We took a tough beat last week in the United Nations, but that’s ok. There’s more great racing this weekend, with the focus shifting to Belmont Park for the Stars & Strips Festival featuring the Grade 1 Belmont Derby and Belmont Oaks.
Of the two, depending on what you think of Oaks favorite #12 Sistercharlie, coming out of the French Oaks (we think she is going to be very tough to beat), the Derby looks like the more wide open affair. Let’s take a look at the field.
Belmont Derby – Grade 1 (3 year olds, 10 furlongs, turf)
1 – Good Samaritan (12-1) – I don’t think we’ll be getting 12-1 but he is our pick. He’s third off the layoff for Bill Mott and last time was severely compromised by the lack of pace in the Pennine Ridge last time. Good Samaritan also made the first move while wide in that race too. He probably should have won the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf, being steadied early on and then forced very wide before coming late behind Oscar Performance. He had no chance to win last time with the last three furlongs run in 33.70 seconds and should handle the stretchout.
2 – Ticonderoga (15-1) – He’s a Chad Brown runner that was also compromised by the slow pace last time and he also had a little trouble getting out but he did save more ground. He’s similar to Good Samaritan, but we’ve always felt that Good Samaritan was a little better. Still, he won’t be a big surprise.
3 – Homesman (4-1) – Aidan O’Brien sends out this one, off a 5th place finish at Royal Ascot going 12 furlongs. He won a Group 3 two-back but this doesn’t feel like this is one of the top groups of Euros sent over for this race. Homesman figures to take some money for these connections and is fine, but we’ll try others who should be better prices.
4 – Oscar Performance (3-1) – Our first thought going into this race was crystallized down the stretch of the Pennine Ridge, and that is to play against Oscar Performance. He set a very slow pace in that race (49.92 and 1:14.74) and now has to deal with additional pace and stretch out to 10 furlongs.
5 – Called to the Bar (5-1) – He won a Group 3 in France last time, setting the pace going 12 furlongs, but will have to deal with significant pace pressure in this race. Can he go faster early and still out-finish some good American closers? We’ll look elsewhere.
6 – Arklow (8-1) – He ran five times on dirt before Brad Cox put this son of Arch on the grass at Keeneland and he buried a maiden field before coming back to win the American Turf on the Derby undercard. He had a good trip that day on the best part of the turf course (the outside), but probably has room to improve having only made two starts on turf. He beat Good Samaritan in his last start and will be part of the play here.
7 – Yoshida (7-2) – Yoshida came this year to crush a maiden field on the lead at Keeneland and then impressively won the Murphy on the Preakness undercard when having trouble at the break. Still, he dropped back, got pace, and saved ground before angling out to win impressively. He’s very talented, but this is also a much tougher field and he’s not going to be a huge price.
8 – Makarios (30-1) – We liked him last time and though he was compromised by the slow pace in the Pennine Ridge, he didn’t do any running in that race and is probably a bit overmatched at this level.
9 – Big Score (20-1) – He got beat in the Penn Mile going (obviously) one mile last time and now stretches out. The horse that beat him last time, Frostmourne, is a solid Clement runner, and he did spend much of his race two-back on the weaker inside at Churchill. He also ran down a loose leader (albeit weaker) against a slow pace in the Transylvania in his first start of the year. I think he’s probably in a little too tough, but he’s talented.
10 – Whitecliffsofdover (10-1) – The other Aidan O’Brien runner is a front-runner and stretches out off seven-furlong races in Europe and he did no running at all last time at Royal Ascot. He has the looks of a pace-maker for Homesman.
11 – Senior Investment (20-1) – He ran fourth in his debut at Ellis in August, his only career turf start and this seems like a very tough spot to try for a breakthrough on turf.
Analysis – Our top pick is Good Samaritan and we’ll key off him while tossing Oscar Performance. The race should feature a fair enough pace which helps Good Samaritan, Arklow, Big Score, and Ticonderoga. We’ll use Homesman underneath too.
The Play – We’ll play Good Samaritan to win and box in the exacta with Ticonderoga, Arklow, and Big Score, with a little Yoshida too.
50-cents – 1 / 2, 3, 6, 7, 9 / 2, 3, 6, 7 9 ($12.50)
50-cents – 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, / 1 / 2, 3, 6, 7, 9 ($12.50)