While the best 3-year-old horses on dirt recently finished competing in the Triple Crown, the $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational on Saturday kicks off a new series for 3-year-olds called the Turf Trinity, with the newly-created $1 million Saratoga Derby and Jockey Club Derby completing the circuit in the coming months.
As with the Kentucky Derby, the difficulty in the Belmont Derby is in deciding which horses will handle the 1 1/4-mile distance, followed by separating the horses into their proper class. All of these 3-year-olds are stakes horses, but this is a “super” Grade 1 with several talented horses. The winner will have certainly earned it..
The Belmont Derby is carded as Race 9 with post time set for 5:44 p.m. ET. Here's a look at the field with projected odds by Horse Racing Nation.
1. Moon Colony, 20-1 (Uncle Mo – Mark Casse/Julien Leparoux) – 7: 3-0-0): This Uncle Mo colt’s class is questionable. He won the Penn Mile (G2), but one of the major contenders was Forty Under, and he unexplainably folded. The third-place finisher Real News wants to cut back to a sprint distance. Two starts ago, Moon Colony finished a flat fifth by two lengths in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes. Toss.
2. Standard Deviation, 15-1 (Curlin – Chad Brown/Jose Ortiz – 6: 2-1-2): The connections always figured him as a turf horse, as he made his career debut in an off-the-turf race at Saratoga. After four more dirt starts, he finally competed on turf in the Tale of the Cat at Monmouth last month and won with a wide, sweeping move. But he beat a weak field over there, and this is a major step up. Toss.
3. Seismic Wave, 15-1 (Tapit – William Mott/Joel Rosario – 6: 2-2-1): He ran a strong race in the Pennine Ridge (G3), rallying behind Demarchelier and finishing second by a neck with a late move. For those planning to bet him, the loss is a blessing in disguise as most bettors will use that race's winner, Demarchelier, instead. Therefore, he offers value. Live longshot.
4. English Bee, 20-1 (English Channel – Graham Motion/Junior Alvarado – 6: 3-1-1): He did win the one-mile J.W. Murphy Stakes at Pimlico, but there are some points to nitpick about the effort. For one, he received a perfect trip sitting in the pocket and tipping out in the stretch. Also, he ran down a distance-challenge pacesetter in Real News. In his two attempts to stretch out at 1 1/16 miles, he lost ground late. Toss.
5. Plus Que Parfait, 20-1 (Point of Entry – Brendan Walsh/Tyler Gaffalione – 8: 2-1-2): This ridgling debuted on turf last summer but then made all seven subsequent starts on dirt to varying success. That first out race only looks OK, as he hung late while racing in third at Ellis Park against a rival here, Henley’s Joy. Now he needs to prove himself on turf against more classy horses. Toss.
6. Henley’s Joy, 30-1 (Kitten’s Joy – Michael Maker/Jose Lezcano – 10: 3-3-0): He proved no match for Demarchelier in the Pennine Ridge Stakes and no match for Digital Age in the American Turf Stakes (G2). Why pick him in this spot? Toss.
7. Master Fencer, 10-1 (Just a Way – Kochi Tsunoda/Suguru Hamanaka – 8: 2-2-0): While this horse brings star status to the event, it also works against him from a betting perspective as he might become underlaid. He did compete in two maiden turf races in Japan, finishing second and fourth in each of them. In his two American starts, he also ran like a typical turf horse with his quick late burst. But he came up short each time, and the same is expected here. Use underneath.
8. Social Paranoia, 15-1 (Street Boss – Todd Pletcher/Manuel Franco – 8: 1-3-4): Even though he only lost by 1 ¼ lengths in the Pennine Ridge Stakes, Demarchelier and Seismic Wave both looked on another level than him. Remember, in turf racing the margins are compressed. While this horse may clunk into the superfecta, others are preferred. Toss.
9. Cape of Good Hope, 8-1 (Galileo – Aiden O’Brien/Wayne Lordan– 8: 2-1-0): The European invader ran okay in the Prix du Jockey Club (G1), finishing fourth. He then disappointed in the Hampton Court Stakes (G3) at Royal Ascot by running a distant 10th, bringing the quality of the Prix du Jockey Club into question. A Euro in bad form can sometimes turn around when debuting in North America. Use underneath.
10. Spinoff, 15-1 (Hard Spun – Todd Pletcher/Luis Saez – 6: 2-1-1): He did hang around for sixth in the Belmont Stakes after displaying speed, but it is still questionable he wants to run longer distances. The dam Zaftig’s major win came in the 2008 Acorn Stakes (G1), which is a one-turn mile, and his half-brother Rugbyman ran eight times last year and only won twice in one-turn mile races. Toss.
11. Blenheim Palace, 12-1 (Galileo – Aiden O’Brien/Michael Hussey – 7: 1-1-0): Two starts ago, he finished a good second in the Derby Trial (G3) against some decent European horses in Broome and Sovereign. But then he ran up the track in the Prix du Jockey Club, running a dismal 14th by 28 ½ lengths. Clearly, O’Brien brought his “B team” to this race. He might wake up though. Use underneath.
12. Demarchelier, 9/2 (Dubawi – Chad Brown/Javier Castellano – 3: 3-0-0): In the local Pennine Ridge Stakes, this colt ran as the “other” Chad Brown starter. Bettors let him go at 5-1, while his stablemate Value Proposition ran at 3-1. Yet, Demarchelier proved them wrong by winning with a strong move going wide. Given he won at nine furlongs and showed no signs of hanging, 1 ¼ miles will be fine. The top pick.
13. Digital Age, 4-1 (Invincible Spirit – Chad Brown/Irad Ortiz Jr. – 3: 3-0-0): This undefeated colt comes into this race 3 for 3, with his latest win in the American Turf Stakes on Derby Day. But distance is a question. While sprinters can sire a 1 ¼-mile horse, it is not preferable to see Invincible Spirit on top. Note his top four money earners, including 2012 Breeders’ Cup mile also-ran Moonlight Cloud, competed around one mile or shorter. The dam side looks a little better. Win contender.
14. Rockemperor, 8-1 (Holy Roman Emperor – Chad Brown/John Velazquez – 7: 2-3-1): After showing some speed, he finished a flat sixth in the Prix de Jockey Club (G1), losing by eight lengths in the end. Now, he comes to North America for the rest of his career and enters the Chad Brown barn. Perhaps that turns him around. Use underneath.
AE, 15. He’s No Lemon, 30-1 (Lemon Drop Kid – Graham Motion/Javier Castellano – 6: 1-1-2): Even though he lacks any stakes experience, the distance is not a problem. This closer finished second in a 1 3/8-mile race recently on this course. If he draws in, expect him to pick off tired horses late. Use underneath.
Summary: Demarchelier looks like a horse with a bright future. With such a large field, the odds don't figure to go too low, especially with Master Fencer, two Aiden O’Brien shippers and three other Chad Brown starters present in the field.
As a closer, Demarchelier still needs to work out a good trip as traffic problems are almost a given in a 14-horse field. But at 3-1 or higher, it is worth the risk.
My $60 plays:
$18 Win: 12
$1 ($30 in all) Trifecta wheel: 12 / 3,7,9,11,13,14 / 3,7,9,11,13,14
$1 ($12 in all) Exacta wheel: 3,13 / 3,7,9,11,12,13,14