06/10/2016 11:08AM

The Wizard: Why Exaggerator is a vulnerable Belmont Stakes favorite


Exaggerator, the Preakness winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up, is clearly the most accomplished runner in the Belmont Stakes field, and for that reason he will be the heavy favorite. He also will be overbet and vulnerable stretching out to 1 1/2 miles, which makes him a horse I cannot select on top.

Exaggerator has run very well in his last three starts against the best of his generation. It is only when you dissect all three races that it becomes apparent he was set up perfectly each time. In the Belmont, this might not be the case.

In the Santa Anita Derby, Exaggerator blew away the field over a sloppy track he relished and his opposition did not. He also was set up perfectly to close into blazing fractions, which resulted in a pace meltdown.

In the Kentucky Derby, Exaggerator encountered only minor trouble, considering the bulky field and having to rally from far back. He once again caught a track that had plenty of moisture in it, resulting from a brief but strong rain storm an hour before the race. The track was listed as fast, but it was closer to good. Jockey Kent Desormeaux was able to save valuable ground until angling out in the stretch. Exaggerator sustained a strong closing rally, but in the end was second-best to Nyquist.

:: BELMONT STAKES: News updates, field, and videos

If you felt Exaggerator was set up perfectly in both the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby, the race could not have unfolded any better for him in the Preakness.  For the third straight race, Exaggerator caught a track with moisture, and this time the conditions were a sealed sloppy surface. You knew the Preakness fractions would be quick and contentious, but you could not have anticipated the vicious speed duel that developed between odds-on favorite Nyquist and Uncle Lino.

Desormeaux was content to take well back of the cutthroat duel, and placed Exaggerator on the rail to ensure a ground-saving trip. With not a straw in Exaggerator's path, Desormeaux rationed out his closing move to perfection, creeping closer and closer to the ensuing battle up front while continuing to race along the inside.

Having a dead beat on inhaling the front-runners at the top of the stretch, Desormeaux steered Exaggerator off the rail into the five path turning for home. The lead and the victory was all his with three-sixteenths of a mile to go. Nyquist tried gallantly to make another run and Cherry Wine was gobbling up ground along the rail, but neither was going to overtake Exaggerator who won comfortably by 3 1/2 lengths despite drifting in toward the rail in the late stages.

The Belmont Stakes presents a new set of variables that may not result in the same perfect set ups that Exaggerator has been the beneficiary of in his last three starts.

For starters, there is the 1 1/2-mile distance. Just because he has proven to be a closer who has finished strongly at distances as long as 1 1/4 miles does not mean it will translate as well to the additional quarter-mile of the Belmont. If you read the footnotes in the charts as well as the comments to the right of his past performances in his last four starts, you will notice that in each race it states “lugged in” or “drifted in.”

Watching the head-on replay, it becomes apparent that this action could be a result of being a tired horse late in his races or just a habit. Even though he was victorious in two of those four races, the setup and a clear lead in midstretch helped propel him to victory, so being a tired horse did not stand out as much. It did show more clearly when he ran third in the San Felipe and finished second behind Nyquist in the Derby.

Exaggerator also will not get the same quick and contested fractions to close into in the Belmont. Desormeaux, at several points during the race, will have to ask for a burst of acceleration. If not, Exaggerator will have to sustain one run, which could make him vulnerable to a fresher horse in the late stages of the race.

It would be folly to say that Exaggerator will not win the Belmont Stakes based on his resume and the opposition he is facing. Nevertheless, I feel he is the type of horse with a certain clearly defined profile that I look forward to betting against in the Belmont, even though I will include him on most of my tickets, but not nearly as much on top. My wagering strategies also will include some tickets going for the big score if Exaggerator does not run first or second and with the remote chance he does not hit the board.

Who is the Wizard selecting to upset the favorite in the Belmont Stakes and how is he wagering on the race?

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Charlie Brown 6 months ago
Wizard a fraud, mostly obvious chalk
djp4555 11 months ago
Waste of money buying The Wizzard.
Martin Wilbur 11 months ago
While I agree Exaggerator may be vulnerable and his odds will be too low to justify a serious wager, at what point do you say that it's the horse who makes his opportunities and his better and not that he simply lucked into winning or running well. Do that once, sure. But when you win the SA Derby, run second in the Ky. Derby, then win the Preakness, it's more than just getting the right trip.
Charles Sanford 11 months ago
I like a number of horses in the Belmont mainly brody's cause... Lani...suddenbreakingnews...gettysburg...creator...governor malibu...because of their high DP numbers based distance and stamina so i will play and exotic and be content with the out come this race is going to be a jockeys race.....gettysburg and stradivari will set the pace... the smart jock with  the patience will come and get them....look out for Brody's cause Creator and Lani ..suddenbreakingnews late....I not say he going to win but gettysburg is out pioneer of the nile and same mother of American P...?
Mooch ... 11 months ago
Talk about Spam... Modern day "Turf Craft". Any old timers remember Sammy Parker and his Blue Ribbon Parlay? Guess this is a modern day version of that.

Exaggerator is a late running sprinter, that's why he makes those early moves and hangs, he has gotten one set-up after another but here unlike the Preakness there are some real late runners, so if that rabbit gives us some nice fast fractions early to help set Kent up he will be getting a reminder of 1998, only this time there will be more getting by him than just one horse. Brody's Cause has caught Exaggerator twice from behind and at 20-1 I will gamble he does it again 12-2-13-4 in the Belmont and playing Brody's Cause on top. Don't have to be a Wizard to know Exaggerator will be knocked off.
Ronald Friedman 11 months ago
amazing how this wizard hedges
Ray Lanfear 11 months ago
No other horse comes close. Curlin  blood will win it all

Linda Corbello Duplechin 11 months ago

stholeary 11 months ago
Yeah but it's going to rain on saturday.
sgvoak 11 months ago
Also dont let people forget what happen last time kent d was here and people put all there money on him. Da tara won and there was no excuess for his ride still till this day
Patrick De Vito 11 months ago
Last time Kent was there, he WON with Summer Bird!