Wagering plans for Belmont Stakes Day
You can find top-three selections from myself and esteemed colleagues for seven of Saturday's stakes in the Belmont Stakes Betting Guide. Below are more in-depth, pre-scratch opinions on how I'm wagering the program.
Race 2 -- Easy Goer
Mask (#2) looked a potential star in the making taking the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park at the start of the year. Sidelined afterwards and likely compromised by the conditions in the Pat Day Mile (G3) in his comeback, he's worth a win bet if at his 5-2 morning line price.
Race 3 -- Ogden Phipps (G1)
Champion Abel Tasman (#6) could very well bounce back from a disappointing first run of the season -- remember what a huge day Bob Baffert and Mike Smith had on the Belmont Stakes undercard last year -- but the improving Ivy Bell (#2) is worth a play on the stretch-out for Todd Pletcher, who has got this mare better than ever. Though American Gal didn't flatter the Humana Distaff (G1) form in Friday's Bed o' Roses (G3), third-placer Lewis Bay did, and Ivy Bell was comfortably ahead of that rival at Churchill.
Race 4 -- Acorn (G1)
Juvenile champion Caledonia Road (#5) faces a tall task against Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Monomoy Girl (#3), but is proven over this track and distance and figures to move forward off a not-too-taxing allowance win against older rivals in her first start of the year. Recall how dominant this filly was in the Breeders' Cup despite an unfavorable trip.
Race 5 -- Brooklyn (G2)
Hopportunity (#2) won the 2016 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) over Effinex in his only prior trip to Belmont, and handled 1 1/2 miles just fine in the Tokyo City (G3) two back, albeit against a very soft field. A potential value alternative to 2017 Brooklyn winner War Story (#9) and the streaking Hard Study (#3).
While those are win wager recommendations, here are horses I'm using in the Pick 4s that run from Races 8-11 and 10-13:
Race 8 -- Just a Game (G1)
The Chad Brown duo of Off Limits (#3) and A Raving Beauty (#7) have their obvious merits. Lull (#4) looms a danger if she shakes loose on an easy lead, and this is a race her connections have been pointing at for months.
Race 9 -- Metropolitan H. (G1)
Good Samaritan (#5) is a versatile sort who may find a one-turn mile to his liking. The Met Mile pace can often get heated, which would help, but Bee Jersey (#10) might forget to stop. The Steve Asmussen trainee has suffered only one loss since his importation and exits the same prep Mor Spirit used before dominating here a year ago.
Race 10 -- Manhattan (G1)
More Chad Brown with Beach Patrol (#10), who should advance of his season opener at Churchill Downs on testing ground, and Chilean star Robert Bruce (#1) is still unbeaten in seven starts through last month's Fort Marcy (G3) where he edged Spring Quality (#13), who has the potential to surprise. Also can't leave out likely favorite Hi Happy (#3), who's won at this distance before but could be vulnerable as he's been sharper going longer since arriving from Argentina.
Race 11 -- Belmont (G1)
Justify (#1) is the most likely winner, but perhaps not invincible. We'll cover our bases with the two sons of Curlin: Vino Rosso (#8) and Tenfold (#7). Incidentally, our Belmont Stakes betting action will revolve around betting these three in Exactas and Trifectas.
Race 12 -- Allowance
Slim Shadey (#3) has been defying his advanced age -- 10 -- with incredible form since August. Admittedly a tougher spot here than last time, though. Cunco (#4) was a solid Group 3 type in England with strong efforts against the likes of Churchill, Coronet, and others. Due for better luck than he's enjoyed in either U.S. run so far.
Race 13 -- Maiden Special Weight
Proven Reserves (#1) a dynamite debut winner at Aqueduct over a next-out Laurel graduate, and looks to have a bright future. Just Whistle (#3) was on the pace in the Peter Pan (G3) and can be more effective if he can work out a stalking trip. Autostrade (#6) broke his maiden before those two and ran out of ground in a shorter allowance test at Keeneland last time.