Saturday, June 9, 2012

I'll Pick Another

In the blink of an eye, the 2012 Belmont turned from Tiger Woods atop the leaderboard over Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy going into the back nine of The Masters on Sunday, to Carl Pettersson winning the Heritage the week after against players like Colt Nost, presumably looking to secure their Tour status and maybe pick up a big paycheck for a decent finish.

No matter how thoroughbred racing pundits will argue that the Belmont is still worth watching, the shine is clearly off the Belmont with 4-to-5 favorite and Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another scratching out with tendinitis.  Not only scratched, but retired!  No point waiting to see whether the horse's condition improves to, perhaps, take a shot at the Breeders Cup Classic in November (back home in IHA's home in California) or preparing for a 4-year-old campaign in 2012 to benefit the sport, I suppose, especially with the prospect of an equine mint in the breeding shed.  "Zenyatta, meet I'll Have Another!. 

Belmont Stakes best by scratch
far from run of the mill
Nonetheless, someone has to win the Belmont.

Street Life is the NJ Horseplayer selection, somewhat by default.

Public Handicapper odds put Dullahan and Union Rags in the 2-to-1 to 3-to-1 range, which is way too low for horses that will be over-bet because of their perceived misfortune (i.e. bad trips) in the Kentucky Derby.  Both will run after skipping the Preakness and get two of New York's best jockeys.  In my view, however, Union Rags is just not the same as in his 2-year-old season, and Dullahan's 2 career wins were on synthetic tracks, raising concern about whether the added distance will really help in deep dirt.

Hide your eyes on some of the other entrants: three with merely maiden wins (Five Sixteen, Guyana Star Dweej and Optimizer) and four winners in optional-claimers or allowance races (Unstoppable U, Attigun, Ravelo's Boy and Paynter).  Maybe Kelly Breen catches lightning in a bottle a second year in a row, but there are other early runners here and the stakes win at Delta Downs last October doesn't inspire.

That leaves Street Life, who should benefit from a rail-saving trip and get a much better start than in the one-turn Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont on May 12, when he drew the far outside post in a one-turn mile-and-an-eighth race, started 11 lengths behind and came on to finish third by less than two lengths.  I am admittedly not experienced enough to read into how horses gallop out after the finish line, and did not think much of the favorite in that race, Mark Valeski, but the replay suggests Street Life will appreciate this 12-furlong race.

Scheduled to attend a family reunion tomorrow, I have nothing on the handicapping contest docket, and merely dabbled in the Belmont with a whopping $0.50 Pick 4 ticket that cost $12, starting in Race 8 (1, 4 with 5 with 1, 5, 6 with 1, 2, 3 and 50.

Let the record show that I am 0-for-19 with my picks in the weekly Public Handicapper challenge, so emptying the bank account might not be a wise move for readers, but I think that Bourbon Courage (5-to-1) is sitting on a big race in the Woody Stephens, while Omayad (12-to-1) is compelling in the Manhattan, even though this Chilean import is greener in the U.S. than a bunch of formidable turf runners at a mile-and-a-quarter.  Crossbow (12-to-1) is my Public Handicapper pick in the True North Handicap.

Best wishes with your selections for the third leg of the Triple Crown.

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