well over synthetic surfaces,but, don’t respond the same way on race day. Right from the start in the Bluegrass, Charitable Man was hung out very wide, and could make no impact when asked to run on the far turn. He ended up running seventh, beaten nearly eight lengths. At first glance, it did not appear that coming off a race like that, would inspire much confidence, that he was ready to be competitive in the Derby. However, McLaughlin had a far different opinion. Jockey Garcia said right from the start that Charitable Man could not handle the surface. He came out of the race in excellent shape. Owner Bill Warren agreed with McLaughlin that it would be wise to pass the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and instead point for the Belmont Stakes. They would use the Grade 2 Peter Pan on May 9 as a “key” stepping stone towards their ultimate goal. McLaughlin never wavered in his confidence. In the days leading up to the race, he believed that Charitable Man was going to bounce back in a big way. True to his word, he got just what he was looking for, a decisive victory over six other rivals, which would set him up beautifully for the Belmont four weeks later. Personally, I felt that he sat a perfect trip, inheriting the lead from a very tired pacesetter in mid stretch. The second place finisher Imperial Council, came back to run a dismal eighth in the Shadwell Met Mile on Memorial Day.
What should we expect from Charitable Man in the Belmont Stakes? There are too many positives to dismiss his chances to run a winning race. He will have to take another big step forward off his win in the Peter Pan, but the verdict is still out on how good he really is. Clearly Charitable Man is a “live” wild card for reasons mentioned earlier. With the exception of Miner’s Escape, who I would consider “cheap speed”, he will have the perfect target to run at. If he can open a nice lead turning for home, he will have a tactical advantage over the closers. If he can stay the grueling 1 ½ mile distance, his chances for a mild upset becomes that much better. His pedigree says he should be able to. His sire Lemon Drop Kid, won the 1999 Belmont Stakes. Kiaran McLaughlin also has a Belmont victory to his credit, training Jazil to win the 2006 Belmont, despite having just a maiden win to his credit. I will be using Charitable Man on all my tickets.
7 MINE THAT BIRD 2/1 If you told me before the Kentucky Derby that Mine That Bird would upset the field, run second in the Preakness, and go off the favorite in the Belmont Stakes, I would think you were out of your mind and then some. Mine That Bird had shown nothing in his three year old form to consider him a viable contender in the Derby. It was just a matter of how far back he would be at the finish. When he crossed the wire in front, leaving the rest of the field in his wake, I looked up at the tote board thinking he was 99-1. When I noticed he was just 50-1, I was stunned, thinking that maybe someone knew something that I didn’t. When it turned out that the owner and trainer did not bet a dime, and that the connections who owned Mine That Bird prior to selling him, bet $10.00 across the board, his low price could only be a result of Calvin Borel being aboard. Borel is a fan favorite at Churchill Downs. He had won the Kentucky Oaks the day before aboard Rachel Alexandra, as well as several races on the undercard on Friday and Saturday. I, like many others, thought his easy win in the Derby was a result of Mine That Bird relishing the sloppy track, closing up the inside, which was the best part of the track that day, and running by very tired horses that disliked the going. For all those reasons, I picked against him in the Preakness, even though I did use him underneath Rachel Alexandra in the trifecta on my stakes sheet. I must admit, that Mine That Bird fooled me again. It was a no brainer that Borel was going to ride Rachel over the Bird if she was entered in the Preakness. When owner Jess Jackson gave the green light to run, Mike Smith was chosen as the new rider. Everyone knew that similar closing tactics would be employed. No one can argue that Rachel was a deserving winner. Actually, I felt she ran a better race than Mine That Bird, as she did all the dirty work to help his late kick. Rachel had to be hard used when the gate opened, in order to secure a good position from her outside post. She chased a quick pace, and then had to make a strong middle move to take command midway on the far turn. From that point on to the finish, Rachel had to run very hard. Not unexpectedly, she was a very tired horse in deep stretch, but was able to hold on because of her ability and a big heart. It was likely that Rachel would have been run down by the Bird if the race was a bit longer and if Mike Smith was not forced to steady behind a wall of horses approaching the stretch while in full flight. Smith had to swing out very wide into the stretch and the Bird took off again to go after the filly and simply ran out of ground. He made a believer out of me. Even in defeat, the Bird impressed me as much as he did in the Derby. In the Preakness, he was able to duplicate his form over a dry surface, rallying outside of horses and overcoming adversity, which was a totally different set of circumstances from what he was faced with in Kentucky. What the Preakness also proved to me, was that Mine That Bird was on the improve and the rest of his male counterparts were not only average at best (with the exception of Musket Man, who runs his A race every time he sets foot on the track), but were “over the top” and in need of a rest.
