06/08/2017 6:45PM

Belmont Stakes a true puzzle

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Following the defection of likely favorite CLASSIC EMPIRE earlier in the week due to a foot injury, this year's Belmont Stakes is filled with question marks.

There are some talented runners, to be sure, but many of them are extremely inconsistent. Toss in the demanding 1 1/2-mile distance and the 2017 "Test of the Champion" is an interesting race, albeit one where it's difficult to have a strong opinion. 

 
For those that follow this blog regularly, you know that I am the founder of the EPICHARIS fan club. In fact, I've been crowing about him since mid-September. The only reason I started following the Japanese 2-year-olds last year was because of Churchill Downs' decision to award a berth in the starting gate to a Japanese-trained runner that earned the most points from a two-race series. 
 
My strategy was to find the winner of that series, get into the Derby and hope for chaos among America's best runners.
 
Epicharis actually qualified twice for the Derby. He captured the "Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby" after moving his undefeated streak to four in the Hyacinth Stakes. Then, he received 50 conventional Kentucky Derby points for running a close second in the UAE Derby. Meanwhile, the American-based 3-year-olds were falling by the wayside on a weekly basis (see Mastery). It looked like I was going to have a live horse at Churchill Downs.
 
The best laid plans...
 
Epicharis' connections opted to skip the Derby to give the colt more time to recover from the Dubai excursion, and planned for the Belmont. The decision made more sense after considering that NYRA had offered a $1M bonus to any Japanese-trained colt that won the race. Add in the fact that the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners wouldn't compete, and the favorite was injured the week of the race, and the chips seemed to be falling Epicharis' way. 
 
My "pick deadline" for the Saturday DRF was on Wednesday afternoon. You'll notice that I selected Epicharis.
 
On Thursday morning, I awoke to the news that the colt was treated for lameness. It was already a big ask for Epicharis to win the 12-furlong Belmont after shipping from Japan following a pretty long layoff. Who knows his true quality level anyway?  The best horse he's ever beaten is Adirato, a good sprinter/miler, but certainly not one at the Grade 1 level. Toss in his questionable physical fitness and Epicharis seems like a poor gamble at a relatively short price. 
 
For me, the Belmont is now a spread race. I'll use Epicharis only defensively in any sort of multiple-race wager in case he makes a miracle recovery. After bragging about him for months, I don't want him to knock me out of a high-paying bet. 
 
I do have to use several other runners, though, and have yet to decide how to weigh them from a Ticketmaker strategy. Here are some preliminary thoughts:
 
MULTIPLIER
 
I have a feeling that this horse is sitting on a good race. Considering his relative inexperience, his Preakness wasn't a bad effort as he was down inside for most of the way before being caught up in minor traffic in upper stretch. He finished with a bit of interest and galloped out well after the fact. His trainer is having a career season and Multipler's grinding style could be a good fit at this distance. The pace should be solid in the Belmont and that would be to this late-kicker's benefit.
 
TAPWRIT
 
Tapwrit looked good winning the Tampa Bay Derby and I had high hopes for him in the Blue Grass. He didn't break well that day and was then behind the eight ball over a speed-favoring track in a race without pace. He was forced inward at the start of the Kentucky Derby and that incident cost Tapwrit the opportunity to get a better position going into the first turn. He finished with some interest after getting a ton of mud kicked in his face. I think he can get back to his Tampa Bay Derby effort, and that race puts him squarely in the picture. 
 
IRISH WAR CRY
 
I picked Irish War Cry to win the Derby and felt very good when Rajiv Maragh kept looking back at the three-eighths pole. It seemed like his mount was on cruise control and ready to pick off the leaders whenever asked for run. Unfortunately, there was nothing in the tank once Maragh did push the button. Perhaps racing four paths off the rail for the first seven furlongs or so took the starch out of him. His good races are pretty good and I won't be surprised if he runs well in the Belmont, but it's tough for me to take a short price on a horse off a disappointing running line. I'll use him. I'm just not sure how just yet. 
 
