by Professional Horse Racing Handicapper Kenneth Strong of Predictem.com
142nd Running of the Belmont Stakes G1
Distance: 1 1/2-miles Surface: Dirt Purse: $1 million
Belmont Park, Race 11, Saturday, June 5, 2010
Approximate Post Time: 6:32 p.m. Eastern
Belmont Picks and Analysis
1. Ice Box
2. First Dude
Belmont Superfecta Longshots: Stately Victor, Make Music for Me
The 2010 Belmont Stakes lost some of its luster when Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky decided to skip the third leg of the Triple Crown, but that might be a blessing in disguise for bettors, who now get a great betting race and enticing odds on all the major contenders in a well matched field.
The Belmont is a tricky race to win as one of the rare 1 -mile races run over the dirt in North America, and trainers who have won the race before have to be given major consideration. In that vein, Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, who won the Belmont Stakes with Birdstone in 2004 and Da Tara in 2008, will saddle two of the three favorites in this years Belmont Ice Box (3-1) and Fly Down (9/2).
Ice Box has been freshened since an excellent showing in the Kentucky Derby on May 1 in which he overcame trouble and came flying home to finish second. Fly Down comes into the race off a romping win in the Dwyer G2 on May 8 at Belmont, so he also has a strong showing over the surface.
Both horses have been working exceptionally well and Zito says neither will have a problem with the distance. While the class/form edge has to go Ice Box, his jockey Jose Lezcano has never won the Belmont, while John Velazquez aboard Fly Down has been one of the top jockeys at Belmont Park for the past 20 years. He also won the Belmont with Rags to Riches in 2007.
From a visual standpoint Ice Boxs second place finish in the Kentucky Derby was much more impressive than Fly Downs win in the Dwyer, so well be giving the edge to Ice Box, who should provide excellent wagering value at 5/2 or better.
Interestingly, sandwiched between the two Zito horses on the odds board will be Preakness runner-up First Dude (7/2), who has already lost to Fly Down twice and Ice Box once. He also lost to fellow Belmont entrant Stately Victor in the 2010 Blue Grass Stakes. Everything points to First Dude losing to these horses again on class, but he has a natural speed edge that makes him very enticing.
Trained by Dale Romans and slated to be ridden by top New York jockey Ramon Dominguez, if First Dude comes out of the gate like he did in the Preakness he should be on the lead by himself, which makes him very dangerous. Both his trainer and his jockey say First Dude will love the 1 -mile distance of the Belmont Stakes and the surface. Additionally, a look back at the races he did lose to his Belmont Stakes rivals indicates that he didnt always get the best of trips in those races.
In both his losses to Fly Down, First Dude started battling with other horses long before the stretch, setting the race up for that rival. When First Dude lost to Ice Box in the Florida Derby he was steadied at the eighth pole, and when he lost to Stately Victor in the Blue Grass Stakes he may not have liked being bothered at the start or the surface. Ramon Dominguez is a very cagey and smart rider who knows the Belmont Park oval better than most and theres a very good chance he could give them all the slip in here if he can open up early. While it would be foolish on paper for any other horse to go with First Dude early and negate their chances of winning, stranger things have certainly happened in this race.
There are two horses who might be able to go with First Dude early and neither would win this race with those tactics but Game On Dude, trained by Bob Baffert, comes into the race off a romping win in the Lone Star Derby G3 over lesser rivals, and the last time he tried to stay close to this kind, including First Dude, in the Florida Derby, he finished seventh beaten 10 -lengths. On the plus side, his trainer Bob Baffert won this race in 2001 with Point Given and narrowly missed winning both the Belmont and the Triple Crown with Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998. Even with the trainer angle in his favor, Game On Dude would seem up against it.
Interactif is the other horse who could go with First Dude if he wanted to. Trained by Todd Pletcher, who won the Belmont Stakes with Rags to Riches in 2007, Interactif is a very tough horse who has run well on numerous occasions against high class horses without winning. If you throw out his uncharacteristically poor run in his last start, the Blue Grass Stakes on April 10, his form looks stellar, as does his pedigree for the Belmont distance. If Interactif can come up with his best race again in the Belmont, we could see him giving First Dude fits late on the turn for home and in early stretch, which would set the race up for Ice Box.
The longshots we like for the superfecta are Make Music for Me and Stately Victor. We bet Make Music for Me at 30-1 in the Kentucky Derby and used him in the superfecta and he ran huge to finish fourth. Like Ice Box, he benefitted from the sizzling early pace in the Derby, but were not quite sure if weve seen the best of him yet. Stately Victor looked great winning the Blue Grass and came back with a better than it looked eighth place finish in the Kentucky Derby. He also has an excellent stamina pedigree and he will be a big price in the Belmont.
Full Belmont Stakes entries, morning line odds, post positions and jockeys follow below.
2010 Belmont Stakes Entries, Odds, Post Positions and Jockeys
Post - Horse - Odds - Jockey
1. Dave in Dixie (20-1) Borel2. Spangled Star (30-1) Gomez
3. Uptowncharlybrown (10-1) Maragh
4. Make Music for Me (10-1) Rosario
5. Fly Down (9/2) Velazquez
6. Ice Box (3-1) Lezcano
7. Drosselmeyer (12-1) Smith
8. Game On Dude (10-1) M Garcia
9. Stately Victor (15-1) A Garcia
10. Stay Put (20-1) Theriot
11. First Dude (7/2) Dominguez
12. Interactif (12-1) Castellano