Belmont Stakes

Our underperforming horseracing desk has a few thoughts on the Belmont Stakes | Arace

Our underperforming horseracing desk has a few thoughts on the Belmont Stakes | Arace

The Dispatch horse racing desk underperformed with its picks in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Historically, we have tended to rise to the occasion for the Belmont Stakes but, given our form this season, don’t count on it.

Handicapping this year’s Belmont will require a rewiring because the race won’t be held on the Queens/Long Island border. Belmont Park is under renovation and the run for the carnations will be staged at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York. It’s a different animal.

The 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion” over the wide turns of the Big Sandy will be replaced by a 1 ¼-mile (Derby-length) race on the outskirts of a bucolic upstate town that was a Gilded Age summer spot for the upper class. Legend has it that potato chips were invented there in 1853 thanks to a cranky railroad baron and an angry cook. Cornelius Vanderbilt, displeased with the thickness of the tubers on his dish, sent his plate back to the kitchen. The proud cook took umbrage and sent back fried shavings. The rest is history.

But I digress.

The Dispatch’s horse racing desk is comprised of Bob “The Clanchise” Clancy, former horse racing editor at The Hartford Courant; Scott “Dutch” Davis, former horse racing editor at the Dispatch; Nicole “The Professor” Kraft, a horse racing journalist and lifetime equestrian; and a dope.

It’s a 10-horse field. Sierra Leone is the morning-line odds favorite (9-5) followed by Mindframe (7-2), Derby champion Mystik Dan (5-1) and Preakness winner Seize the Grey (8-1). Then comes Resilience (10-1), Antiquarian (12-1), Honor Marie (12-1), The Wine Steward (15-1), Dornoch (15-1) and the longest of the longshots, Protective (20-1).

Mystik Dan, at right and ridden by jockey Brian J. Hernandez Jr., crosses the finish line ahead of Sierra Leone and Forever Young to win the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby.

Bob Clancy’s picks

The Clanchise goes to the Belmont most every year and often attends the summer meet at Saratoga to catch the Travers Stakes. He will be in the grandstand Saturday.

“I like Resilience at a price. Nice middle move in the Derby, and trainer Bill Mott was very satisfied with a recent breeze. Mott and jockey Junior Alvarado have had plenty of success together. Bred to win this. He turns for home with all the momentum and might sustain his bid this time, just as he did at the Wood Memorial.

“Sierra Leone is obvious from off the pace, while the undefeated but lightly raced Mindframe is logical on the front end. Mystik Dan will surely show up and might get another good trip.”

Seize The Grey and jockey Jaime Torres win the 149th running of The Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 18.

Nicole Kraft’s picks

The Professor (she’s an actual professor of Journalism at Ohio State) tends to give a wizened, calculated and dispassionate breakdown (without telling us how she’s placing her bets).

“Sierra Leone was probably the best in the Derby and skipping the Preakness makes him fresh. He also gets a new rider in Flavien Prat, and the 1 ¼ distance is clearly not a problem. I expect him to handle the field Saturday.

“Resilience showed his skill in a Wood Memorial romp and seems to have matured even more since his sixth-place Derby finish. Mott only puts horses in the gate he thinks have a shot.

“Trainer Todd Pletcher has three of the 10 starters coming from his barn, and the strongest is likely unbeaten Mindframe, in his Stakes debut. Pletcher knows how to win the Belmont and is seeking his fifth trophy.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher, here watching on April 30, has three of the 10 Belmont Stakes starters.

Scott Davis’ picks

Dutch speaks for all of us when he keens about his handicapping performance over the first two legs.

“This race is fairly loaded compared with recent Belmonts – which is not conductive to improving on my two fourth-place picks so far.

“Seize the Grey will be on or pressing the pace but will have fast company in Dornoch and Mindframe. Will they last? I’m thinking Sierra Leone gets past them, as does Mystik Dan for a flop of their 1-2 Derby finish. Or they dead heat for fourth!”

Trainer Whit Beckman pets Belmont Stakes contender Honor Marie in his barn on April 17.

Michael Arace’s picks

I have an affinity for closers and longshots – the longer the better. It’s not a good handicapping strategy, but I use the $2 window and sometimes something falls out of the sky. Traditionally, closers don’t fare as well at the Belmont. Horses that stay at or near the lead have the advantage.

Yet, for three-year-olds, stamina is still important, even though this year’s Belmont is a quarter mile shorter, and on a surface that isn’t like The Big Sandy.

My pick is Honor Marie, who might’ve had the worst trip of the 20 horses in the Derby and finished eighth. Honor Marie was jostled out of the gate – by his fourth stride, he had no shot – then he got stuck inside, was bounced about and never found any running room.

Honor Marie is trained by Whit Beckman, a former understudy to Pletcher and assistant to Chad Brown (Sierra Leone’s trainer). Honor Marie gets a new jockey in Florent Geroux, an experienced hand. He is fresh after skipping the Preakness and has been training well. His pedigree – he has A.P. Indy, Seattle Slew and Secretariat on his father’s side and Mr. Prospector on both his father’s and mother’s sides – lends itself to the stamina that is required for this race.

Plus, Honor Marie will fetch a price.

Underneath, I like Mystik Dan, and it’s proper to root for a horse who will compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown. I suspect Kraft is right, because she is who she is, and Sierra Leone will win. I always throw in one of Clancy’s horses, so Resilience is in the superfecta. Davis is probably craftier than all of us.

Good luck.

marace@dispatch.com

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Belmont Stakes moves to Saratoga and changes handicapping dynamics

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