SENIOR INVESTMENT/MEANTIME
 
These two horses are most likely 'C' runners on any Ticketmaker play. Senior Investment looked one-paced on the turn of the Preakness, but re-rallied in the straight to pass some tired horses for third. He seems like a distance specialist that can be around at the end of this thing. Meantime has good speed and won his only two-turn race at Keeneland. He'll need some things to go his way from a pace standpoint, but he's lightly-raced enough that improvement is expected.
 
To make a long story short, I'm extremely confused.
 
Best of luck this weekend.
 
***
 
For free video analysis of the weekend's major stakes races, take a look at http://video.drf.com/
 
Please watch "Out of the Gate," a handicapping program that previews the weekend's best races. This week, we cover many of the major races on the Belmont Stakes card
 
"Out of the Gate" will premiere at 12:30 p.m. ET at live.drf.com and will also be available on demand at video.drf.com as well as Daily Racing Form's YouTube and Facebook pages. An audio podcast version is also available on iTunes and SoundCloud. 
 
I'll be on with Mike Beer and Matt Bernier, and will be joined by DRF Breeding's Nicole Russo, noted tournament player Jonathon Kinchen and Timeform US handicapper and figure-maker Craig Milkowski.
 
You can check me out on Twitter @DRF_Dan Illman.
 
For up-to-date video releases from DRF, follow DRFTV on Twitter @DRFvideo.
 
***
 
Here are the top 25 WINNING Beyer Speed Figures from 5/31/17 - 6/6/17
 
1. BAL A BALI (BRZ) - 105 - (G1) Shoemaker Mile - 1 Mile (Turf) - 3Jun17-7SA 
2. TOWER OF TEXAS - 103 - (G2) Connaught Cup - 7 Furlongs (Turf) - 3Jun17-8WO
3. MATT KING COAL - 102 - Mountainview Stakes - 1 1/8 Miles - 3Jun17-8PEN
4. STELLAR WIND - 100 - (G1) Beholder Mile - 1 Mile - 3Jun17-8SA 
5. FORGE (GB) - 99 - OC 62k/N2X -N - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 4Jun17-9CD 
6. DOWSE'S BEACH - 98 - OC 80k/N3X - 7 Furlongs (Turf) - 4Jun17-3BEL
6. GET JETS - 98 - OC 62k/N2X -N - 7 Furlongs (Turf) - 2Jun17-6BEL
8. OFF LIMITS (IRE) - 96 - Alw 80000N2X - 1 Mile (Turf) - 1Jun17-7BEL
8. RICHARD'S BOY - 96 - Pennsylvania Governor's Cup - 5 Furlongs (Turf) - 3Jun17-7PEN
10. DEFER HEAVEN - 95 - OC 30k/N2X - 6 Furlongs - 4Jun17-2MTH
10. GRAND JETE (GB) - 95 - (G3) Eatontown Stakes - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 3Jun17-11MTH
10. LIMOUSINE LIBERAL - 95 - (G3) Aristides Stakes - 6 Furlongs - 3Jun17-10CD
10. MELMICH - 95 - OC 80k/C -N - 1 1/16 Miles (Tapeta) - 31May17-6WO 
10. TIZ A BILLY - 95 - OC 62k/N2X -N - About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 2Jun17-7SA 
15. ALGORHYTHMIC - 94 - OC 40k/N1X -N - About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 3Jun17-4SA 
15. MESOMA - 94 - Clm 40000(40-35)B - 6 Furlongs - 4Jun17-4CD 
17. FORGIVE - 93 - Mighty Beau Stakes - 5 Furlongs (Turf) - 3Jun17-9CD 
17. IRON FIST - 93 - Evangeline Mile - 1 Mile - 3Jun17-8EVD
17. OSCAR PERFORMANCE - 93 - (G3) Pennine Ridge Stakes - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - 3Jun17-9BEL
17. SUPER SOLDIER - 93 -  OC 35k/N2X - 1 Mile (Turf) - 3Jun17-8AP
21. DYNATAIL - 92 - Penn Oaks - 1 Mile (Turf) - 3Jun17-6PEN
21. SWEETONTHELADIES - 92 - Crystal River Handicap - 5 Furlongs - 4Jun17-9GP
23. CHERUBIM - 91 - Wcl 30000(25-22.5) - 6 1/2 Furlongs - 4Jun17-5SA 
23. GREAT LOU - 91 - Clm 10000(10-9) - 5 1/2 Furlongs - 3Jun17-1MTH
23. UNCHAINED MELODY - 91 - OC 80k/N1X -N - 1 1/16 Miles - 1Jun17-8BEL
 
*Bal a Bali's lifetime past performances are available at the bottom of this blog post.
 
