06/07/2006 11:00PM

Belmont Stakes 138 analysis

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Brad Free

The Belmont is ready-made for Bob and John, whose pressing style should play well in a race expected to unfold at a soft pace. Bob and John produced his best efforts in California this winter in slow-tempo races similar to the likely scenario of this Belmont.

Bob and John was shuffled back and eliminated in the Kentucky Derby - his nowhere finish cannot count against him. He already is established as a division leader with wins in the Grade 1 Wood and Grade 3 Sham, and thirds in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity and Grade 3 San Felipe. He continues to train well, and is likely to be positioned just off modest fractions and be among the first to attack. He is qualified to win, and 4-1 or higher represents value.

Deputy Glitters has enough tactical speed to be considered a potential bomber. He was one of many who never got close in the Derby, and he disliked the mud one start back. But in five starts on fast tracks he produced speed, including a Grade 3 upset three starts back over the favorite for this race, Bluegrass Cat. Deputy Glitters will be forwardly placed, in position to win turning for home, and an attractive play at double-digit odds.

Bluegrass Cat returned to form finishing second in the Derby, mostly because of a great trip. Bluegrass Cat made the rail early, saved ground throughout, and never had a straw in his path. But is he really as good as the runner-up finish makes him look? His pressing style suits the likely Belmont pace, and he likes this racetrack (2 for 2). But he is an underlay at 3-1.

Sunriver overcame a slow pace to win the Grade 2 Peter Pan. A mile and a half is up his alley. He finished a troubled third in the Florida Derby won by Barbaro, and will roll late. High Finance may set the pace, and off runaway wins against maiden and entry-level allowance foes cannot be entirely discounted. While this 1 1/2-mile race is his first try around two turns and first in a graded stakes, he is the one to catch.

Steppenwolfer and Jazil come from the clouds. Oh So Awesome ran well in his U.S. (and dirt) debut and can improve. Sacred Light is in tough. Hemingway's Key and Platinum Couple have not been close against top company. Double Galore won a maiden race last out and will press part of the way.

Bob and John
Deputy Glitters
Bluegrass Cat
Sunriver


Byron King

Any race - be it a $5,000 claimer or a Grade 1 stakes - is more ripe for a longshot winner when the race is below par in quality. This year's Belmont certainly appears below average, with Derby winner Barbaro injured and Preakness winner Bernardini being freshened. A favorite like Bluegrass Cat or Sunriver could end up winning, but given the competitive nature of the field, they seem likely to be overbet. The value play is Deputy Glitters, a 15-1 shot on the morning line. Winner of the Tampa Bay Derby over Bluegrass Cat, he performed well to run eighth in the Derby, closing from well off the pace to finish in front of such notable 3-year-olds as Point Determined, Bob and John, and A. P. Warrior. Look for him to be more forwardly placed in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont under his new rider, Edgar Prado. Also note how well he has been training. He comes off a five-furlong work in 59.82 seconds, a breeze in which he finished his final three furlongs in 35 seconds and change. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate Saturday and he can catch a fast track - he has struggled in past attempts in the slop.

Sunriver, who was excluded from the Derby when it overfilled, took the Peter Pan recently as a consolation prize. He did everything right in that race, closing from sixth to score a neck victory over Lewis Michael. That performance earned Sunriver a 102 Beyer Speed Figure, the top last-race Beyer in the field. That wasn't his only good performance - he also ran a wide third in the Florida Derby behind Barbaro.

Bluegrass Cat rebounded from a poor effort in the Blue Grass Stakes to finish second in the Derby at 30-1 odds. He ran very well, but had a smoother trip than most in that roughly contested race. Two for two over the Belmont main track, he figures prominently but looks like an underlay if he starts close to his 3-1 morning-line odds.

Steppenwolfer also had a relatively clean trip in the Derby, closing for third. He is not particularly fast in terms of speed figures, but acts like a legitimate 1 1/2-mile horse.

Deputy Glitters
Sunriver
Bluegrass Cat
Steppenwolfer


Steve Klein

Following his two-length victory over Bluegrass Cat in the Tampa Derby, Deputy Glitters had a chance to become one of the top 3-year-olds in the country. All he needed was one more forward move. He had run the worst race of his career in his lone race in the slop, so when he was unlucky and caught a sloppy track in the Wood, it was not surprising that he regressed. His next start was the Kentucky Derby. Although he possessed enough tactical speed to get contending position if he had been asked to do so, he turned into a deep closer in that race. What could possibly go wrong while trying to rally from 15th place in a 20-horse field? The result was an extremely wide trip around the far turn that prevented Deputy Glitters from making a serious run at the leaders. He ran well to finish eighth in that race, 7 1/2 lengths behind Bluegrass Cat, who enjoyed a much better journey. Deputy Glitters figures to stay much closer to the early leaders in the Belmont, and is capable of winning this race at attractive overlaid odds.

Bluegrass Cat finished second in the Derby with help from a comfortable trip, and will be an overbet contender. Even so, he is a consistent runner who deserves to be used in the exotics.

Sunriver was sixth behind a slow pace in the Peter Pan and kicked home strongly to prevail by a neck. He is capable of improving second time back from a freshening, and he likes Belmont with a 1-1-0 record in 2 races there. He owns a 3-2-1 record in 6 races on fast tracks, and should participate in the exotics if he catches a fast track in the Belmont. Bob and John didn't do much running in the Derby, but he deserves consideration based on his previous good races. Jazil and Steppenwolfer will have to hope for a lively pace that flatters their deep-closing running styles. If the fractions are ordinary, they will have their work cut out for them.