The million dollar question is how Mine That Bird became the best three year old male in the country in just a matter of a few weeks, when he had proven to be several notches below in ability than what he was going to face in the Kentucky Derby. The only way I can explain it is twofold. He peaked at the right time, and responded to totally different riding tactics than what he was used to running in all his prior starts. Mine That Bird has proven without a doubt, that he wants to be taken far back early in the race and then begin his closing run midway on the far turn. What is amazing about the Bird is that he can sustain his rally for as long as he does. When every horse begins to tire in deep stretch, he continues to fly on.
What can we expect from Mine That Bird in the Belmont Stakes? With the exception of Dunkirk, Chocolate Candy and the new shooter Charitable Man, any of the other horses would be a surprise if they were to win. Mine That Bird has earned the right to be the choice of the public. Because the race is 1 ½ miles, there is a big question mark whether his rivals can handle the distance. I don’t feel that this will be the case at all with the Bird. Nevertheless, as the favorite, I prefer to go with Dunkirk, who I feel was eliminated early on in the Derby. If he runs the race I expect he will, then Mine That Bird will have to snatch him from behind. It’s very possible, but my money says he won’t. My opinion may turn out to be wrong, but always remember, you can still make money if you wager correctly. That is why I provide you my wagering strategies. I am not so foolish that I will not put the Bird on top on some of my suggested tickets.
Re: Belmont Stakes Service Plays
1 CHOCOLATE CANDY 10/1 If you feel that Pioneerof the Nile was a major contender to win the Kentucky Derby, than you would have had to consider Chocolate Candy as well. These horses have faced each other twice. Pioneer won both times. They met as 2 year olds in the Cash Call Futurity, a race in which Pioneer defeated Candy by 1 ½ lengths. They met again in the Santa Anita Derby on April 4. Candy rallied from off the pace to fall a length short. Despite the defeat, I felt he ran just as well as his rival .The complexion of the race changed dramatically when speedballs Z Day and The Pamplemousse were both late scratches. They would have ensured fast fractions which would have benefitted a horse like Chocolate Candy, who likes to lay back, and make one late run. Confronted with a new pace scenario in which the early fractions would be much slower, Candy was faced with a much tougher task in trying to run down the heavy favorite Pioneerof the Nile. As the field approached the stretch, Candy was last of seven. He sustained a strong wide rally, but simply ran out of ground and had to settle for second. His trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who is the perennial “king” of racing in northern California, indicated in the days leading up to the race that Chocolate Candy would not be at his best. He just wanted to get a strong race into Candy to set him up for a peak performance the first Saturday in May. Hollendorfer got just what he wanted. The question being: could Chocolate Candy be considered a major player? My main concern was that Chocolate Candy had never raced outside of California, and all nine starts had been on synthetic surfaces. Despite running on conventional dirt for the first time at Churchill, as well as over a sloppy track, he ran very well. Chocolate was squeezed back soon after the start, finding himself quickly in seventeenth place. He rallied through traffic for a fifth place finish.
What should we expect from Chocolate Candy in the Belmont Stakes? Hollendorfer wisely passed the Preakness. He shipped Chocolate to Belmont a few days after the race to prepare for the "Test of Champions'. He has acclimated himself very well since arriving. Candy has worked three times over the track. I love the spacing of his morning drills. He has worked 4 furlongs, 6 furlongs and 7 furlongs. His final workout was an easy 5 furlongs last Monday. It was by design that the emphasis was clearly on building up his stamina. His pedigree points out that Chocolate Candy should be well suited to the 1 ½ mile distance. His sire Candy Ride won the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at 1 ¼ miles. His dam traces back to Triple Crown winner Affirmed. His trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, whom I have always had great respect for, has trained several Grade 1 winners such as King Glorious, winner of the 1988 Hollywood Futurity and the 1989 Haskell. Heatseeker won the 2008 Santa Anita Handicap. Hysterical Lady ran a close second in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Hollendorfer has also won two Kentucky Oaks with Lite Lite and Pike Place Dancer. Obviously, he has shown an uncanny knack at winning prestigious races with northern California based horses. Chocolate Candy likes to be taken in hand early in the race and settle into his nice fluid stride before making his run. In the Belmont, he will be ridden for the first time by Garrett Gomez, who in my opinion, is the finest rider in the country. He is very good on front runners, but Gomez is at his best riding horses that rally from off the pace. I would not be shocked if Chocolate Candy wins the Belmont, but an “in the money” finish is more likely. He will be used in my exactas and trifectas.
