Well, you can’t say the 2017 Triple Crown trail didn’t provide enough twists and turns, highs and lows, and performances that defy explanation. The only horse able to put together anything even resembling a winning streak was Kentucky Derby – Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming, as we saw a rash of unexplained flops from top-class horses all winter and spring.
So, here we are at the end of the road -- the often unpredictable Belmont Stakes, without the Kentucky Derby or Preakness winner; without the favorite Classic Empire, a late defection; and with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the head of the Japanese invader Epicharis, the morning line second choice. The favorite is a horse who was beaten 16 1/2 lengths in the Kentucky Derby and who wasn’t even going to run in the Belmont until his trainer had a change of heart.
What we are left with is a perplexing, but entertaining field of 12, any one of whom can win this race without people gasping in shock.
So, from a betting angle, as much of a fan as I have been of Irish War Cry since his sensational maiden victory at Laurel last year, and through his so far topsy turvy career, I really want no part in any favorites in this race.
And, although I was prepared to go all in on Epicharis, based on his outstanding pedigree and form vs. Thunder Snow, I have to temper my enthusiasm after the colt didn’t go the track on Thursday after being treated with butazolidan for lameness in his right front foot following an offbeat five-furlong workout in 1:06, in which he dawdled early and flew home late. Now I have no idea what to make of him or if he’s even going to run, even though his trainer announced that he was a go. Regardless of the question marks surrounding him, I want no part of his 4-1 morning line odds, right behind Irish War Cry’s 7-2.
Even Lookin At Lee and Tapwrit, at 5-1 and 6-1, respectably, are too low for my taste, although I could certainly make a case for Tapwrit, who reminds me a lot of Destin last year. But when a horse is coming off back-to-back defeats by double-digit margins, I want better odds than that.
To cut right to the chase, I am looking for big bucks only, and therefore will box Twisted Tom (20-1), Gormley (8-1), J Boys Echo (15-1), and Senior Investment (12-1). Heck, even 8-1 on Gormley is too low for me, but I love the way John Shirreffs has prepared him for the race with impressive six-furlong and seven-furlong works, which is as old school as you’re going to find these days. Gormley, who normally works in company, often cutting inside his workmate at the top of the stretch, had to work seven furlongs by himself when his workmate cast himself in his stall that morning, and he turned in a strong move in 1:26 1/5, while being pushed along most of the way. He has the pedigree, he’s a dual grade I winner and he’s dead-fit.
As I mentioned previously about Twisted Tom’s pedigree, his dam is by a Belmont winner, his second dam is by a Belmont winner, his third dam is by a Belmont winner, and his fourth dam is by the sire of a Belmont winner. Even that sire is out of a dam by a Belmont winner. I also like the switch from Fergal Lynch to Javier Castellano, his trainer, Chad Brown, who is the hottest trainer in the country, his stalking style of running, and being undefeated in three starts since the addition of blinkers. He also has defeated O Dionysus in the Private Terms and Federico Tesio Stakes, and O Dionysus was beaten a nose by Irish War Cry in the Marylander Stakes.
I normally don’t like late closers in the Belmont, but Senior Investment has been improving with every start and I loved his powerful late surges to win the Lexington Stakes and get up for third in the Preakness, neither of which looked likely at the head of the stretch. His Beyers have increased each race, and Kenny McPeek is one of the most dangerous trainers in the country, having already won the Belmont with 70-1 shot Sarava and finished third with 20-1 shot Atigun. McPeek revealed last night on our BlogTalkRadio show "Switching Leads" that Senior Investment had been clipping himself when running and has undergone acupuncture treatment, as well as some other tweaking. So who knows if we'll see even more improvement than expected.
Finally, we come to J Boys Echo, my big win bet at 47-1 in the Kentucky Derby. I threw out the strangely run Blue Grass Stakes and am going to throw out his 15th-place finish in the Derby, in which he was hammered at the start, dropped to the back of the field, and just stayed there, apparently not handling the slop and getting seemingly lost with all the mud getting kicked in his face. If bettors are going to throw out Irish War Cry’s and Gormley’s and Tapwrit’s and Patch’s performances at Churchill Downs, there is no reason not to throw out J Boys Echo’s.
Let’s not forget, he still has the fastest Beyer speed figure in the field in winning the Gotham Stakes, in which he defeated eventual Preakness winner Cloud Computing by 3 1/2 lengths, his trainer Dale Romans has managed four third-place finishes in the Belmont, he gets his regular rider Robbie Albarado back, and Albarado nearly won the Belmont with Curlin, falling a head short. I also loved his last work, especially how strong and how far he galloped out, and he looks to have held his flesh beautifully.
And I have little concern about the distance, as his dam is inbred to the classy stayer Tatan, winner of the Argentine Triple Crown, as well as the Carlos Pellegrini and Gran Premio Ramirez, Argentina’s and Uruguay’s versions of the Arc de Triomphe. By Horse of the Year Mineshaft, a son of Belmont winner A.P. Indy, and a female family that goes back to Belmont winner Damascus and English Derby winner Sir Ivor, the Belmont should be within his scope if he’s good enough. He’s a midpack-type of horse, so he should be able to move up gradually and be in striking position turning for home.
So, whether it’s a sucker bet or not going back to him, I am taking a shot again and betting him to win at 15-1. Like many of the others, I feel he deserves another shot.
As a saver, I was going to key Epicharis in the exactas over longshots Twisted Tom, J Boys Echo, and Senior Investment, but that is very tentative right now, and I’m extremely apprehensive about doing that considering everything that’s going on with him.
So, basically, it’s the four-horse exacta box and the win bet on J Boys Echo, and putting an end to this year’s bizarre Triple Crown season.
Bring on the Haskell.
(In the Met Mile, I like an exacta box of Denman’s Call (a huge overlay at 15-1), Tom’s Ready, and Awesome Slew, and hope the track is not speed-favoring, as Belmont tends to get. If Denman’s Call’s odds are anywhere near that then a win bet is in order as well)