Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks the Belmont undercard, from the Woody Stephens to the Acorn to the Manhattan
Garrity's first post is 12:47 pm EDT.
The Belmont Stakes may get the the headlines, but serious fans of horse racing know that when it comes to betting, the undercard is where it’s at: there are eight terrific stakes races that support the main event. It’s arguably the best betting day of the year outside the Breeders Cup. We will look at all of them.
We need to take a moment to mention track conditions. Despite the rain that fell in New York the past few days, we expect the main track to be fast, as the dirt at Belmont dries out pretty quickly this time of year, and the track maintenance crew has been working on it all night to help it dry out even faster. The turf course is another matter: there was simply too much water, and too little time, for it to recover from all the moisture, but we expect it to be good throughout the day.
With that out of the way, let’s go.
Belmont Park, Race 3, 12:47 pm ET
Grade 1 Woody Stephens Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds
Six go in the Woody Stephens. The hot favorite is 3-Jackie’s Warrior, who faltered on the Kentucky Derby trail, but rebounded in a big way winning the Pat Day Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs on May 1. He could win, but at 7/5 he looks like an underlay to us, partly because of the ordinary speed figure he earned winning his last, and partly because he is a speed horse who figures to have plenty of company up front.
We like 1-Nova Rags. He was last seen finishing second in the Peter Pan Stakes, when he tried unsuccessfully to close into a slow early pace. He cuts back to 7 furlongs here from the mile and an eighth he last ran in the Peter Pan; we like the cutback, but what we like even more is that is a stretch-runner, and figures to benefit from the fast early pace we expect. We will bet Nova Rags to win at 8-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 3, $30 to win on 1-Nova Rags.
Belmont Park, Race 4, 1:22 pm ET
Grade 2 Brooklyn Stakes, 1 ½ miles, Dirt, 4 & Up
The day’s other 12 furlong stakes on dirt is the Brooklyn, which drew a field of nine older horses. We like 9-Lone Rock, who has excelled at this distance, with two wins and a second in three career starts, and who was last seen beating a good field in a mile and a half race at Oaklawn Park. He should also get a dream trip, sitting just behind the early speed, moving to the front when they begin to tire. We will bet Lone Rock to win at 9/2. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 4, $30 to win on 9-Lone Rock.
Belmont Park, Race 5, 2:01 pm ET
Grade 1 Acorn Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies
A terrific field of six 3-year-old fillies lines up for the Acorn. At most tracks, mile races are run around two turns, but at Belmont, they are run around just one, which can lead to a faster early pace, as the horses are running in a straight line, rather than around the turn. We think the pace here will be even faster than that, as the main contenders are all speed types, and the swift early fractions will set the table for 2-Obligatory, a late-blooming, stretch-running filly who won her last race, the Eight Belles at Churchill Downs, by closing from far, far back. She will need to be closer to the early leaders today than she was last time, and while we think she will be, we also think the more forwardly-placed position will not lessen her closing kick. We will bet her to win at 6-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 5, $30 to win on 2-Obligatory.
Belmont Park, Race 6, 2:41 pm ET
Grade 1 Jackpocket Jaipur Stakes, 6 furlongs, Turf, 3 & Up
A big field of eleven lines up for the Jaipur. We’re going with 7-Oleksandra, a mare running against the boys, and one hoping to rebound after a couple of subpar races. The early pace should be fast, which will favor her closing style, and she should be able to handle the turf. We will bet her to win at 15-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 6, $30 to win on 9-Oleksandra.
Belmont Park, Race 7, 3:18 pm ET
Grade 1 Ogden Phipps, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, FIllies & Mares 4 & Up
The big news for the Phipps is the scratch of Swiss Skydiver, the morning line favorite, who was declared out of the race on Friday. Her defection leaves a field of six.
We like 2-Valiance, whose last race was an excellent runner-up finish in the Breeders Cup Distaff. That was seven months ago, and while the layoff is a concern, both her recent morning works, which have been very sharp, and trainer Todd Pletcher’s skill at getting horses to fire off the bench (29% win rate with horses laid off six months or more) suggest she will be ready to go. We also think the pace will favor her, as she is a stalker, and should sit just behind a fast early pace. We will bet her to win at 4-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 7, $35 to win on 2-Valiance.
Belmont Park, Race 8, 3:58 pm ET
Grade 1 Longines Just a Game Stakes, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
The Just a Game is a sensational betting race, a true Grade 1 with a world-class field. Twelve older females turf horses are entered, and a win by any one of the dozen would not be a total shock.
We like a European invader, 9-Summer Romance, who spent the winter in Dubai after competing in some major races in England and France last year. She is a 4-year-old filly with an elite turf pedigree, she will like the going, and at 6-1, she is a sensational wagering opportunity. At the sport’s highest level, European turf horses are superior to their American counterparts, and we think Summer Romance is going to show that. We will bet her to win, and we will do with gusto. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 8, $50 to win on 9-Summer Romance.
Belmont Park, Race 9, 4:42 pm ET
Grade 1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap, 1 mile, Dirt, 3 & Up
The Met MIle is a sensational race, and while we would probably prefer to see a race with its rich history run on a day when it can be featured, its presence on the Belmont undercard adds even more luster to a star-studded day.
We like the favorite, 6-Knicks Go. While there is some question about his fitness for this spot -- his last race was in February, in Saudi Arabia, and he ran poorly in it -- there is no question that if he is right, he is going to win here. We’ll wager that trainer Brad Cox has him ready for this -- his recent morning workouts certainly suggest that -- and that makes him the horse to beat. We will bet him to win at 6/5. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 6-Knicks Go.
Belmont Park, Race 10, 5:38 pm ET
Grade 1 Resorts World Manhattan Stakes, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, 4 & Up
Ten go in the Manhattan. We like a Chad Brown runner, 8-Tribhuvan, a French-bred 5-year-old who returned from a long layoff to win the Fort Marcy at Belmont on May 1. He has two things we like in grass horses: a high cruising speed and a strong closing kick; he also has something that will be crucial today, which is an affinity for running on softer turf. We will bet him to win at 8-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 10, $40 to win on 8-Tribhuvan.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing -- what a day it will be! -- be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.