***
 
Congrats to Belmont 88 for winning the most recent HandiGambling challenge.
 
Rick M and SR VEGAS' HG scoreboard spreadsheet is available at the bottom of this blog post along with some other statistical goodies.
 
We'll go with the Belmont Stakes for this week's exercise. 
 
FREE FORMULATOR PAST PERFORMANCES ARE AVAILABLE AT THE RACE OF THE DAY EVENT PAGE (http://www.drf.com/race-of-the-day)
 
PLEASE NOTE WE WILL ACCEPT WAGERING ON THE TWO-DAY BELMONT GOLD CUP/BELMONT STAKES WAGER. PAST PERFORMANCES FOR THE GOLD CUP ARE AVAILABLE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS BLOG POST. 
 
SR Vegas and Rick M. have graciously decided to update all of the HG rules in order to make them an easier read for everyone...
 
HANDIGAMBLING version 2016:
 
Let's remember WHY we began the HandiGambling races in the first place.
The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses and why we're betting them the way we are. We are not asking for a novel but SPARE A SENTENCE OR TWO outlining your HANDICAPPING ANGLES and/or THOUGHT PROCESSES about WAGERING.
 
1. Start your post with HG or HANDIGAMBLING to find your entry in a thread.
2. You have a mythical $100 to wager in whatever format you choose that is available for that HG race. Anyone going over the $100 limit will be DISQUALIFIED.
3. Post your WAGER and ANALYSIS to the blog prior to the start of the designated race. SIGN OFF WITH YOUR NAME/OR MONIKER AT THE END OF YOUR POST. Remember that posts may start as 'anonymous' or an 'alternate name'. You MUST SIGN YOURSELF AT THE END (even if it is the same) This enables the scorekeeper to identify who you are.
4. (1) ONE ENTRY per person for the Handigambling contest. If you have multiple email addresses, use just ONE for contest purposes. Multiple entries will be cause for disqualification.
5. Separate your analysis from the wager and use the PROGRAM # in your wager. Just like you would do in a real wager. No horse names.
6. If any of the rules listed above aren't met, the wager is subject to review which can lead to disqualification of your entry.
 
In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. Dan reserves the right to approve or deny any entries.
The winner will receive a "60-Card Quarterly Formulator Past Performance Plan"
 
As an example :
 
HG 2016
The speed in this race are #1 Alpha, #2 Beta, and #8 Ocho. I like the works for layoff horse #5 Cinco who can sit off the pace. Lots of speed in here, so this could set up for a closer like  #6 Six Flags and I like the trainer's stats in these conditions. I’ll put the closer over the speed.
 
HG wager:
$10 EX   6 /   1,2,5, 8  = $40
$5 TRI   6 /   1,2,5,8  /  1,2,5,8  =  $60
Total $100
Thanks Dan!
Harpo
 
A MORE DETAILED ANALYSIS  IS  ALWAYS  APPRECIATED !
REMEMBER, IF YOU ARE DECLARED THE WINNER OF THE HANDIGAMBLING EXERCISE; PLEASE CONTACT FORMBLOG@DRF.COM WITH YOUR DRF LOGIN AND PASSWORD IN ORDER TO ACCESS YOUR PRIZE PACKAGE.
 
ALSO, IF THE WINNER WOULD LIKE TO SELECT THE FOLLOWING WEEK'S RACE, PLEASE CONTACT FORMBLOG@DRF.COM NO LATER THAN THE FOLLOWING WEDNESDAY MORNING (A SATURDAY RACE IS MOST IDEAL)
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bal a bali.pdf880.12 KB
BELGOLDCUP.pdf241.47 KB
HG 6 3 17 Penn Mile notes.doc36 KB
HG 2017 ROI.doc31 KB
HG 2017 Winning Wagers.doc29.5 KB
Copy of HG 6 3 17 Penn Mile.xls52 KB