06/05/2008 12:00AM

Belmont Analysis and Selections - Byron King

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1. Denis of Cork

2. Macho Again

3. Big Brown

4. Casino Drive

More so than any Belmont entrant, DENIS OF CORK appears poised for a career-best effort. A lightly raced colt going into the Kentucky Derby, with just four starts, he ran well to rally for third, especially considering how little he probably got out of his final pre-Derby prep when fifth in the Illinois Derby. Making his third start off a layoff – a peak race for many horses – and with five weeks of recovery time between the Derby and Belmont, he should be fresher than many of his counterparts. Just as before the Derby, he has trained smoothly at Churchill Downs, giving every indication he is on edge for a top performance.

MACHO AGAIN looms a dangerous longshot, having run second in the Preakness despite a troubled trip. Well positioned early in sixth, he got trapped in traffic on the final turn, and by the time he shook clear on the outside in the stretch, Big Brown was long gone. Big Brown was clearly best, but Macho Again likely would have finished closer than 5 1/2 lengths behind that rival if he had not run into trouble. All things considered, he performed nicely to rally for second, when for the better part of his career he has been more of a grinder than sudden late finisher.

As for BIG BROWN, he is the most likely winner of the Belmont, but accepting odds of 1-5 or 2-5 on a horse with foot problems is not a favorable wagering scenario. Additionally, he has to withstand the demanding schedule of trying to win his third race in five weeks, which has beaten many a Triple Crown hopeful.

The much-hyped CASINO DRIVE has done nothing wrong in his two starts, winning a maiden race in Japan and the Peter Pan over this racetrack. Like Big Brown, he figures to be overbet, in great part because he is a half-brother to the past two winners of this race, Jazil and Rags to Riches. He is a talented colt, but many imports to the U.S. regress in their second race here if they run quickly the first time, as Casino Drive did in posting a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in the Peter Pan.