Casual 2011 Belmont Stakes Preview

ELMONT, NY - The Test of a Champion. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

I'll keep this nice and quick because 1) there's no Triple Crown at stake so your interest is likely minimal, and 2) I'm feeling lazy.  The Belmont Stakes is known as The Test of a Champion, because at a mile and a half it is longer than any of the 3 year olds entered have ever run in their lives.  Factor in the massive crowd of drunken New Yorkers at Belmont Park and the suffocating heat and humidity that usually accompanies Belmont Day, and there's always the possibility that the unexpected may happen.  And when the unexpected happens, that's when you can get PAID. As I mentioned in my Derby and Preakness previews, the goal here is to DEMAND VALUE and find horses at longer odds that may hit the board.

Quick note: I went to the Belmont in 2008 to watch Big Brown go for the Triple Crown.  There were over 100,000 people there, it was about 100 degrees outside with 100% humidity, and I had about a dozen beers while trying to stay upright before the race even started.  The smartest guy at the whole damn place was Big Brown, who as a whopping 1-4 favorite after about two minutes decided that the whole thing was a bad idea and simply stopped running.  Horse racing is the best.

Belmont Analysis after The Jump:

Analysis:
After a quick glance at the past performances of the 12 horses entered, I've narrowed my contenders list to the following 6, all of which you have already seen run in either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness.

1. Master of Hounds (10-1) - the foreign import ran an impressive 95 speed figure in the Derby to finish 5th, closing from 15th to 5th in the final furlongs.  I liked what I saw from Master in the Derby and while the 1 post position is of some concern, I suspect he'll get to the 1st turn in good position and save some gas for a stretch run.  Verdict: Don't think he'll win, but I do think he's in mix for the bottom of exotics.

4. Santiva (15-1) - Santiva finished 6th in the derby behind Master of Hounds, and also displayed a decent closing kick, rallying past a number of horses to roll from 11th to 6th at the wire.  The 95 figure he ran at Churchill tells me he has the speed to hang with the leaders, so who knows maybe he gets a better trip with this smaller field and makes some noise.  At 15-1 it's worth a shot.  Verdict:  Include in exotics.  Name sounds like Sarava, a horse that won the Belmont in 2002 as a 70-1 longshot.

5. Brilliant Speed (15-1) - Yet another horse that ran a 95 figure in the Derby, Brilliant finished 7th behind Master and Santiva.  Truth is I don't really like Brilliant Speed, but at least he's run a mile and a quarter and has exhibited a closing kick in the past.  Verdict: Reluctant include because his speed figures in last two races (93, 95) shows that he has the ability to contend.  

6. Nehro (4-1) - Nehro has finished in 2nd place in each of his last three races while running speed figures of 94, 98, and 99.  A closer with speed who has faced solid competition in the Louisiana, Arkansas, and Kentucky Derbies and should be nice and fresh having not run since Churchill?  Yes, please.  Potential for some rust is there, but I'll take my chances.  Verdict: Contender, must include.

9. Animal Kingdom (2-1) - I don't like the value at 2-1 but at this point the Animal has earned it, producing two roaring stretch drives at Churchill and Pimlico and registering back to back 103 speed figures.  If the early pace was a tad faster at Pimlico you'd be looking at a Triple Crown attempt tomorrow as Shackleford barely held off the Animal's closing kick to win the Preakness.  Verdict: Contender, must include.

10. Mucho Macho Man (10-1) - "Oooooooooooooooooooooooh yeah! Mucho Macho Man gets another shot at glory, yeah.  A chance to avenge his poor start at Pimlico, yeah, where he lost a shoe yet still finished 6th.  Mucho Macho Man has the heart of champion, yeah, and no one, not Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, or even you, Mean Gene Okerlund yeah, can prevent Macho Man from a shot at the title."  Verdict:  At 10-1 Macho is begging to be included, and he has to be.

Please note that Preakness winner Shackleford is not included in the above.  Even though he killed me in the Preakness, I think he's going to have a tough time getting to the lead out of the 12 post and even if he does find a comfort zone off the pace, will get RUN DOWN by the closers in the field.  Of course I could be wrong about Shack, but I think his Kentucky Derby form is who he is, and he's more of a threat at the mile and 3/16 distance than at the beast that is a mile and a half.

So there you go.  A nice, casual $1 6 horse tri box with the 1, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10 for $120.  The racing fan in me wants to see Animal Kingdom roar down the stretch and take the Belmont, and if that happens the betting fan in me will want two of the 10-1 or 15-1 ponies to be right behind him.  If you pointed a gun to my head and asked me to predict the final order I'll go with Animal Kingdom, Nehro, and Master of Hounds, but that's silly because anything can happen in the Belmont, and I'll bet that gun's not even loaded.

Enjoy the race.   

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