Garrity's Friday Stakes Belmont Picks: The 2-mile Gold Cup, True North, New York and Intercontinental
The eyes of the horse racing world will be on Belmont Park the next two days, and while the main event, a gaggle of stakes leading up to the biggie, the last jewel in the Triple Crown, is not until tomorrow, the races today are quite good too. We have plays in four of them, all stakes, and we expect fast dirt and soft turf at Big Sandy today. Let’s go.
Belmont Park, Race 8, 4:42 pm ET
Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup, 2 miles, Turf, 4 & Up
The Belmont Gold Cup is a rare bird in racing these days: a graded stakes run over a distance of two miles. We don’t see these very often, and neither do horses: Only three of the eight entrants have run this far before. That is one of the reasons the pick is 1-Loft, a German-bred and true stayer, who comes off a win in a Group 2 stakes at Hoppegarten in Germany last month. We think trainer intent is a key handicapping component, and that makes Loft a strong play: whereas the trainers of other runners are praying that their animals will say the marathon distance, Marcel Weiss, the conditioner of Loft, knows his horse can do it, and the conclusion is that he has come to New York not to experiment, but to win. Plus, marathoners tend to peak at more advanced ages than horses who run shorter distances, and Loft, at just 4, is just beginning to enter his physical prime. At 4-1, that makes him a fantastic play. We will bet him to win. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 8, $50 to win on 1-Loft.
Belmont Park, Race 9, 5:17 pm ET
Grade 2 True North Stakes, 6 ½ furlongs, Dirt, 4 & Up
Six go in the True North. Most of the attention, and most of the wagering dollars, will be on 3-Jackie’s Warrior, who is odds-on after his emphatic win in the Grade 1 Churchill Downs Stakes on the Kentucky Derby undercard.
The race will be a good illustration, we think, of the difference between picking a winner as an intellectual exercise and picking a horse to bet: Jackie’s Warrior is overwhelmingly the likeliest winner, but at the day’s shortest price – there is a very real chance that he goes off at 1/10 – he is a terrible wagering prospect. And there have been thousands of times when horses who looked even more invincible on paper found a way to lose.
Jackie’s Warrior has blazing early speed – he’s one of the fastest horses in training today – and none of his rivals today can outgun him early. If he does not win, however, it will be because he gets tired late: On the infrequent occasions when Jackie’s Warrior has lost, it has been because he got tired late. And that makes the pick 6-Sound Money, an improving 4-year-old who is a strong stretch runner, and who will be coming late. Is Sound Money as likely a winner as the favorite? No. But he is a better bet. We will play him to win at 9/2. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 9, $35 to win on 6-Sound Money.
Belmont Park, Race 10, 5:50 pm ET
Grade 1 New York Stakes, 1 ¼ miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
A good field of seven goes to the post in the New York Stakes. Trainer Chad Brown starts four of them, and we can’t get past the most highly touted of his runners: 2-Rougir simply seems the best animal in the field. She did some good work in her native France last year, including a very impressive win in the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera at Longchamps in Paris last October, and she comes off a strong effort in her seasonal debut last month, when she won the Grade 3 Beaugay at Belmont with almost condescending ease. She appears to have the most talent in this group, and her run in the Beaugay seems to suggest that she is sitting on a big race today, so we are headed to the windows: we will bet Rougir to win at 6/5. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 10, $50 to win on 2-Rougir.
Belmont Park, Race 11, 6:22 pm ET
Grade 3 Intercontinental Stakes, 6 furlongs, Turf, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
WIth a full field of thirteen, the Intercontinental is the day’s best betting race: We like 1-Star Divine, a 4-year-old who comes off a runner-up finish in a minor stakes at Keeneland in April, which was his first race of the year. On the surface, that effort looks merely adequate, but a closer look shows that she ran very well that day: Star Divine was close that day to a pace that was wickedly fast, so fast, in fact, that most horses who were near it gave way late. That she managed to hang on for second is much to her credit. That effort by itself would probably make her a contender in this spot, but add the fact that this is her second race of the year, and she will presumably run even better today than she did last time, and we like her prospects very much. We think she is a major win contender, and at 10-1, a terrific wager. We will bet her to win. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 11, $40 to win on 1-Star Divine.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.