06/04/2015 2:13PM

Fornatale: Players chime in on Belmont Stakes

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Races like the Belmont Stakes, with an odds-on favorite and a couple of other equally obvious alternatives, can be tricky for contest play and often are avoided by contest directors looking for more wide-open mandatory races to choose. But with the eyes of the racing world on Belmont Park this Saturday, I wanted to survey a handful of contest players about their thoughts on the race and our chances of seeing history.

John Doyle, 2011 NHC champion

“I’ve rooted against every Triple Crown attempt since Spectacular Bid because I didn’t think the horses in question were worthy. I did root for Sunday Silence, actually, but I didn’t think he’d beat Easy Goer at Belmont.

“There’s a sense of greatness about American Pharoah. I was watching him train last year, and it’s just the way he does it, the way he moves is effortless. I’m not a conformation expert, but the way he moves is effortless. People have questioned whether he’ll be able to win the Belmont because of his running style, but I think when he’s gone to the front, it’s just because he’s faster than everyone else. [Trainer Bob] Baffert has been through this before, and I think he’s got this thing pegged – I don’t think he left American Pharoah’s best race on the track for the Derby or Preakness. The horse is thriving right now, he’s the real deal, and I think we’ll see something special on Saturday. I would set the over/under on his final margin of victory at 10 lengths.”

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Michael Beychok, 2012 NHC champion

“My introduction to horse racing was with Seattle Slew and Affirmed. I thought winning the Triple Crown was easy! So, as a fan, I want American Pharoah to win, but as a bettor, I live for the rare days like this, where the value in beating a favorite is huge, so I will be betting against him with both hands. I’m using Frosted and Materiality as keys on top, with Keen Ice and Mubtaahij underneath. If American Pharoah wins, I will hopefully be alive in multirace wagers to him, and all will be good.”

Ryan Flanders, NHC Tour leader

“I’ll be surprised if Frosted doesn’t win. He had no pace to run at in the merry-go-round Derby, he is fresh, he’s in his backyard, and he looks like a true 12-furlong horse. Great horses blow up in their Triple Crown bids at Belmont for numerous reasons – the sandy track, the distance, the new shooters, the taxing toll of running a third Grade 1 at such a long distance and against fantastic competition in a five-week span – it all is so hard to overcome.

“That all being said, if Frosted doesn’t fire, this to me is a match race, and I think Pharoah is the only other contender. Assuming I don’t have a stake in a tournament or something like that, I won’t bet the race, and I’ll be rooting for him to take it down.”

Chris Larmey, nine-time NHC qualifier

“Going into the Derby, I felt Materiality was the best 3-year-old in training, and I still do. He lost all chance at the start in the Derby and, according to Trakus, was actually dead last when they turned for home, at which point he appeared to be completely disinterested in running. Then he suddenly grabbed the bit and really took off, passing 12 horses in less than one-quarter of a mile. He has broken alertly and been forwardly placed in all his prior races, so I don’t expect a repeat of the poor start in the Belmont. He should be either on the lead or pressing American Pharoah up front. The pace should be slow to moderate, and Materiality should be able to eventually draw away from the heavy favorite late to win convincingly (at least that is how I hope it all plays out). He is reunited with Johnny Velazquez, and that team is 3 for 3, including a gutty win in the Florida Derby. His trainer, Todd Pletcher, has a spotty record in the Derby, but his recent Belmont record is stellar. He has won the Belmont twice and has finished first or second in six of the last nine Belmont Stakes. Materiality looks better than any of those past Pletcher Belmont entrants and is by Afleet Alex, who won the Belmont impressively, so he is bred to get the distance. Best of all, Materiality should be about 6-1 at post time, which makes him a huge overlay and a great bet.

“I actually think the biggest threat to Materiality is Frosted, who should be grinding away at the leaders down the stretch, and I will play him in an exacta with Materiality.”

Mitch Schuman, 10-time NHC qualifier

“I think American Pharoah is the most likely Triple Crown candidate in recent years. He is the fastest horse here, and to paraphrase Damon Runyon, the race doesn’t always go to the swift, but that’s the way to bet. However, at 3-5, I think even Runyon would blanch. I will be looking for the most likely candidate to beat Pharoah, hopefully one that offers some value. The Belmont is usually won on the front end, and Pharoah seems to have that by himself. I guess Materiality can go out with him, but then the stretch becomes a contest between the horse that is going three times in five weeks against the horse with no 2-year-old foundation. At 6-1, Materiality doesn’t seem to be much of a bargain. Frosted, my Derby pick, will have to run up closer than usual, like he did in the Remsen last year, but that figures to dull his stretch run, and he is an even less attractive 5-1. None of the others really interest me. The wise thing to do is don’t bet the race and just enjoy the sport of it, but I’ll probably key Frosted in all positions in a tri and hope to profit if American Pharoah has a bad day.”

