06/05/2008 12:00AM

Belmont Analysis and Selections - Steve Klein


1. Denis of Cork

2. Big Brown

3. Casino Drive

4. Tale of Ekati

If his quarter crack were not an issue, Big Brown would be my top selection. I feel compelled to root for this undefeated and untested colt to complete his Triple Crown bid successfully. But I don’t have to bet on him. He has missed some of his training, and won’t be any kind of a bargain at low odds in the neighborhood of 2-5, with a foot problem complicating the issue.

So where will the betting value be? At first glance, Casino Drive is the obvious selection to use to try to beat Big Brown, but the difficulty of winning the Belmont Stakes in his third career start should not be underestimated. With all of the hype surrounding his win in the Peter Pan and the subsequent flattery he received from jockey Kent Desormeaux, and with his dam, Better Than Honour, having producing consecutive Belmont winners Jazil and Rags to Riches, Casino Drive has become the quintessential wiseguy selection. Any handicapper who has been around the block a few times knows that the return on investment on wiseguy horses in big races is not good in the win slot. At 7-2 morning-line odds, I’m willing to see if I can beat him.

Denis of Cork is the longshot I like as my top pick in this race. He broke poorly in the Kentucky Derby, then rallied nicely to finish third behind Big Brown and the ill-fated Eight Belles. Based on the way he was gaining late, Denis of Cork should enjoy the extra quarter-mile he will be asked to cover in the Belmont. He shows a strong work tab since the Derby, including a five-furlong breeze in 59.80 seconds. If Big Brown disappoints, Denis of Cork can score as a nice longshot winner. If Big Brown does manage to come through and win as the favorite, Denis of Cork can still add good betting value in the second slot in the exacta at 12-1 morning-line odds.

Beyond the top three, Tale of Ekati should get a part. He finished one position and 2 3/4 lengths behind Denis of Cork in the Kentucky Derby. Although he was outkicked late by that rival, he was still going well at the finish.

Ready’s Echo, Da’ Tara, and Icabad Crane are all capable of improving enough to nibble in the minor exotic slots, and will offer big prices. Anak Nakal rallied from 15th to finish seventh in Louisville and should appreciate the added distance.