Belmont Stakes Analysis: Be Prepared for a “Wicked” Race

Belmont Stakes Analysis: Be Prepared for a “Wicked” Race
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Sue Kawczynski

There is nothing more valuable than spending time on the grounds at Belmont Park in the early morning hours in the days leading up to the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes. Having that opportunity in Louisville and Baltimore prior to the Derby and Preakness, using ones eyes and ears was more valuable than studying the precious Past Performances until my eyes bled or brain got fried.

At Churchill Downs, Danza stood out as a magnificent specimen of fitness. At Pimlico, Ride On Curlin effortlessly glided over the dirt surface during his workout, without making a sound. Though California Chrome has proven to be best thus far, both Danza and Ride On Curlin did not disappoint by hitting the board.

History awaits California Chrome who will break from post #2. The racing gods have not been kind in recent years with would-be Triple Crown winners. Maybe their attitude has changed as Secretariat was also #2 (but broke from the 1 hole) in the Belmont and donned the #3 saddlecloth in the Preakness, as did California Chrome.

With that being said, here’s HOW I SEE IT (the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes) playing out, listed in my predicted order of finish.

1st -#9 – Wicked Strong

Trainer / Jockey: James Jerkens / Rajiv Maragh

Running Style: Mid-Pack

Why he COULD win: Has the grinding type of running style that gives one the sense he can “run all day”. He finished 4th in Derby despite stumbling from the 19th post and encountering traffic along the journey. Belmont is home, where last Fall he placed in his debut sprinting in the slop then won going one mile. He’ll prove that the Wood Memorial, which he won was indeed the best of the Derby preps and explode in the final furlong to spoil yet another Triple Crown celebration.

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win: May have done too much in his final workout on Sunday going 5 furlongs in 59 flat. Three foes in here have already beaten him… Tonalist (Allowance race @ GP), California Chrome & Commanding Curve (KY Derby).

Morning Line Odds: 6-1

2nd - #2 – California Chrome

Trainer / Jockey: Art Sherman / Victor Espinoza

Running Style: Tactical Speed

Why he COULD win: Actually looks better in New York than he did at Pimlico leading up to the Preakness. If he runs to his looks, racing will crown its 12th Triple Crown winner and the grandstand at Belmont might collapse from the noise emanating from 125,000+ crazed fans.

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win: No Triple Crown winner since Affirmed won in 1978; There have been eleven failed attempts in the Belmont with the Triple Crown on the line. If the racing gods are unkind, it will be another major disappointment to the horse racing fan base.

Morning Line Odds: 3-5

3rd - #10 – General A Rod

Trainer / Jockey: Michael Maker / Rosie Napravnik

Running Style: Early Speed

Why he COULD win: Using his speed, he should be able to clear the field from his outside post to get in good position in the 3-4 path to keep close to an anticipated slow pace set by California Chrome and/or Samraat. Got horrific trips in both Derby and Preakness; Reunited with jock who guided him to career debut victory.

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win: Lacks a strong stamina pedigree; FL Derby was his for the taking but hung late which might indicate he lacks the will to WIN against top competition.

Morning Line Odds: 20-1

4th -#1 – Medal Count

Trainer / Jockey: Dale Romans / Robby Albarado

Running Style: Mid-Pack

Why he COULD win: Has been training lights out at his home track (Churchill Downs); was the Wise-Guy horse in the Derby as his normally reserved trainer wasn’t been shy about expressing confidence in this one. Ran better than his 8th place Derby finish as he checked at the 1/8th pole when full of run.

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win: His sire (Dynaformer) earned his living on the turf. His three dirt races resulted in his three worst finishes of his career (5th, 8th and 11th).

Morning Line Odds: 20-1

5th -#7 – Samraat

Trainer / Jockey: Richard Violette / Jose Ortiz

Running Style: Speed

Why he COULD win: 5 wins in 7 lifetime outings. Wicked Strong handed him his first loss, yet was a game second. He’s a model of consistency, earning the same exact Brisnet Speed Figure (99) in four consecutive races prior to his 5th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Back home in New York, the scene of his career debut win, might provide the extra boost needed for another big effort.

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win: In the prior 145 runnings of this race only 3 NY-breds have won, the most recent was 132 years ago (Forester in 1882), prior to that Fenian (1869) and the filly Ruthless (1867). Pedigree on female side of family is short on stamina; he might have peaked a few races ago and it’s hard to maintain top condition over a long period of time.

Morning Line Odds: 20-1

6th - #4 – Commanding Curve

Trainer / Jockey: Dallas Stewart / Shaun Bridgmohan

Running Style: Closer

Why he COULD win: A fast closing second in the KY Derby; jockey seems to best suit him as they have a win and two seconds in three races as a team.

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win: Still eligible for N2L (non-winners of 2 lifetime); Trainer is using same plan that got longshot Golden Soul second in last years’ Derby, but that one finished 9th in the Belmont.

Morning Line Odds: 15-1

7th - #5 – Ride On Curlin

Trainer / Jockey: William Gowan / John Velazquez

Running Style: Mid-Pack

Why he COULD win: Gave California Chrome a run for his money when second in the Preakness, making him the closest beating “CC” in 2014. Added distance might be what the doctor ordered to help make him a winner of the “Test of Champions”. He gets veteran rider who knows his way around the unique 1½ mile Belmont Park dirt oval, winning this contest on two occasions (2007 & 2012) which could be the difference maker.

