This particular blog will serve two purposes. We will analyze the Belmont and also give our selections for the Draynay vs. the Blog Contest.
On the latter, you have until Friday, June 5 at noon EDT to submit your picks. In the comment section below, please provide your three picks for the Belmont. A consensus will be drawn from everyone's picks and I will post them, along with Draynay's picks, in a new blog on Friday afternoon.
Just so everyone understands the scoring, it will be done like golf - low score wins. Let's say the bloggers' consensus picks turn out to be Mine That Bird, Miner's Escape and Summer Bird. Wherever they finish a score will be assigned. If Mine That Bird wins he will get one (1) point. If Miner's Escape is third he will get three (3) points. And if Summer Bird is fourth he will get four (4) points. The total score of eight (8) will be compared to Dray's total points. Again, low score wins. Let's have a good time with this and remember, it's just for fun!
Now, on to the Belmont analysis.
Despite the absence of Rachel Alexandra, this has come up an intriguing race. Even though many seem to think this is a two-horse race between Mine That Bird (2-1) and Charitable Man (3-1), recent history of the Belmont has told us major upsets do happen. In the last 10 years alone, Lemon Drop Kid (29-1), Commendable (18-1), Sarava (70-1), Birdstone (36-1) Da' Tara (38-1) have all won this race in shocking fashion.
Keeping this is mind, it is very difficult for me to pick against Charitable Man. In talking to Kiaran McLaughlin before the Blue Grass Stakes, he said without hesitation that this is one of the best young horses he has ever trained. After what I saw in the Peter Pan, I don't doubt him.
For those who don't know, Charitable Man won the Futurity at Belmont in September and was thought to be one of the top Kentucky Derby prospects heading into 2009, but was diagnosed with a shin fracture a couple weeks later. He had surgery, in which a screw was inserted in his leg, and on Dec. 1 the screw was removed. When returning to the track for the first time in more than three months in January, McLaughlin was astounded by how fit the horse was despite being off the leg for so long. His training went so well that McLaughlin entered him in the Blue Grass, where he finished seventh.
McLaughlin chalked up the poor Blue Grass effort as having been off for seven months and also not taking to the Polytrack. His remarkable Peter Pan win on May 9 confirmed that the trainer was not bluffing. The horse is the real deal. He ran a sensational 1:34 1/5 mile and his final time of 1:47-flat was even better.
Charitable Man has two wins at Belmont (only Brave Victory even has a start over the track), should be forwardly-placed in a race without a lot of early speed, is making his third start off a layoff, and his daddy ( Lemon Drop Kid) won this race. It's hard to imagine that he won't run a big race. Based all of these factors and McLaughlin's confidence, I just don't see many in here that can challenge this guy on the lead. He is a fresh, talented horse.
Of course, Mine That Bird is one of the horses that can also win the race. His solid effort in the Preakness validated him, but will he get the pace scenario he likes and will his third race in six weeks catch up with him? Borel coming back on him should help, but I wouldn't be surprised if he regresses here. And as the probable favorite who needs the race to set up right for him, he is worth trying to beat.
Who are the best possibilities for upsets or to fill out exotics? Well, Dunkirk is a wild card. Until the race is run we won't know if his poor showing in the Derby was due to the muddy track and/or bad trip, or if he isn't as good as many thought. I happen to think he will run well here. I believe Pletcher when he says you can draw a line through the Derby. He has the highest Beyer in the race and should be better positioned in a smaller field.
The most likely longshot to hit the board for me is Mr. Hot Stuff. I was not crazy about this horse going into the Derby because of his closing style and it was his first start on dirt. But I think the race could set up better for him. His recent works also suggests he is ready for a top effort. Interestingly, John Velazquez and Edgar Prado have traded mounts on Dunkirk and Mr. Hot Stuff. Word is that Prado chose Mr. Hot Stuff.
Chocolate Candy, mostly because of his consistency and class, and Flying Private with new rider Julien Leparoux aboard, are also worth using in exotics.
As of now, the weather report calls for a dry Saturday, so the track condition shouldn't be a factor.
So I guess what Im saying is, even with all of recent upsets in the Belmont, I believe this race has the potential to be very chalky on top. Playing the late Pick 4 is probably the best way to find value. I'll post my selections for the Pick 4 on Friday.
As for the Belmont, it's Charitable Man for a big win ticket, an exacta box with Charitable Man, Dunkirk and Mr. Hot Stuff, and a trifecta with Charitable Man over Dunkirk, Mr. Hot Stuff, Mine That Bird, Chocolate Candy and Flying Private, whose nice, late move in the Preakness suggests that he is improving.
I look forward to seeing all of your selections!