Re: Belmont Stakes Service Plays
Game: #6 at Belmont Stakes
Calvin Borel looks to make history in tomorrow?s 141st running of the Belmont as the first jockey to sweep the Triple Crown Races on different horses. Borel was brilliant in guiding Mine That Bird to a 50-1 upset win in the slop at the Derby then begged off ?The Bird? to cash the Preakness with super amazon Rachel Alexandra. Saturday, Borel is reunited with Mine That Bird and is the 2-1 favorite breaking from post seven.
DMack likes #6 Charitable Man to spring a minor upset and take down the Belmont trophy. Why ??? Several reasons.
Charitable Man was considered a top two-year-old and was thought to be a major player in this year?s Triple Crown before a minor fracture set his training back to where he was unable to compete in the Derby despite having enough money on his card to qualify.
Trained by the formidable Kiaran McLaughlin who won the Blemont with Jazil, Charitable Man was clearly short finishing seventh in the Blue Grass before crushing eight opponents in the Peter Pan. He?s a big horse with excellent tactical speed and ridden by the white-hot Alan Garcia.
Not much bad to say bad about Mine That Bird but the Triple Crown Trifecta is a real grind (War Emblem, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, Big Brown) and the recent history of the race has not been favorable to late closers. In fact, since 2000, just one horse worse than second with a quarter-mile to go went on to win the race and that horse was third and less then a length back.
IMO, hard to see Mine That Bird at least getting a piece so lets play Charitable Man to win and over a box of Miner?s Escape, Dunkirk, and Mine That Bird for your exotics.
Re: Belmont Stakes Service Plays
Belmont Stakes picks
1st #4 Summer Bird 12/1....Ready to explode late today
2nd #7 Mine that Bird 2/1...Borel comes up short
3rd #9 Miners Escape 15/1...Bomber shot on front end
4th #6 Charitable Man 3/1...can go all the way on the front
5th #2 Dunkirk 4/1....exotics a must
play Summer Bird ,w,p,s keying the exotics
Re: Belmont Stakes Service Plays
Our selection on Saturday is on Flying Private "across the board" -- that is, separate bets on Flying Private to Win, Place and Show. This year's edition of the Belmont Stakes may be lacking in some of the drama of recent years -- like just 12 months ago when Big Brown was going for the Triple Crown -- since no horse will be in that position this Saturday. Oddly enough however, a jockey will be in the position of winning all three legs as Calvin Borel, who won the Derby with Mine That Bird and then took the Preakness with the Super Filly Rachel Alexandra, will be back on Mine That Bird (with Rachel not running) and have a chance at that rare feat. Mine That Bird has gone from 50-1 in his winning upset in the Derby to 6-1 with a strong runner-up performance in the Preakness, to likely favorite on Saturday. Any thought that Mine That Bird was a complete fluke who only did what he did in the Derby because of the wet track, or the ride by Borel, were pretty much put to rest in the Preakness when the gelding made a spirited run at Rachel Alexandra and was closing at the finish. The problem is, at likely odds of less than 2-1, you won't be getting any value on the Bird. But there was another horse in that Preakness race who was also closing at the finish and who is running on Saturday and with who you will get great value. That horse is the D. Wayne Lucas-trained Flying Private. Lucas is no stranger to winning this race, something he's accomplished four times in his Hall of Fame career, and not always with the favorite. In 2000, he won the Belmont with 18-1 shot Commendable and Flying Private should be about the same odds come Saturday. This colt is regally bred, by the Fusiachi Pegasus, the son of the great Mr. Prospector and winner of the 2005 Kentucky Derby and he is out of an Unbridled mare named Beautiful Treasure. Fusaichi Pegasus' off-spring have shown a wealth of class and stamina on the racetrack and although Flying Private would surprise a lot of people if he won, certainly nobody who was handicapping on pedigree would consider this an upset. There is another very good reason to like Flying Private and that is the fact that one of the best young Jockeys in the country, Julien Leparoux will be along for the ride. Leparoux is known for moving horses up off of previous races, and certainly Flying Private's performance in the Preakness was nothing to sneeze at so if Leparoux works his magic then he should be right there at the end. You have to love this colt's closing style as he simply ran out of ground at Pimlico but at Belmont Park, where the turns are sweeping and the stretch seems to go on forever, Flying Private may well find his best gear inside the quarter pole and don't be surprised if he looks like Mine That Bird did in the Derby, picking off horses one-by-one. You may very well be saying "who was that" as he crosses the finish line. Take Flying Private in the Belmont ACROSS THE BOARD -- that is to Win, Place and Show.
