06/04/2008 11:00PM

Belmont Analysis and Selections - Mike Watchmaker


1. Casino Drive

2. Big Brown

3. Denis of Cork

4. Tale of Ekati

To echo Steven Crist’s column in last Sunday’s Daily Racing Form, Big Brown might be the most likely winner of the Belmont, which would make him only the second undefeated American Triple Crown winner. But Big Brown figures to go off at 2-5 or less. If you think Big Brown is such a cinch Saturday that he has a greater than 70 percent chance of winning, then his low odds are in line with your opinion of him.

I believe Big Brown and Casino Drive have nearly an equal chance of winning. So for me, that makes Big Brown an unplayable underlay and Casino Drive an attractive overlay at odds of around 7-2. That’s primarily why I’m picking CASINO DRIVE.

Beyond having a birthright for success in this race – he is a half-brother to 2006 Belmont winner Jazil and three-quarter brother to 2007 Belmont winner Rags to Riches – what Casino Drive accomplished in the Peter Pan in his U.S. debut and only second career start cannot be overstated. After also having to clear quarantine and then having but one published workout in this country, for Casino Drive to have dominated the Peter Pan the way he did was jaw-dropping. The 102 Beyer Speed Figure Casino Drive earned means that for the first time in this Triple Crown series Big Brown does not have the best last-race Beyer, and I expect Casino Drive to improve on that number. In fact, I believe Casino Drive’s unorthodox training regimen for the Belmont has him primed for an explosive move forward.

While I don’t agree with BIG BROWN’s connections that a Triple Crown sweep is a foregone conclusion, I do buy their assertions that his quarter crack will likely have no impact on his performance. Two advantages Big Brown has on Casino Drive are he is thoroughly proven on the big stage, and he has an awesome turn of foot. And Big Brown will probably improve on the 100 Beyer he earned in his easy victory in the Preakness, but I anticipate only marginally. Since this will be his third start in five weeks, I doubt Big Brown is ready at this moment to cycle back to his outstanding Kentucky Derby form. Then again, if Casino Drive comes a cropper, it won’t matter, as no one else in this Belmont is in Big Brown’s league.

DENIS OF CORK and TALE OF EKATI were a soundly beaten third and fourth in the Derby, despite saving more ground than Big Brown. But they look best of the rest