2008 Belmont Stakes Preview

2008 Belmont Stakes Preview
by Predictem.com Staff

An aptly named horse called Big Brown takes a shot at racing immortality when he runs in the 140th Belmont Stakes Saturday at Belmont Park in New York. And even though Big Brown is a heavy 2/5 favorite, nice payouts may be available with a few wisely placed exotic wagers.

Big Brown, a perfect 5-0 for his career, is clearly the best horse in the field. But he’s been dealing with a crack in his front left hoof for the last couple of weeks. Brown had a nice workout at five furlongs Tuesday, and those surrounding him, especially trainer Rick Dutrow, are optimistic. But who can really tell?

Big Brown may be just fine. And even if he is, nice exotic payoffs can still be won when big favorites win. But if Big Brown comes up short in his bid to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, payouts across the Belmont toteboard could be tremendous.

ABC will provide television coverage beginning at 5 pm Eastern Saturday, with post-time of the Belmont Stakes, the 11th race on the card, somewhere right around 6:25 pm Eastern. ESPN will provide early coverage of the goings on at Belmont Park beginning at noon Eastern.

Big Brown, riding a string of powerful performances in wins in the Florida and Kentucky derbies and the Preakness, will go from the inside post in Saturday’s 10-horse field. Over Belmont Stakes history, the inside post position has produced 23 winners, the most of any post position. And that may again prove to be a bankable advantage over the course of this rugged 1 ? mile-race.

But while Big Brown will be going up against a field he should be able to handle, he’ll also be fighting a bit of a Triple Crown jinx; The last 10 horses to win both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes have failed in their bids to win the Belmont.

Big Brown paid just $2.40 to win at the Preakness, and actually made more money, at $2.60, to place. And his show payoff was the same as the win. So bettors may want to keep an eye on the pool totals as post-time approaches.

On the Preakness exotics, a second-place finish by Macho Again led to a $2 exacta payoff of $36.60, while a third-place finish by Icabad Crane created a respectable $2 trifecta of $336.80. And a fourth-place finish by Racecar Rhapsody gave berth to a $1 superfecta payout of $1,192.

Macho Again was the 10th favorite at post-time at the Preakness, Icabad Crane the fourth betting choice out of the gate, and Racecar Rhapsody was the sixth pick.

The second favorite at post-time in the Preakness was Gayego, who led for much of the race but faltered and finished 11th at 9/1. And the third betting choice, Kentucky Bear, never contended, and finished sixth at 14/1.

Two weeks earlier, Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby as the 5/2 post-time favorite. But when ill-fated Eight Belles finished second as the fourth favorite, the $2 exacta came in at $141.60. And when the ninth favorite, Denis of Cork, took third place, the $2 trifecta paid over $3,440. And with a fourth-place finish by Tale of Ekati, the 14th choice on the post-time betting board, the $2 superfecta paid nearly $59,000.

All, remember, with the post-time favorite winning the race.

Kent Desormeaux recently called Big Brown the best horse he’s ever ridden, which is certainly high praise coming from a jockey who’s closing in on 5,000 career victories. And Desormeaux is also a regular rider at Belmont, and knows the track well.

The second morning line Belmont choice is Casino Drive, a Japanese import who’s listed at 7/2. He’s 2-for-2 in his career and 1-0 in the US after winning the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes by five lengths at Belmont a month ago. And he’s got Edgar Prado, twice previous a winner of the Belmont, in the saddle.

Denis of Cork, who finished a distant third behind Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby five weeks ago, is the third ML pick at 12/1, with Robby Albarado aboard.

Tale of Ekati, who won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, then finished fourth in the Derby, is listed at 20/1 with Eibar Coa up top.

Macho Again is 20/1 with Garrett Gomez aboard for the first time. And Icabad Crane is a 20/1 ML choice, from the outside post position, with Jeremy Rose in the irons.

Da’ Tara, a 30/1 morning line pick with Alan Garcia aboard, finished second in the Barbaro Stakes three weeks ago. Anak Nakal, who finished fifth in the Wood and seventh in the Kentucky Derby, is 30/1 with Julien Leparoux up top. And Ready’s Echo, who took third in the Peter Pan, is 30/1 with Johnny Velzquez riding.

And finally, Guadalcanal, who’s 0-for-five career but took second in a 1 1/2-miler at Churchill Downs his last time out, is 50/1, with Javier Castellano aboard.

The best way to bet this race may be to key Big Brown on top of two or three exacta tickets. And just in case fate intervenes, and keeps the 30-year Triple Crown drought alive, we’ll box three choices on what could be a very nice exacta payout, but for smaller amounts. We’ll take our mythical $100, and key Big Brown on top of Tale of Ekati, Macho Again and Da’ Tara, $20 exactas each. Then we’ll take Casino Drive, Tale of Ekati and Macho Again and box them for $5 each. If all goes well, we’ll buy a round or two of drinks afterwards. And if we come up empty, we’ll still have ten bucks for a couple of big beers to drown our sorrows in.