06/06/2014 9:44AM

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

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It's hard to believe, but a Triple Crown aspirant once played an away game.

Twenty-five years ago, Sunday Silence stormed into New York with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness under his belt.

Two down, one to go.

Yet, as I recall it, many of the 64,959 at Belmont were rooting for the spoiler. After all, said 3-year-old was Easy Goer, "New York's" Easy Goer, the Phipps-owned, Shug-trained blueblood. He was the crowd's darling, and as my father, great-uncle and I made our way to our spot inside the beautiful, gigantic racetrack, we could hear the murmurs of anticipation from the local faithful.

"He just couldn't handle that wet track at Churchill," bemoaned one plaid-suited, cigar-chomping railbird.

"Pat Day got him beat in the Preakness," raged a frowning sad sack.

"NO EXCUSES TODAY," they screamed in tandem.

My teenaged brain had to agree with them. Easy Goer had been so impressive in his prior wins. He had to be the better horse. Plus, he was MY horse.

Sometimes the heart overrides the head.

Perhaps we didn't know any better. Heck, it had only been 11 years since Affirmed completed the treble, and he did it on the heels of Seattle Slew and Secretariat. Who knew we would have to wait and wait and wait for the next one?

Dear Old Dad gave out his usual ridiculous opinion. He picked Rock Point. My heart was set on Easy Goer, but I smoked out Le Voyageur for the exotics.

Predictably, the building was pure electricity as the field set sail for the demanding 12-furlong journey. And, honestly, the race was anticlimactic. Easy Goer blew Sunday Silence's doors off on the turn and the crowd exploded with joy.

We all know how that story played out. Sunday Silence beat Easy Goer on the square in the Breeders' Cup Classic. With experience and hindsight, I realized something I never would have admitted a quarter-century ago.

Sunday Silence was the better horse.

This year, California Chrome won't face the same bias that Sunday Silence was up against in 1989. Although he is 3,000 miles away from his home base in Southern California, this is no road game. Over 100,000 people on-track, and millions watching all over the world, are hoping that he is the one to break the 36-year jinx.

I will be one of them.

Yet, as a gambler, I recognize an underlay when I see one. No matter how brilliant a 3-year-old has been in his previous races, I just can't take 1-2 on a horse trying 12-furlongs for the first time. Yes, I know the distance is a major question mark for all of them. But I'd rather go down with a solid 10-1 shot than the chalk in that situation.

California Chrome is WAY the most likely winner of the Belmont. He is an 'A' in my Ticketmaker play for both the Pick 4 and Pick 6. But, I will give Tonalist some of my money. I do realize he's picking up weight and distance while facing tougher competition. I realize he's been training in bar shoes, as he was before his excellent effort in the Peter Pan slop.  From a natural talent perspective, however, I believe he's closest to California Chrome. And he'll be a much bigger price. I'd bet him to win at 8-1 and use him with 25% of my weight in Pick 4's and Pick 6's (California Chrome gets the lion's share).

As for the other fantastic races on this stellar card, I like Shakin It Up to upset Palace Malice in the Metropolitan Handicap. Shakin It Up may have moved prematurely when second in his most recent start at Churchill Downs. I'm not afraid of the one-turn mile and there should be plenty of pace to properly setup his late flurry. Rosie Napravnik just needs to time his move correctly as his burst is enervating, yet short.

While many fans are clamoring for the Close Hatches, Princess of Sylmar, Beholder confrontation, I think that the California filly is going to put on a show. She couldn't have been more impressive in her return race, a performance that was nothing more than a breeze, and she projects to get the jump on Princess of Sylmar.

While My Miss Sophia looms the filly to beat in the Acorn after chasing Untapable at Churchill Downs, I'm a fan of Fiftyshadesofgold, who grabbed the La Troienne on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. Fiftyshadesofgold showed a good amount of heart when challenged in the stretch that afternoon and the one-turn mile should be within her scope.

Real Solution has a tendency to hang, but he's going to get much more pace in the Manhattan than he did last out in the Man O' War. If he doesn't do the job soon, I will have to relegate him to Sun King or, worse yet, Giant Oak status.

I'm posting this before scratches and changes on Friday, but I do like Salutos Amigos in the True North.

Stay tuned to DRF LIVE later today for live video previews of today's two stakes races at Belmont. They'll be filmed approximately 15 minutes to post.

More importantly, who do you like this weekend?  I want to know.

The Belmont Stakes handicapping preview videos are available at the following links

http://www.drf.com/events/2014-belmont-stakes-undercard-belmont-park

http://www.drf.com/events/belmont-stakes

Please note that the Grade 1 undercard races have been posted. The other graded races for Saturday will be up on the site later this afternoon.

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You can follow me on Twitter @DRF_DanIllman

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The Belmont Stakes will be this week's HandiGambling exercise

PAST PERFORMANCES ARE AVAILABLE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS BLOG POST.

The Belmont Gold Cup/Belmont Stakes Daily Double wager will also be allowed.

SR Vegas and Rick M. have graciously decided to streamline all of the HG rules in order to make them an easier read for everyone...

With so many new people attending Dan's Formblog we thought it would be a good time to update the Handigambling Guidelines and Rules as we go forward in 2014.

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 if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

HANDIGAMBLING:

-  Please start your post with  HG or HANDIGAMBLING to better recognize and find your entry.

-  You have a mythical $100 to wager in whatever format you choose and that is available for that HG race.
 Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.

- Post your WAGER and ANALYSIS to the blog WITH YOUR NAME/OR MONIKER AT THE END OF THE 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 recognize you .

- (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.

- Separate your analysis from the wager and use the horses # in your wager. Just like you would do in a real wager. No horse names.

-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 "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan"

As an example :

HG 2014
 The speed in this race goes to  horses # 1, 4 ,6 ..Ennie , Meenie, and Mo
 Since it's a sprint I don't see any closers catching them.. like # 9 Miney.
 I think trainer Groucho with the #6 Mo has the best stats in this condition, route to sprint.. just a gut feeling at large odds ML 20-1

HG wager
 50$ Ex box 1-6
 total $100

Thanks Dan!

Harpo
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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 FRIDAY RACE IS MOST IDEAL).

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