Rich Goodall, 2008 NHC champion

“I almost always try to find a reason to beat the favorite. But not in the Belmont this Saturday. American Pharoah towers over this bunch. Twelve straight Triple Crown failed attempts, three tough races in five weeks, the 1 1/2-mile distance, Frosted’s closing ability, Materiality’s speed – the heck with all of that; I want to see at least one more Triple Crown winner. American Pharoah – this is it.”

Mooch ... More than 1 year ago
As I always state "I am not a race fan", that being said I do think it would be pretty cool that if AP was in front by at least 10 coming down the stretch for the announcer to say that he's moving like a tremendous machine.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ha! Larry's call was perfect just as it was imo.
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
Great betting race. AP will not win. The wide turns won't give him the eventually advantage that his great speed has on the conventional tracks. He will be beaten. I'm betting Madefromlucky. No matter what happens, I will enjoy the race. Besides AP not being good enough to win the Belmont.....Victor will mess it up anyway.....he is an anchor.
Fred Greenstein More than 1 year ago
Breaking badly is simply why my horse lost reason # 101b. Trapped on the rail, stepped on coming out of the gate, didn't like the track, had to go wide.,...great horses overcome. Great horses make great trainers and jockeys. We will see one tomorrow. AP by many.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent prediction, Fred.
David Najar More than 1 year ago
AP by more then 10 lengths.
Mary Sivak More than 1 year ago
I like racing
Mary Sivak More than 1 year ago
NY times is might be interested in the minus show pool phenomenon in tracks across race tracks in this country
Mary Sivak More than 1 year ago
If you think ap is going to finish in the money if there is a large minus show pool. Think again
David Mckenna More than 1 year ago
AP is a LOCK
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He sure ran like one! Solid win price considering the hundreds of thousands in souvenir tickets.
Mary Sivak More than 1 year ago
What does moderation mean.
Mary Sivak More than 1 year ago
I hate to carp on it but it happened again . third race at Evangeline today.four horse race. Large minus show pool on number 7. Of course he ran last. Don't be surprised if the same thing happens with american pharoah !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mooch ... More than 1 year ago
1st comment by John Doyle and last comment by Rich Goodall says it all. Trying to beat AP is idiotic. I am the first one that will try and beat a false favorite but there is nothing false about this guy. Find an exotic or stay out of the race unless you are the type that wants to keep trying to come up with 2+2=3. And even in the event that AP gets beaten it is not on paper, and if you do hold a ticket on the one that beats him it will be just a small token bet for bragging rights because no one could make a large bet that shows confidence against AP. Win or lose use all tickets the doesn't have his number on top to make a nice dunce cap because there is nothing anyone can come up with that shows he will lose, it would be like making a case for certain numbers on a lotto ticket. That being said I won't be buying a win ticket on him, maybe an exotics or pass the race. Not saying this as a race fan because if there is a TC winner or not it won't make a difference in my life at all. Just stating the obvious.
Vic Colson More than 1 year ago
I'm not gonna bet it either. I want to just enjoy it an root for a crown
Michael Jacob More than 1 year ago
AP Will be King Here
David Najar More than 1 year ago
American Pharoah by 10 to 15 lengths, it does not matter how the other horses run, AP lays over every horse in this race.
Jake Phillips More than 1 year ago
7 of the last 10 Belmont's have seen at least 1 of the top 2 finishers in double-digit odds. Seems hard to believe that all it will take to have the Exacta is box AP/Frosted/Materiality, although that seems to be the consensus above. I want to read an article interviewing the guys that liked Commissioner, Palace Malace, Ruler on Ice and Stay Thirsty, Drosselmeyer, Summer Bird, Da' Tara and Andromeda's Hero. A mildly trained chimpanzee can like Frosted and Materiality as potential upsets.
Ryan Flanders More than 1 year ago
Jake, You're in luck. I bet Palace Malice and Stay Thirsty to win and I'm not afraid to say I missed the others on your list. And I'm sure the others who were recently asked their opinions by DRF also have a had their share of Belmont winners. Not sure why the negativity, but it's cool. For the record, nobody above cited an exacta box with three favorites as being a good idea.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tx for taking the time to post on here, Ryan. That was some crazy day out there!
Ray Lanfear More than 1 year ago
Class of the field AP wire to wire.