Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, June 9, 2016 at 5:42 PM
BELMONT STAKES BULLETIN
VOLUME 16 - Number 4
FULL FIELD TESTS EXAGGERATOR IN BELMONT STAKES AS NEWCOMERS AND DERBY RETURNEES COME FROM ALL DIRECTIONS
Two weeks ago it appeared as though the NYRA was scrambling to work around 8 or 9 Belmont Stakes runners. Since then the entry ranks continued to grow and either a number of outfits question whether Exaggerator can duplicate his Derby and Preakness efforts or with a purse of $1.5 Million that provides $280K for second, $150K for third and $100K for fourth and being placed in a Triple Crown Race are significant runner up awards.
The reasons the field grew is whatever it is, but for those who will wager on the Belmont Stakes it adds up to bigger payoffs for the correct decisions.
With that in mind let's take a look at the field.
GOVERNOR MALIBU (12-1) - One thing trainer Christophe Clemente will not do is rush his horses into situations they are not able to handle. Based on that alone this son of Malibu Moon should be considered as he makes his first Triple Crown start. After three straight wins that culminated in a triumph in the Federico Tesio at Pimlico on 4/9 the colt took a 5 week break and made a big rush from a tracking position in the Peter pan 4 weeks ago. In 2014 both Tonalist and Commissioner exited the Peter Pan and ran 1-2 in the Belmont. Joel Rosario returns after the Peter pan ride and you could take bigger longshot stabs than this colt.
DESTIN (6-1) - In 2013 Palace Malice ran early and came unglued late in the Kentucky Derby and trainer Todd Pletcher gave the colt the 5 weeks off before returning him to Longshot glory in the Belmont Stakes. He is doing the same thing with this lightly raced son of Giant's Causeway. Although not as fast early as Palace Malice, the colt was sneaky good in the Derby as he was 8 lengths off a 1:12 six furlongs, was 6 lengths off the pace with his mile in 1:37 1/5 and finished in sixth 7 lengths back. This tactical and evenly spaced fractional running style suits the Belmont Stakes makeup and Javier Castellano remains aboard. The only thing that is a question mark is that this is only his second race in 83 days.
CHERRY WINE (8-1) - The son of Paddy O'Prado will garner plenty of support after his dramatic deep rally to nip Nyquist and get the place in the Preakness. More an also ran than a winner during his earlier preps the colt seemed to find the requisite amount of trouble in those tests and was always a wise-guy runner. The dale Romans trainee has worked well since the Preakness but will have to be equal to or perhaps better in the Belmont since despite the axiom that closers who did well in the Derby and Preakness should love the Belmont mile and a half distance is statistically unsupportable since it is stalkers and trackers that have been successful in the third leg of the Triple Crown. Nonetheless he is in fine form right now.
SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (10-1) - Trainer Donnie Von Hemel must be the top head scratching trainer of all time. Will this gelded son of Mineshaft come running late at some point in the Belmont? His lifetime evidence says yes. Will it be once again too late in a race that is less kind to deep closers than any of his recent tries? More likely than not. Here, however, is the dilemma for bettors. This 3-year old works bullets in the morning, he is as quick as any of the rivals on the Triple Crown Trail. Yet in the afternoon it is always, "I'll get going when I want to get going." The conditioner switches to Mike Smith after remaining loyal to Luis Quinonez for all 9 lifetime starts. Could that be the answer? This guy always shows up. It is just a question of when.
STRADIVARI (5-1) - The quicker of the two Pletcher runners this well-regarded son of Medaglia D'Oro could be any kind. Those who look for another step forward could easily argue that with a better trip he might have gotten runner up honors in the Preakness. Even with the newly entered Gettysburg and last out maiden winner Seeking The Soul bringing added speed to the race you have to consider this colt's chances to be positioned wherever jockey John Velazquez wants him. He has only 4 races in his career but has moved forward in every start and reminds in his development of Shackleford, who went from a mile and an eighth in the Florida Derby to a fourth in the Derby to a win in the Preakness while this guy went from a mile and an eighth allowance win to a fourth in the Preakness and now heads into the Belmont Stakes.
GETTYSBURG (30-1) - It is difficult to see this guy as anything other than a rabbit for Creator. This son of Pioneerof The Nile is a Winstar Farm colt trained by Steve Asmussen, the same connections that are looking for all the help they can get for late runner Creator. Still eligible for non-winners of two races lifetime, this colt is hard to back in any other situation.
