Creator is my top selection.
|Photo credit: ArkansasOnline.com|
- #1, Governor Malibu (12-to-1): improving form, but inside draw, little gate speed, and a disinterest for passing foes on the gallop out tell me his ceiling is third or fourth at best only with a clean ground-saving trip.
- #2, Destin (6-to-1): not a huge fan; should be well-placed, but the best horse he beat this year (Outwork) barely beat a maiden (Trojan Nation) in the Wood Memorial, and the third-place runner in the Tampa Derby (Star Hill) is 20-to-1 on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Pass.
- #3, Cherry Wine (8-to-1): backers note the second-place effort in the Preakness, but recall that last year's Preakness runner-up (Tale of Verve) did zilch after that race and, here, Cherry Wine's still a horse without a stakes win; best win was vs. optional claimers. Fourth is the ceiling.
- #4, Suddenbreakingnews (10-to-1): interestingly gets jockey Mike Smith, who won the Belmont at double-digit odds in 2010 (Drosselmeyer) and 2013 (Palace Malice); only concern is that this horse has shown zero early speed in any of his 9 lifetime races. Ceiling is second if Smith works out a good trip and can avoid trouble; should hit the board.
- #5: Stradivari (5-to-1): Pletcher's second runner and not much different, in my view, than counterpart Destin; will press the pace but stamina is my concern. Pass.
- #6: Gettysburg (30-to-1): Worth using "underneath" on trifecta and superfecta tickets; perhaps gets brave on the lead, and note that he broke his maiden at a mile-and-an-eighth...not Belmont-long, but video replays show some gutty front-end work; Fourth, at best.
- #7: Seeking the Soul (30-to-1): Pace-setter trying winners for the first time; reach. Pass.
- #8: Forever d'Oro (30-to-1): Another trying winners for the first time; a bigger reach. Pass.
- #9: Trojan Nation (30-to-1): At least #7 and #8 won a race; Trojan still a maiden. Pass.
- #10: Lani (20-to-1): Quirky horse, but his late run and gallop out in the Preakness tell me this son of Tapit is still developing. One that could come from way out of the clouds and hit the board; using third and fourth on my tickets.
- #11: Exaggerator (9-to-5): A LOT going on here, especially with jockey Kent Desormeaux shuttling back to Belmont out of alcohol rehab specifically for this race. That doesn't concern me, but the question becomes race tactic and whether this one's a mudder or can win big on a dry surface. I sense that Exaggerator will sit within 4-5 lengths of the leaders down the backstretch and look to turn it on into the far turn and gut out a victory over the late-closing types. Exaggerator's Delta Jackpot effort in November gives some clue of the trip I anticipate -- let the speed go for a bit, then turn on the jets and hope to have enough in the tank. For my money, there's no middle ground; Exaggerator either finishes Top 2 or off the board, with Desormeaux using discretion on whether the horse feels energetic enough to win. If not, we're looking at a Big Brown-type underperformance and unhappy supporters.
- #12: Brody's Cause (20-to-1): Horse's two wins outside the maiden ranks were at Keeneland, so maybe a bit of horse-for-course angle at play here; otherwise do not like to see a horse get a 1-mile workout and then come back with a so-so sprint workout a week later (sort of my runners' philosophy where you use distance runs to get quicker at shorter lengths). Will be running late; minor spoils, maybe third or fourth.
- #13: Creator (10-to-1): Toss the Kentucky Derby, similar to Suddenbreakingnews; sense he's an improving three-year-old with lots of upside and some pedigree for the distance. As I see it, the key will be whether jockey Irad Ortiz gets out well and tracks Exaggerator at all, and whether he saves or wastes ground down the backstretch; expect stalking trip and strong close ala Arkansas Derby to win, or bust goes NJHorseplayer.
- 1 -- Exaggerator (11), Creator (13)
- 2 -- Suddenbreakingnews (4), Exaggerator (11), Creator (13)
- 3 -- Governor Malibu (1), Suddenbreakingnews (4), Lani (10), Brody's Cause (12), Creator (13)
- 4 -- Governor Malibu (1), Cherry Wine (3), Suddenbreakingnews (4), Gettysburg (6), Lani (10), Brody's Cause (12), Creator (13)