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win: During Preakness Week appeared to be in top form and ran to that form. Not sure if he is capable of duplicating or improving off of that effort. His two wins from 11 career races came in sprints (5½ & 6 furlongs).

Morning Line Odds: 12-1

8th - #11 – Tonalist

Trainer / Jockey: Christophe Clement / Joel Rosario

Running Style: Tactical Speed

Why he COULD win the Derby: With only 4 lifetime races, this lightly raced colt shows improvement with race. Only loss in 3 races as a 3 year-old was to Constitution who came back to win FL Derby in his next outing, but an injury cost him a shot at the Derby prompting trainer Todd Pletcher to say, “It’s tough… I really thought he (Constitution) would be our best shot to win the Derby.”
Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win the Derby
: It’s a weighty issue as he’ll carry 9 lbs. more on Saturday than he did in his last race, a 4 length victory in the Peter Pan ver a sloppy track. His sire Tapit seems to be able to get his offspring to top out at 1 1/8 mile distances. Breaking from the extreme outside post with a short run to the first turn means he’ll need to use precious energy early to get a good position to save ground.

Morning Line Odds: 8-1

9th - #6 – Matuszak

Trainer / Jockey: William Mott / Mike Smith

Running Style: Closer

Why he COULD win: Has the pedigree to get the 1½ mile distance, so lack of stamina will not be an excuse. Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith will be in the irons for first time, who has won this race twice… in the last four years. Conditioner (Mott) may have tried something different in his training as he’s thrown two bullet works on the Belmont oval since his last race.

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win: Still eligible for N2L (non-winners of 2 lifetime); His speed figures simply don’t measure up to others in here. Most recent effort was a distant second to Kid Cruz who got dusted in the Preakness by 16 lengths.

Morning Line Odds: 30-1

10th - #8 – Commissioner

Trainer / Jockey: Todd Pletcher / Javier Castellano

Running Style: Mid-Pack

Why he COULD win: Has the pedigree to get the job done, as his sire (A.P. Indy), grandsire (Seattle Slew) and damsire (Touch Gold) all won the Belmont Stakes. This trainer-jockey team is one of the best in the nation. If anyone can get a 20-1 home in a big race, these two can.    

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win: On sheer principal because back on February 4th he was my #1 on GQ’s Derby Double Dozen and has done nothing but disappoint since then. He’ll carry 10 lbs. more on Saturday than he did in his runner-up effort in the Peter Pan, his most recent outing, while having to run 3/8 mile further.

Morning Line Odds: 20-1

11th - #3 – Matterhorn

Trainer / Jockey: Todd Pletcher / Joe Bravo

Running Style: Mid-Pack

Why he COULD win: He’s fresh. Lightly raced with just 4 career starts, but has substantially improved his Brisnet speed figure in each of his last 3 efforts. Has a grind-it-out running style that could get him there IF the rest of the field wilts in the stretch… which is highly unlikely, but stranger things have happened in this race (re: Sarava)

Why he SHOULD NOT be able to win: It’s a weighty issue as he’ll carry 10 lbs. more on Saturday than he did in his fourth place effort in the Peter Pan, his most recent outing, while having to run 3/8 mile further; been facing much weaker fields than he’ll run against in here.

Morning Line Odds: 30-1

Based on my analysis of the Belmont Stakes, I’ll put just $74 into the race and play…

$10 WIN, PLACE, SHOW on #9 (Wicked Strong) cost: $30

$2 EXACTA BOX on #1 (Medal Count), #2 (California Chrome), #9 (Wicked Strong), #10 (General A Rod) cost: $24

$1 TRIFECTA PART-WHEEL #1, #2, #4, #7, #9 with #1, #2, #4, #7, #9 with #10 (General A Rod) in the 3rd spot cost: $20

Note: The above betting strategy provides the opportunity for value while not completely betting against California Chrome to become the 12th winner of horse racings Triple Crown. Good Luck!

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                Meet Gary Quill

  I am the most passionate person on the planet when it comes to thoroughbred horse racing! One sunny summer day in 1964 at Timonium Race Track is where my Dad and mentor introduced me to “The Sport of Kings”. Since that day, I have had the pleasure to visit over 40 different tracks across North America. Though an IT professional by trade, I’ve had a part-time gig with the Maryland Jockey Club since 1988.

here are thousands of rail-birds who claim to be great handicappers. Well, I don’t claim to be the best… just the most passionate and one that won’t tout “chalk”. Like a savvy stock broker, I look for value and often find it. Unlike the talking heads on horse racing television networks and the dozens of websites featuring handicapper’s opinions, I’m ACCOUNTABLE. That is, good or bad, you’ll always know how my previously posted picks performed along with a running record of my BEST BET and LONGSHOT Play of the Day selections for Maryland tracks (Laurel and Pimlico) at TheRacingBiz, see "The GQ Approach".

   In addition to focusing on the Maryland thoroughbred racing circuit, each year I follow the Derby Trail and post “GQ’s Derby Double Dozen” in early February. 

   My personal mission is to rejuvenate interest in thoroughbred horse racing. Being able to share my energy, thoughts and opinions on this sport via HRN will certainly help the cause.


"I lost $2 at Santa Anita and I've spent $3 million trying to get it back." - Mickey Rooney

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