- So yeah, I know, I've written about some of the undercard, but haven't done picks for the Belmont itself. And actually, I'm going to wimp out a bit here. Most races are made for betting, but some are made to just (mostly) watch, and the Belmont is the latter to me. None of the outsiders seem attractive to me, and neither of the horses I think will run well, Curlin and Rags to Riches, will be worth much on the board.
Tiago is getting some attention, but when a gallop-out is given as one of the main reasons, I get skeptical. Imawildandcrazyguy had that nice rally for 4th in the Derby, but there doesn't seem much in his pedigree to indicate that he's going to thrive at a mile and a half; for one thing, his dosage index is 6.0. C P West seems to be a bit of a wise guy horse, as both Crist and Beyer have him finishing in the money. But the two times he's gone around two turns are the two times he's finished out of the money. So I'm not feeling confident that he wants this distance. Slew's Tizzy has shown nice improvement, but doesn't appear to be in this class.
I don't like Hard Spun. I don't feel like repeating why, so I'll let James Quinn, writing in the DRF Plus section of the Form, speak for me:
He finished the final quarter of the Kentucky Derby in 25.58 seconds, and notwithstanding the overrated run on the front to the mile call (1:11.13 and 1:37.04), his finishing fraction is not especially encouraging for the New York marathon. If handicappers agree that Street Sense, Curlin, and Hard Spun deserve to be recognized as leading colts, it does not follow necessarily than one of the three should win the Belmont Stakes.He then goes on to deride those who feel that he can set a slow pace and gallop away as "trapped in the web of conventional wisdom," but here at Left at the Gate, we like to have more respect for those who disagree, so I'll just move on without further elaboration.
In the Preakness, Hard Spun moved too hurriedly into a fast six-furlong pace of 1:09.80, and he completed the fraction between four furlongs and six furlongs in 23.00. But he completed the final 3 1/2 furlongs in a sluggish 45.36 (42.00 would represent the standard 12 seconds a furlong), which does not translate readily to drawing off in the Belmont Stakes. Worse, Hard Spun had been nudged from the lead by Street Sense and Curlin prior to the eighth pole.
Mike and the Mad Dog, the top drive-time sports talk guys here, did their show from Belmont on Friday, and the word was that Curlin looks fantastic. Trainer John Parisella raved about the Preakness winner, and Charles Hayward said that he's heard from everyone that the horse looks great, for whatever that's worth. When you think about his Preakness, he broke bad, blew the final turn, failed to change leads, and came back after conceding a clear lead to Street Sense. One would think that the wider Belmont turns will be kinder to him. True, there is no guarantee he'll get the distance, and we've certainly seen some anxious jockeys expend too much too soon. But he seems to be the goods, and I think it's his race to lose.
Rags to Riches is not getting as much support amongst the pundits as I thought she would. She's hasn't been beating the best crop of fillies, and her top Beyer is 104, as pointed out by some of her detractors. But I think that number showed the type of progression that suggests she can make a significant step forward at a distance that she should absolutely love. However, I still think she's going to be the second choice in the race.
So, I'll have Curlin and the filly in any Pick 3/4 tickets I may have. But when they play Sidewalks of New York and proceed to the post, I'll just be sitting back in anticipation of just watching (unless, of course, I'm alive in the Pick 4) what will hopefully be a monumental Belmont, whether a dominant performance by Curlin, a crowd-pleasing triumph by the filly, or, unlikely in my opinion, a memorable surprise from one of the supporting players. (If I'm not tapped out after six and a half hours at the track anyway).