Thursday, June 8, 2017

2017 Belmont Preview

Blaaaaah.

Cloud Computing's narrow victory
That's to both the Preakness and the Belmont.  We are eternal optimists when it comes to horse racing, but it's tough not to be annoyed by this year's result in the Preakness and the last leg of the Triple Crown.  Our pick of Classic Empire was spot on and our tapping of Cloud Computing as the lone outsider with a chance was good too.  But Classic Empire was sapped of just enough energy that he couldn't hold off the latter.  So much for a solid pick.

And now we have a Belmont that lacks both of those two horses plus Derby winner Almost Dreaming.  We're also missing other horses that took money in the Derby - looking at your Gunnevara, McCracken - and Derby third place finisher Battle of Midway.  That leaves us with an intriguing betting race but one that's probably not going to result in a coronation.  Nevertheless, let's take a look at it.

At Least the Weather's Supposed to Be Nice

12.  Hollywood Handsome.  (Morning Line: 30-1; Fair Value: 50-1) Dallas Stewart is known for having longshots run at huge prices in the Derby and Preakness - Golden Soul, Tale of Verve, Commanding Curve, to name three.  But he's never been remotely competitive in the Belmont, and this slow guy who was throttled at a huge price in the Illinois Derby by Multiplier seems unlikely to break the streak.

11.  Multiplier (ML: 15-1; FV: 50-1) Speak of the devil!  Purely sprint-bred, he clunked up for a boring 6th in the Preakness.  Adding blinkers will add speed, but it won't add stamina, which this guy needs in spades.

10.  Twisted Tom.  (ML: 20-1; FV: 33-1) On the plus side, he's trained by Chad Brown (Cloud Computing's trainer) and has three straight wins.  On the negative side, he's never topped 80 on the Gowanus Speed Figure scale.  If quite literally anyone else trained this horse, he'd be double the price he'll be on Saturday.

In a Word: No.

9.  Epicharis.  (ML: 4-1; FV: 50-1) We were against this guy before word came down that he's being treated with Bute because of lameness - the chances of him scratching are pretty high.  But putting that aside, this Japanese import that ran his last race in Dubai, he ran 2nd in the UAE Derby by setting a soft pace against 3rd-tier horses.  Either he's going to the front and should get fried on a quicker pace, or he's just not that fast and won't be a factor

8.  Senior Investment.  (ML: 12-1; FV: 33-1) Horses that run non-threatening 2nds and 3rds in the Preakness are dreadful bets in the Belmont, as they never, ever, ever improve in those 3 weeks in between and pull off the upset.  Some recent examples are Classic Cat ('99), Impeachment ('01), Hemingway's Key ('06), Ichabad Crane ('08), Tale of Verve ('15) and Cherry Wine ('16).  None of these horses did anything in the Belmont.  There's no reason to expect this steed will break that streak.

7.  Lookin at Lee.  (ML: 5-1; FV: 20-1) His regression in the Preakness was easy to see coming; he finished 4th basically because Always Dreaming spit the bid and the rest of the field stunk.  Dead closers like him are always at a disadvantage in the Belmont, as are horses that are pure "clunk up" types that never make a winning move.  Look for him to be nowhere near the picture at the end and to take a well-deserved rest.

6.  Gormley.  (ML: 8-1; FV: 12-1) We're still waiting for him to finish in the money in a difficult race.  The wait will continue on Saturday evening.

Stranger Things Have Happened

5.  Meantime.  (ML: 15-1; FV: 10-1) He is making his 5th career start and some upside.  We thought his Peter Pan was a decent effort, and are curious about him moving back to a fast track.  His breeding isn't as good for a distance but it's not inconceivable, and trainer Brian Lynch isn't terrible, to say nothing of jockey Mike Smith.  At a solid price, he's a little intriguing.

Contenders on the Rebound

4.  Irish War Cry.  (ML: 7-2; FV: 5-1) This has to be one of the weakest and strangest favorites we've had in a Triple Crown race in ages.  His last race was a 10th place finish in the Derby where he lost by 16 lengths and lost ground badly from the far turn on.  He's been brutally bad in two of his last three races.  But yet, he has run 2 quick races this year, was sired by Curlin, and beat Cloud Computing in his last race.  So he's far from impossible.  It just seems like an odd horse to take on as the favorite.

3.  Tapwrit.  (ML: 6-1; FV: 5-1) And here's your second choice, a horse that has lost consecutive starts by double-digit lengths and has never won outside of Florida.  There's a few things here to like if he rebounds and gets a good trip, and we admit, his Derby was something of a toss-out.  It's a pure question of price: at his expected odds, meh, but at double the price, sure.

2.  J Boys Echo.  (ML: 15-1; FV: 5-1) The owner of the best speed figure in the entire field, he ran a huge Gotham at Aqueduct 3 months ago, which put him squarely in the picture of possible Derby contenders.  He followed that up with an utterly blah 4th in the Blue Grass and a non-existent 15th in the Kentucky Derby, so it's not like he's coming in off good form.  But there's reason to be a little optimistic.  His breeding is fine for 12 furlongs.  He's run well in New York (albeit at Aqueduct).  Trainer Dale Romans is excellent, and is going to win this race one day.  He has tactical speed.  And he's getting back jockey Robby Albarado, who rode him to his best races.  We think hasn't had the chance to run his best race in three months and may sit a good trip at a price.

The Pick

1.  Patch.  (ML: 12-1; FV: 4-1) Way overmatched in the Derby (especially from the 20 post), he does have solid distance breeding - his sire and damsire both won the Belmont - and does have the Pletcher/Velazquez combination.  And this is only his 5th start.  He's as likely as anyone to make The Leap and pull off an upset if he moves forward, and we're banking on that by picking him.  We don't think he'll be as long as his morning line price, but even if he's 10-1, that's solid value.  We think Todd & John pull off one of the odder Triple Crown doubles this year, and take it in a small upset.

How to Wager

Well our pick is going to be a decent price, so make sure you bet him to win.  But this is truly a spread race - make sure you're covered well in your pick-everythings.  Good luck to all!

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