We are ~48 hours out from the Belmont, and here's how I see the race. From the rail out...
Frac Daddy’s best race remains his 9 ¾-length maiden win going 8.5f last Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs. His soft 2nd in a slowly run Arkansas Derby (G1) is the lone bright spot in his 3yo campaign, and he was a non-factor in the Derby.
He’s by Scat Daddy, a branch of the Storm Cat line that is a question mark beyond 9 furlongs. His dam registered her three career wins between 5f and 6f, but she did have some group dynamic (which could help stretch her prodigy out). Frac Daddy’s half-brother by stamina influence Lemon Drop Kid won at 2 miles over the hurdles.
Trainer McPeek announced Frac Daddy will be sent from the rail (!?!) I could see him hitting the board if the track is speed favoring and he is able to work out a staking, up-close trip. Very minor bomb potential.
Freedom Child won the Peter Pan (G2) by a huge margin while front-running in the slop.
From the female family of Illinois Derby (G2) winner American Lion and 2013 juvenile champ Shanghai Bobby, his dam was a sprinter. His 2nd dam won the Oak Leaf (G1) going 8.5f, but that was her distance ceiling.
Freedom Child crushed the Peter Pan, but had a somewhat choppy stride and was getting out in stretch. He doesn’t look like a 12f horse to me, and he is stepping up in class and stretching way out. At less than 10-1, I'll play him to speed and fade.
Overanalyze has rotated wins and losses perfectly in eight starts. He encountered some traffic in the Derby, and he is not the type who is going to bull his way through chaos and pass 15 horses. At least he didn’t quit, getting up for 11th.
Rider John Velazquez will be looking for a clean stalking trip. I could see him hitting the board if conditions unfold in his favor, but I am generally against him here.
Giant Finish is the grinding type that sometimes can surprise bettors as they stretch out. He was coming again at the end of the 8.5f Battaglia and the 9f Spiral Stakes (G3). Tenth in the Derby was ok and about right for how he ran. His action is not pretty, and I prefer him on the synthetic. I can use him underneath in the tri or super if he’s a big price (he should be).
On his best day, Orb is the best horse in this race. While pace-aided, his Derby win was solid. He made an excellent sustained, wide run.
Orb's dam won going 12f (very significant) on the Keeneland turf, and Orb has a solid mind. He doesn’t waste much energy and is adaptable.
But, will we see his best? We didn't in Maryland, where Orb took a disappointing step backward (bounced) in the Preakness despite glowing workout reports. Under normal conditions, I’d want to see more than three weeks in order to play him now to return to top form. But guessing on form cycles is just that, a guess.
I am not tying my day to him, but Orb is my top-rated horse in the field, and I will definitely be using him to some degree in the exotics.
Incognito has not run nearly fast enough to win this race, but there are two things that make him interesting: a strong pedigree (by A.P. Indy and out of G1 CCA Oaks (10f) winner Octave) and good closing energy at shorter distances. I could use him underneath in the tri or super at a big price.
Oxbow stole the Preakness on the front end. That has been the style in all three of his career wins. He should be forwardly placed here again, either up top or pressing the pace. The pedigree is good (by Awesome Again, out of a full sister to 2x Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow), and Oxbow is a win candidate if he gets another comfortable trip.
Midnight Taboo is a nice moving horse that has run well in three career starts, but he is ambitiously placed here. The Belmont is a ridiculously tough spot to make your two-turn debut (while stepping up in class from a NW1X defeat). Toss.
Revolutionary is by the hot (but deceased) sire War Pass and his dam won the Alabama Stakes (G1) going 10f, so he is a pedigree qualifier (on quality). Revolutionary ran well for third in the Derby, although he saved all the ground and was rallying into a favorable pace scenario. He doesn’t need to be so far back this time, and he has shown some finishing grit. Contender.
Will Take Charge received the most significant trouble note in this year’s Derby when he was rallying inside of the winner but rode up on heels and got stopped. How much that cost him is pure conjecture, but note that he did not re-gather himself very well, only getting up for 8th, and then he was nowhere in the Preakness. It would take some imagination to pick him on top.
Vyjack tired badly in the Kentucky Derby, and his speedy pedigree looks like he should be dropping down in distance, not stretching out. He’s not on any of my tickets unless I punch 'all' somewhere underneath.
Palace Malice ran off with first-time blinkers and set a wicked pace in the Derby. Blinkers off is a good move for him, but I don’t like him going 12f on his pre-blinker form either. I would only use him defensively in the vertical exotics.
Unlimited Budget is the only filly in this year’s field and thus gets a 5-pound weight allowance, a significant # going 12f. She has pressed some very legitimate fractions in her career, so I see some upside potential here if she encounters a slower pace. Running and pedigree-wise, I do feel she tilts toward speed a little too much to play her on top going 12f on a fair track. If a speed bias is detected early in the day, she moves up in my rankings.
Golden Soul hails from the Sadler’s Wells sire line, and that alone makes him a threat going 12f. He is out of an unraced Mr. Prospector mare, but his second dam Lady in Silver was a European highweight at age 3 going 9.5- 11f. Golden Soul has one of the better pedigrees in this race, and I thought he showed good energy throughout his Derby run, albeit pace aided. A WIDE trip looms from this post, but I like his chances to hit the board. My confidence in him will grow/diminish based on how the track is playing.