Deputy Glitters
Bluegrass Cat
Sunriver
Bob and John


Dave Litfin

One performance below par is excusable when a horse has displayed consistent form. That is the situation with Bob and John, who was bumped around like a pinball at the start and relegated to racing in a crowd in the Kentucky Derby. This is a pure stalker who thrives on getting an early position just off the leaders and grinding along at a steady clip - a style that fits the Belmont. In the five races where Bob and John has led or been close to the leader at the pace call, he has finished first without fail and done so with authority, particularly when able to sit right on top of moderate fractions.

Bob and John skipped the Preakness, but worked a brilliant six furlongs that morning at Santa Anita, and subsequent workouts reinforce the feeling that he is on edge. His win in the Wood Memorial, when squeezed back and forced wide around the clubhouse turn before prevailing on a very tiring wet track, was underrated.

Sunriver has demonstrated a knack for winning close decisions, beginning with a determined victory over two-time stakes winner Achilles of Troy when stretched out for the first time. His improvement at 3 began March 4, when his nine-furlong allowance win in 1:48.30 was faster than the Fountain of Youth Stakes (1:49.00) later on the card, and it continued with a tough wide trip in the Florida Derby when he finished with good resolve.

Idle for seven weeks after being excluded from the Kentucky Derby, Sunriver had an ideal prep in the Peter Pan, passing three horses and gaining three lengths to get up through a fast final three-eighths.

Steppenwolfer has never been out of the money on dirt. Though generally labeled a deep closer, he has repeatedly shown the ability to reach striking range with a middle move. His Feb. 3 win at Oaklawn, coupled with last week's scintillating workout on a good track, suggests any left over moisture in the track would be a major plus.

Bluegrass Cat benefited from a clean, ground-saving trip in the Derby when two lengths clear of Steppenwolfer. His only non-exacta finish for trainer Todd Pletcher, in the Blue Grass Stakes, was attributable to chasing a supersonic pace on a Keeneland surface many horses dislike.

Bob and John
Sunriver
Steppenwolfer
Bluegrass Cat


Mike Watchmaker

Although he was beaten 6 1/2 lengths, Bluegrass Cat ran a fine race when second to Barbaro in the Kentucky Derby, and is the pick to win the Belmont Stakes.

One of the reasons why Barbaro was so justly lauded for his performance in the Kentucky Derby was that he was able to run fast late after being close to a strong early pace. But even though he wasn't in the same league as Barbaro on Derby Day, Bluegrass Cat ran a similar type of race. Bluegrass Cat was also relatively close to the early pace, and continued on strongly enough late to be clearly second ahead of 18 opponents.

On Saturday, Bluegrass Cat returns to his home track, a surface over which he is 2 for 2, and projects to sit an excellent trip stalking an early pace that shouldn't be that fast.

The anticipated moderate early pace is a big reason why Bob and John is a strong threat. Bob and John was knocked around at the start of the Derby, and really didn't do any running after that. But he is a much more effective performer when close to the early pace, as he demonstrated in his victories in the Wood Memorial and Sham Stakes, and he will have the opportunity to employ that style Saturday. Bob and John has also worked very well since the Derby, and he gives the impression of being a genuine stayer.

Jazil, last of 20 in the first two points of call in the Derby, and still 17th with a quarter-mile to go, rallied well to finish in a dead heat for fourth. He was a fast-closing second in the Wood Memorial two starts back, and while the pace of the Belmont might not turn out to be fast enough to enhance his late run, he will still be moving forward in the stretch, an important consideration in a race where none of the starters figures to actually relish the 1 1/2-mile distance.

Sunriver would have been a popular upset pick in the Derby off his tough-trip third in the Florida Derby, but was excluded from the field because of a lack of graded-stakes earnings. He got up in the last jumps to win the Peter Pan. Sunriver is improving, but is in with tougher company and might be an underlay.

Bluegrass Cat
Bob and John
Jazil
Sunriver


Mike Welsch

Aside from Barbaro, nobody looked or trained any better during the final 10 days leading up to the Kentucky Derby than Sunriver, who would have been my second pick in the race had he drawn in. Unfortunately, this baby brother to Ashado fell victim to the Derby eligibility system and had to sit on the sidelines an additional two weeks before cranking out a career-best performance winning the Peter Pan. That effort should set this steadily improving colt up nicely for an even bigger effort in the Belmont, and if he runs to expectations could lead a one-two sweep for Todd Pletcher's barn, with Bluegrass Cat perhaps looming as the main threat.

Bluegrass Cat responded to a little lighter training schedule to be clearly second behind Barbaro in the Derby, and there is little reason to believe he won't return with a similar or even improved performance with a full five weeks to recover from the race. He is perfect over the Belmont course and reunites with Johnny Velazquez.

High Finance is a little light on experience, but his dominant wire-to-wire performance over the Belmont strip on May 4 was encouraging, and it looks like he might be able to steal away to an easy lead if Bob and John or longshot Double Galore is not hustled along to force the issue. He might get brave at a square price if allowed to relax long enough in front.

Deputy Glitters dropped near the rear of the pack early, fanned out to the parking lot turning for home, and still beat 12 of 19 rivals in the Derby. He already owns a decision over Bluegrass Cat and acquires the services of Edgar Prado for the first time. He has some big shoes to fill but may prove ample replacement for Preakness-winning stablemate Bernardini.

Sunriver
Bluegrass Cat
High Finance
Deputy Glitters