Few things in life are ever a guarantee, but I guarantee you will survive at least the first leg of the Belmont Stakes Pick 4 based on my selections -- a $0.50 base wager totaling $52.50:
- Race 8 (Just A Game Stakes): ALL
- Race 9 (The Woody Stephens): 1, 3, 5, 7, 11
- Race 10 (Manhattan Handicap): 1
- Race 11 (Belmont Stakes): 2, 5, 11
As a guy who is pretty decent at hitting 2-of-3 or 3-of-4 on a Pick 3 or 4 ticket and missing out by a nose or head on my losing leg, I tossed my arms up in the Just A Game, a wide open 7-horse field. I made Dayatthespa my selection in the Public Handicapper contest, thinking she can control the tempo and hold off the late runners on a yielding turf course. Mizdirection is one of my favorite horses and I think is the best here, but a lot of her success has come on the quirky downhill turf course at Santa Anita.
The Woody Stephens is an equally difficult (and bigger, 11 horses) field, but I am extremely bullish on long-shot Honorable Dillon, who I think is sitting on a big one and is meant for 7 furlongs. The connections tried their luck at the Triple Crown trail with a futile 7th in the Tampa Derby and it took Dillon two races to get back into form, and I think he'll score at a big price from off the pace. I hedged a bit on my Pick 4 ticket by including four other runners -- Declan's Warrior, Capo Bastone, Forty Tales and Let Em Shine -- that I perceive as the biggest threat.
I made Point of Entry my single in the Manhattan. The 3-to-5 odds are short and crimp the potential value of a Pick 4 score, but I really found no others that can knock off this multiple Grade 1 winner. Turf conditions (yielding or upgraded to soft or fast) should not matter.
I am hoping to last to the Belmont Stakes, where I battled between two viable long-shots -- Freedom Child and Vyjack -- but settled on Freedom Child.
The thing I like most about handicapping contests is the premise of strictly picking winners. In my view, track conditions should matter least to Freedom Child, who ran away from the field convincingly last month in the Grade 2 Peter Pan and I'm anticipating will easily get the lead in the Belmont.
The questions become whether he gets a clean break from the gate and how much pressure others will apply on the lead. I simply do not think Oxbow is nearly as fast and will not be able to keep up and tossed him from consideration. Unlimited Budget may go early, but post 13, in my opinion, puts the lone filly in the field at a disadvantage. Vyjack will not repeat his unsettled quick start in the Kentucky Derby, with the patient Julien Leparoux aboard this time. Otherwise, no major early burners in the field.
A mile and a half is a lot to ask of a horse on the lead, but Percussion almost did it on Friday in the Brooklyn Handicap, and the Peter Pan tells me Freedom Child can run all day. I'm predicting Freedom Child will hold off Oxbow and a more-patiently ridden Vyjack in the stretch to win the Belmont.
Here are the other wagers rounding out my $95.50 expenditure:
- Race 9: $10 daily double 5 with 1 (Honorable Dillon with Point of Entry)
- Belmont Stakes (a mix of exotics with hedges in case Freedom Child fades late -- $33 total):
- $8 exacta 2-5
- $2 exacta 2-11
- $2 exacta 5 with 2, 11
- $3 exacta 11 with 2, 5
- $1 trifecta 2, 5, 11 with 2, 5 with 2, 5, 9, 11
- $0.10 superfecta 2, 5, 11 with 2, 5, 9, 11 with 2, 5, 9, 11 with 3, 5, 9, 11, 12