Re: Belmont Stakes Service Plays
Doc's 2009 Belmont Stakes Picks
2009 Belmont Stakes Picks
1st place horse - #7 Mine That Bird
2nd place horse - #1 Chocolate Candy
3rd place horse - #4 Summer Bird
$100 recommended bet
$4 Exacta on 7 with 1,2,4,6,8 = $20
$1 Trifecta - 7 / 1,2,4,6,8 / 1,2,4,6,8 = $20
$1 Superfecta - 7 / 1,2,4,6,8 / 1,2,4,6,8 / 1,2,4,6,8 = $60
Re: Belmont Stakes Service Plays
2009 Belmont Stakes Picks and Predictions
The third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown takes place today as the 141st running of the Belmont Stakes is set to run at Belmont Park from Elmont, New York.
Our team of writers and handicappers hand out their picks for the Belmont.
Bet the 2009 Belmont Stakes
Win: Mine That Bird 4/3
Trust us, we’re not taking the easy way out in predicting the favorite to win – Mine That Bird is just that powerful. After claiming victory at the Kentucky Derby despite being a 50/1 long shot, he finished second at the 2009 Preakness proving that his performance at Churchill Downs wasn’t a fluke. One of the fears is that Mine That Bird is fatigued after two huge races, but he’s one of those rare horses in that he never seems to run out of energy. He’s an outstanding galloper, uses powerful strides to sustain leads and is being ridden by one of the finer jockeys in horse racing in Calvin Borel. And not that weather should be a factor, but don’t forget that Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby despite sloppy conditions.
Place: Charitable Man 3/1
There’s a reason why Charitable Man has 3/1 odds despite not running in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. He’s currently undefeated at Belmont Park and also undefeated on dirt, which makes him a great value pick, although we hope his odds rise before post time. He’s also fresh and oddsmakers have liked him since day one, which speaks volumes about his chances to potentially knock off favorite Mine That Bird.
Show: Flying Private 18/1
Our long shot sleeper to jump up into the payouts is Flying Private, who has the experience in big races to potentially make a run of things on Saturday. He finished 19th at the Kentucky Derby, but then massively improved in his next race, the Preakness, by finishing fourth. The Belmont is a huge track and with a little luck, the big strider could offer a huge payday for bettors.
The 141st running of the Belmont Stakes is today, with the post time being at 6:30PM ET. The race will be live from Belmont Park in Elmont, New York and for complete odds on today’s race, see below. Also, be sure to check out our 2009 Belmont Stakes Viewing Guide for more information.
Bet the 2009 Belmont Stakes
Re: Belmont Stakes Service Plays
The top contenders…
MINE THAT BIRD won the Kentucky Derby at 50-1, then was a strong 2nd to Rachel Alexandra at 6-1 in the Preakness Stakes, now he's probable 6-5 favorite; CHARITABLE MAN, lightly raced, has two stakes wins at Belmont including the recent Peter Pan Stakes; DUNKIRK was nowhere in Louisville, but was a solid 2nd in the Florida Derby; CHOCOLATE CANDY was an OK 5th in the Kentucky Derby and 2nd in the Santa Anita Derby; SUMMER BIRD gained ground when 6th in Kentucky Derby; MINER'S ESCAPE is improving for trainer Nick Zito, who won this in 2008 with DA'TARA; FLYING PRIVATE was 4th despite traffic problems in the Preakness Stakes for a trainer with four Belmont wins.
