A Spot Play from the Belmont Undercard and my Belmont Stakes thoughts
The most exciting betting opportunity that I see on today's fantastic Belmont S. card is in the 7th race -- the Woody Stephens (G2). Tom's Ready (12-1 ML) is going to get the pace setup of a lifetime and I really like him cutting back in distance off of several 'better than it looks on paper' type of performances in recent races.
Last time out, Tom's Ready was positioned within just four lengths of the early lead in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He understandably could not live with that pace and gradually faded through the lane. Tom's Ready had a miserable trip three starts back. I firmly believe that the Louisiana Derby (G2) and the Lecomte (G3) are the two races that best reflect what Tom's Ready is -- and he didn't have easy trips in either of those two solid performances.
The blinkers come off in the Woody Stephens, virtually any son of More Than Ready is worth a look when cutting back to seven furlongs and Tom's Ready is certain to get the run of the race under capable jockey Joel Rosario. As long as Rosario stays patient early and is able to negotiate the traffic, he should be mopping up this field in the stretch run with a good chance to pull off an upset victory.
Regarding the Belmont (G1), I had firmly believed that the two Pletcher trained horses Stradivari and Destin would gallop this field into submission, with only an overbet Exaggerator posing any danger to them.
However, my confidence in this opinion was muddled when the WinStar Farm rabbit (and yes, he is a rabbit) Gettysburg was an unforeseen entrant into this race. Gettysburg is already responsible for causing one pace meltdown when he went way too fast on the lead and forced heavily favored Cupid into submission in the Arkansas Derby (G1). In his most recent start, Gettysburg failed to rate and faded through the stretch at 6-5 in an allowance going 1 1/16 miles. He's since been transferred away from Pletcher's barn -- as Pletcher trains the two horses in the race who are most victimized by Gettysburg's presence here.
WinStar Farm owns Creator, who pulled off an upset in the Arkansas Derby with Gettysburg's help up front. And they own the breeding rights to favored Exaggerator, who is clearly the horse to beat in the Belmont if the pace is forced up front. Winstar has every motive to run a rabbit in this spot and I would have done the same thing in their position. It's a smart move -- even if it isn't the most sporting move.
I'm tepidly going to bet Stradivari in the Belmont. I think he's the more talented of the Pletcher duo and I would like him even more had Gettysburg stayed on the sidelines. Exaggerator, Destin, and Suddenbreakingnews will be my underneath horses in the exotic slots.