06/05/2009 6:52PM

Belmont Eve


It's a dark and stormy Belmont Eve here on Long Island. Saturday's 12th and 13th races at Belmont have already been taken off the turf, but the two Grade 1 grass races will stay there and if the forecast for overnight clearing holds up, so will the 4th and 5th, allowance races with full fields.

Those two races will be especially worth watching closely to see just how soft the turf course, which hasn't been used since Wednesday, really is. While it's entirely possible the main track will be fast by mid-afternoon, the turf can't recover that quickly from two days and nights of of sporadically heavy rain.

Click here for the hour-by-hour forecast and here for the latest comments from Belmont officials. NYRA has also added a "Turf Course Update" button on the right-hand column of its homepage, where a status report will be posted Saturday morning.

Friday's five grass races were all rained onto the main track. Upsets in the Hill Prince (Against the Odds at $17.20) and the Brooklyn (Eldaafer $34.20) prompted a $48,496 carryover into the all-stakes Belmont Day pick-6 -- coals to Newcastle for what is already guaranteed as a $1 million pool.

Here are the lineups for the six graded stakes, including four Grade 1's, on the Saturday card:

I went with Mine That Bird, Dunkirk and Summer Bird as my 1-2-3 published picks for the Belmont. I'll be shocked if Mine That Bird really goes off as high as his 2-1 morning line (Mike Watchmaker made him 8-5 on his DRF line), but hope I don't have to bet him to win: The plan is to get alive to him in the pick-6 and pick-4 at an effectively higher price. I'll primarily use Dunkirk and Summer Bird as backups and a little bit of Charitable Man, defensively.

I've got miles to go handicapping the rest of the card, and will post a revised version of the above chart on Saturday morning with preliminary ABC grades and some comments. After that, you're on your own: I'm spending the day at the races, and will be back here Sunday to review it all. If you're playing from home, there's ESPN coverage from noon to 5 pm, and then ABC takes over from its sister company from 5 to 7 pm.

Update 8:20 pm: The Brooklyn-Belmont doubles are up and I doubt they're precisely accurate predictors of tomorrow's win odds given the upset Brooklyn victory by 16-1 Eldaafer; with $483,689 in the pool, we're really just talking about how roughly $25,000 in "live" tickets was allocated. For what they're worth, here's what they're paying and what win odds those payoffs translate to: