06/05/2012 9:56AM

The Other Belmont Stakes This Week


What shouldn’t be completely lost in I’ll Have Another’s attempt at racing history Saturday is the strong Belmont Stakes undercard of four graded stakes. I have some preliminary opinions on them –preliminary, because no handicapper should be locked into initial opinions made 96 hours in advance – so let’s take a look.

The Grade 2 Woody Stephens lost a marquee player with the defection of Hansen, so it now looks like Trinniberg will be the strong favorite cutting back to the seven furlong distance at which he won the Swale and Bay Shore Stakes earlier this year. At least I hope he’s the strong favorite, because right now, I’m inclined to bet against him. Although Trinniberg might shake loose early, he got super easy, uncontested leads in the Swale and Bay Shore, and who knows how he will react after getting his head predictably handed to him last time out in a totally unsuitable start in the Kentucky Derby. I’m interested in Hierro, who has always been well regarded, and who responded to a change in scenery with a big win in the Derby Trial most recently.

The other sprint stakes on the card is the Grade 2 True North. Giant Ryan is sure to take considerable action because he won the Grade 1 Vosburgh last fall in his last start at Belmont, but he has something to prove to me. I thought the Vosburgh was run at a point in the card when the track was intensely speed favoring, and I thought Giant Ryan was greatly aided by the bias. Pacific Ocean is intriguing here. He impressed when he won the Vernon Underwood late last year, and though he hasn’t raced since, he will be making his first start Saturday for Rick Dutrow.

Given the current shaky nature of the male turf division, it is no surprise that the Woodford Reserve Manhattan is coming up light for a Grade 1 event. Depending on his price, Brilliant Speed could be a strong play for me. Brilliant Speed, third in last year’s Belmont Stakes, was a creditable third in the Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard considering he had little pace to rally into. He will now make his third start off a layoff while suitably stretching out in distance, and I will take my chances with him against the improved, but still unproven Boisterous, if the odds are right.

The Grade 1 Longines Just a Game Stakes is coming up anything but shaky, and the race favorites are anything but vulnerable. Winter Memories and Hungry Island are those two race favorites. They renew a rivalry of sorts as they traded stakes decisions last year at 3, and they do so in sharp form as both come into Saturday’s engagement off strong stakes victories. But Winter Memories is the more compelling figure even if she will be a considerably lower price than Hungry Island. Winter Memories has a certain, uncommon brilliance about her. The only knock on her is she hasn’t shown how special she is every single time out. But I wouldn’t be surprised if she saw to that matter this season.

There is also a stakes doubleheader Friday at Belmont and the featured Brooklyn Handicap at 1 1-2 miles serves two purposes: It makes sure the teletimer is working for 12 furlong dirt races, an important consideration in view of the next day’s headliner, and it is an early preview of the race we all look forward to in the fall, the Breeders’ Cup Marathon. Kidding aside, this Brooklyn is a great betting race, and I’ll be using Arthur’s Tale. Arthur’s Tale finished third in the Vanlandingham Stakes last time out against better (Trickmeister and Stay Thirsty), is making his third start off the layoff, and has a touch of back class as he was a narrowly beaten second in last year’s Grade 1 Wood Memorial. Arthur’s Tale also strikes me as the type who will like this kind of race.

Nicholas Briglia More than 1 year ago
The Just a Game is the best race of the weekend.
Fortunefootball More than 1 year ago
Brilliant Speed is siting on a BIG RACE...
matt More than 1 year ago
Mike, do you think the mile distance is too short for Winter Memories? I love this filly, but I think she is best doing further. Looks as if Tapistfy will run here. Dale, I believe, won this race last year with a gate to wire job.
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Winter Memories is a very talented filly. But the fact is that she has not run a really fast race yet, and she is a bet against at the less than even money odd that she will undoubtedly go off at.
CHARLES SHELTON More than 1 year ago
Mike, Thanks for the preview for the undercard for Saturday. I miss your televised take on the upcoming stakes every Friday morning. Will you be be doing any handicapping seminars this summer?
Nascar19661 More than 1 year ago
If he trained C. S. Silk then he did.
Richard More than 1 year ago
I have to say that I too am interested in Belmont’s Saturday undercard! The day of the Wood Memorial and the other two 1 1/8 mile prep races for the Derby, I watched those races and played a stakes at Belmont hitting an exacta and playing a stakes at Hollywood Park and hit a superfecta with Amazombie and Roman Threat. The horses are getting ready for the Belmont Stakes. Dullahan had a sizzling 4 furlong work at :45.97. Paynter had two great workouts at 5 and 7 furlongs. Brillant Speed is the one that has me a bit confused, he is a 4 year old now but what is he? A dirt or turf horse. I am one that likes to see horses worked on the kind of surface they are going to race on. To be perfectly truthful, that is what threw me off on I’ll Have Another, working out at Hollywood Park even when he won the race in the best or second fastest of all the prep races. When Neil Drysdail gets a horse ready for a turf race, his workouts are always on turf. The Belmont Stakes is not going to be an easy race, that is why I am going to try my luck on some of those stakes on the undercard!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im bummed they moved the Acorn to Memorial Day. I enjoyed the Pick-6 with all Grade I & II races on Belmont day.
Don Passidomo More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the advance preview and comments Mike...