US Racing - Belmont Park card preview

It’s Belmont Stakes day and, although we will not be hailing a Triple Crown winner this year, the race looks fascinating. However, before we focus on the big race, we have to look at the other races on a spectacular undercard. To paraphrase a Frankie Valli song, it’s Oh What A Card with 6 Grade 1s. In fact the card is so stuffed with top quality races, we are going to have to be ultra selective in our preview and just look at the Grade 1 races.

Race: R3 Acorn Stakes

Grade: Grade 1

Age: 3 year old fillies

Distance: 1 mile

Purse: $700,000

A small but select field of 6 for this valuable mile race for three year old fillies. This looks a three horse race between Cathryn Sophia, Carina Mia and Go Maggie Go. Cathryn Sophia has beaten both these horses in Grade 1 events (Go Maggie Go in the Kentucky Oaks) but both have come back to record impressive wins since. This looks too close to call and a race to sit back and enjoy.

Race: R5 Ogden Phipps Stakes

Grade: Grade 1

Age: 4 year old and up fillies and mares

Distance: 1 1/16 miles

Purse: $1,000,000

There may only be a field of seven in this race but it is championship quality as it will effectively determine who is the top East Coast filly or mare. Curalina, marginal ML favorite at 3/1, comes here on the back of a devastating 7 ½ length in the grade 1 La Troienne at Churchill Downs. Sheer Drama was well beaten in that race and she has beaten Stopchargingmaria in the Madison Stakes at Keeneland. Curalina is also a grade 1 winner at Belmont having won the Acorn on this card last year.

It may look a bit obvious but I can’t see beyond Curalina. Stopchargingmaria has a decision over Curalina in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and it may be worth hedging the bet with an exacta.

Race: R8 Just A Game Stakes

Grade: Grade 1

Age: 4 year old and up fillies and mares

Distance: 1 mile turf

Purse: $700,000

Although this race has lost a little cream as Tepin and Miss Temple City are crossing the pond to race at Royal Ascot next week, it does mean we are left with a wide open race with the Morning Line going 4/1 the field.

Mrs McDougal in the nominal favourite and she comes here having won the Plenty of Grace last time out at Aqueduct and seems to have improved with age. This race looks too complex for me but, if pushed for a fun bet, I would suggest a small interest in Rainha Da Bateria. She doesn’t have the best of draws but her second to Tepin last time out reads well in the context of this race.

Race: R9 Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap

Grade: Grade 1

Age: 3 year old and up

Distance: 1 mile

Purse: $1,250,000

This race, worth a cool $1.25m, is second in value on this card only to the Belmont. It looks another fiendishly difficult puzzle to solve. Todd Pletcher runs three, Blofeld, Stanford and Anchor Down and they all have reasonable chances. However, I like Noble Bird, who is a 9/2 ML chance. Yes it was only a weak race he won at Pimlico but he won by 11+ lengths, earning a Beyer of 110 and the race could be run to suit

Race: R10 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes

Grade: Grade 1

Age: 4 year old and up

Distance: 1 ¼ miles inner turf course

Purse: $1,000,000

The final race before the Belmont sees a very interesting ML favorite in the form of the ex- Andre Fabre trained Flintshire. This is one very consistent horse, who has win and place form in some of the finest races in Europe, including the Arc de Triomphe and Coronation Cup. He has already shown he is competitive in the USA with a win in Saratoga’s Sword Dancer Stakes.

My concern is that all his best form is over a mile and a half and he may just be tapped for speed though trainer Chad Brown says the horse has been working well and will cope with the drop back in trip.

I’m not totally convinced and, at the ML price of 8/5, I will pass him up. Slumber, also trained by Chad Brown, looks to represent a bit of value in this 11 strong field. He is a 10 furlong specialist and didn’t have the best of runs last time out.

Race: R11 Belmont Stakes

Grade: Grade 1

Age: 3 year old

Distance: 1 ½ miles

Purse: $1,500,000

And so we come to the Belmont, the final leg of the Triple Crown over a stamina sapping mile and a half of Belmont Park’s big dirt circuit.

13 runners line up for this $1.5m race and all eyes will be on Exaggerator (Stall 11) to see if he can make it a Preakness/Belmont double. He is a Morning Line 8/5 to do it and could well be backed into shorter odds.

There is no doubting that Exaggerator brings the best resume to the table for this race but, as race fans and investors know to their regular cost, past performance is no guarantee of the future. Yes Exaggerator has looked very good in his recent races but things have gone his way. On all the recent races he has had a wet track and a fast pace to run at. The weather jury is out on the wet track but there is certainly no guarantee about the pace.

Then there is the question of will he stay. He has finished well in both the Derby and Preakness but was his finish made to look better because he was passing beaten horses. He does have a proclivity to hang when hitting the front. Is this a sign of tiredness or just a quirk? We will find out today down Belmont’s punishingly long home straight. He has also had two hard races in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, will they take their toll.

Given all these concerns, Exaggerator’s price does not represent value. I like the look of Cherry Wine, who was finishing to some effect in the Preakness and, if there are any holes in Exaggerator’s armour then he could well be the one to exploit them.

Well that’s it from me. Enjoy this wonderful Belmont Park, invest sensibly and don’t forget the words of the wise one:

“You can eat your betting money but never bet your eating money!”

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