How the race will be run…
CHARITABLE MAN is the logical front runner, with only MINER'S ESCAPE likely to be close enough through the first six or seven furlongs to impact the pace. DUNKIRK, CHOCOLATE CANDY, SUMMER BIRD, FLYING PRIVATE and the strong finishing MINE THAT BIRD all have good rallies, with MINE THAT BIRD the strongest of them from what we have seen so far. But if any of the stretch runners have to use their speed earlier than usual, or if CHARITABLE MAN is coasting along at a moderate pace under jockey Alan Garcia (who rode DA'TARA to victory last year) then he will be an elusive target.
My picks to win…
CHARITABLE MAN, a long striding son of the 1999 Belmont Stakes winner LEMON DROP KID, is fresh and perfectly trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, who won it with JAZIL in 2006. He should control the pace throughout.
CHOCOLATE CANDY, a strong looking sort with several long workouts over the track seems set for improved try at good odds.
MINE THAT BIRD's extraordinary late kick was effective at 10 furlongs and 1-3/16 miles in Louisville and Baltimore. Can he sustain that form in a slower paced 12-furlong race? Can jockey Calvin Borel complete his personal Triple Crown sweep? Maybe, but at 6-5 or so, I'll pass. DUNKIRK has trained well for this; might rebound.
My long shot…
In addition to CHOCOLATE CANDY, who I listed as my second pick in this race and my fourth preference DUNKIRK, I will be including stretch running SUMMER BIRD on my Trifecta and Superfecta tickets. A son of 2004 Belmont stakes winner BIRDSTONE (just like MINE THAT BIRD), SUMMER BIRD has a good long workout over the track with blinkers on to improve his concentration. Like CHARITABLE MAN, SUMMER BIRD is coming into the Belmont fresh and fit with only four lifetime starts and room to improve.
Re: Belmont Stakes Service Plays
The top contenders…
MINE THAT BIRD is at the head of the 3-year-old class (at least among the boys) with his victory in the Kentucky Derby and his equally impressive runner-up finish in the Preakness Stakes to the filly Rachel Alexandra, and he gets back the services of jockey Calvin Borel, who is going for an unprecedented sweep of the Triple Crown riding different horses. CHARITABLE MAN won the Peter Pan Stakes and is 2-for-2 over this Belmont track. DUNKIRK was the wise-guy horse before the Derby but was knocked around early and didn't get a chance to run his race.
How the race will be run…
With the 1 1/2-mile distance, don't expect anyone to set a torrid pace, but CHARITABLE MAN is expected to inherit the lead and he should be pushed by MINER'S ESCAPE from the barn of Nick Zito, who also trains BRAVE VICTORY. The rest of the field should be able to pick their spots and stalk the pace. This field is full of late runners such as MINE THAT BIRD, CHOCOLATE CANDY, MR. HOT STUFF, BRAVE VICTORY, FLYING PRIVATE and SUMMER BIRD, and it will likely come down to who gets first run on the leaders and who can sustain that bid.
My picks to win…
BRAVE VICTORY finished third in the Peter Pan over this track, but has legitimate excuses as he was too far back in that effort and should be more forwardly placed this time, plus jockey Rajiv Maragh lost his whip at the 3/16th pole yet BRAVE VICTORY still finished third. As a native New Yorker, Zito aims for this race as much as the Derby.
CHARITABLE MAN has only run one bad race in four career starts and that was on the synthetic surface at Keeneland; he's 3-for-3 on dirt and is the son of 1999 Belmont winner Lemon Drop Kid. His jockey, Alan Garcia, won the Belmont last year in wire-to-wire fashion with Da'Tara to foil Big Brown's Triple Crown bid.
MINE THAT BIRD, who won the Derby at odds of 50-1, isn't flying under anyone's radar anymore. He has shown a very strong closing kick and as the son of 2004 Belmont winner Birdstone (who foiled Smarty Jones' Triple Crown bid) should be able to get the added distance. He might just have more trouble with fresher horses shooting at him.
My long shot…
SUMMER BIRD's story is a familiar one as he had a rough ride in the Derby and had to run wide and never really had a chance, yet he still finished a game sixth. Like MINE THAT BIRD, he is also a son of Birdstone. Look for a similar effort to when he closed strong in the Arkansas Derby. Four of the last nine Belmont Stakes races were won by horses that ran in the Derby but skipped the Preakness.