SEEKING THE SOUL (30-1) - Another coly that is lightly raced and also eligible for non-winners of two races lifetime, the Dallas Stewart broke his maiden in career start number three at Churchill in his last. The son of Perfect Soul has never been further than a mile and although the conditioner has a history of big surprises, namely Golden Soul and Commanding Curve who ran second at huge prices in consecutive Kentucky Derby runs in 2013 and 2014, both of those runners were much further along in their racing careers than this guy. Florent Geroux, who was aboard for the maiden breaker is in the irons again.
FOREVER D'ORO (30-1) - The same that was said of Seeking The Soul can be said of this guy. The son of Medaglia D'Oro broke his maiden in career start number three and did so for the same trainer, Dallas Stewart, on the same day, May 29, although this one did so at Belmont in a mile and a sixteenth test. At least Stewart was able to reach out to leading NY jock Jose Ortiz.
TROJAN NATION (30-1) - The fourth straight 30-1 ML longshot, at least the connections of this son of Street Cry have a bit of a rack to hang a hat on. Still a maiden after 7 career starts the Patrick Gallagher trainee fell a stride or two short of upsetting the Grade I Wood Memorial when second to Outwork at 81-1 in career start number 6 and his first away from the west coast. Off that try the connections started him in the Kentucky derby and after getting checked at the start ran in last place until the lane and was 16th beaten 26 lengths. Gallagher took him back to Santa Anita where he has worked terrifically and is back for another try. 81-1 again would be about right, but then no one gave him a chance in the Wood either. Aaron Gryder returns after riding in the Wood and Derby.
LANI (20-1) - There is no truth that Lani in Japanese means "keep the faith" but that is exactly what a number of analysts who believe in this guy have done. A notorious slow starter who is his own worst enemy out of the gate, the Japanese bred son of leading sire Tapit actually improved dramatically in the Preakness and was only 1 ½ lengths off Cherry Wine after getting steadied in the stretch. Based on how this guy traveled and tried after the first quarter mile in both the Derby and Preakness there is no question that given his breeding and corrections he could be the upsetter should he get the clean break and clean trip that has so far eluded him. Reports are he has been much less antsy in New York and has worked three well-in-hand breezes over the surface, including a very sharp 5 furlongs on Wednesday. He would not be a total surprise.
EXAGGERATOR (9-5) - What does one need to say? He is the deserving favorite. It is also likely that he will not go off at the generous 9-5 the ML predicts. Trainer Keith Desormeaux has done a masterful job of keeping this son of Curlin happy and fit and it is worth remembering that those who hold that the long campaign will catch up to him, should remember that his sire got better with age and better with racing. The colt only jogged between the Derby and Preakness and look how that turned out and he has galloped and jogged since arriving here before being full of himself in a 5 furlong breeze over the track on Tuesday. Unless the fates dictate otherwise, if he runs his race he will be difficult to beat.
BRODY'S CAUSE (20-1) - Given his outside post and late running style the son of Giant's causeway will likely wait to tuck in after the field clears heading to the clubhouse turn. Another deep closer who will run against the race scenario history the Dale Romans trainee (the conditioner also has similar running style entrant Cherry Wine) also has to prove he is not the inconsistent win or nothing type after finishing well up the track in the Tampa bay Derby, winning the Blue Grass Stakes and never coming close in the Kentucky Derby. He will also have to show that he has improved more than his recent pedestrian works at Churchill have shown.
CREATOR (10-1) - Trainer Steve Asmussen is definitely pulling out all the stops. He has entered rabbit Gettysburg to try and get the kind of pace this son of Tapit was able to run down when he won the Arkansas Derby which propelled him into the Kentucky derby. He had enough backing to go off at 16-1 in Louisville but disappointed those backers. Asmussen also reaches out to one of New York's leading riders, Irad Ortiz, Jr. The jockey will have to be at his best as he tries to get the colt into the race from this post and will have no chance if he gets caught wide going into the first turn. Bettors who believe in this guy should hope for better than 10-1 as although he has shown signs of ability it is also noteworthy that three of his four best speed number were at Oaklawn and he has not come close to a number of his competitors in here when away from Arkansas.
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