Thursday, June 5, 2014

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad (Belmont Stakes Preview)

To paraphrase Meatloaf:

We want you,
We need you,
But -- there ain't no way I'm ever going to bet you.
Now don't be sad,
Cause two out of three ain't bad.

I haven't picked a Kentucky Derby Preakness Belmont Stakes winner since Smarty Jones ever.  The last horse I thought had a legitimate shot at the Triple Crown was Smarty Jones, and we all remember how that played out.  Belmont is not a track I regularly play and generally don't have a good feel for, but with history on the line I am compelled to take a look and voice my opinion...  especially since "Nasalstripgate" has been resolved and the NY Stewards have allowed California Chrome to wear his nasal strip (which amazingly started his current 6 race win streak).

I think part of everyone, including myself, is pulling for California Chrome to provide that elusive Triple Crown winner that we have all been waiting and wanting for (even longer than the NY Rangers making it back to the Stanley Cup Finals).  The sport needs a Triple Crown winner and California Chrome is a feel good story from his breeding, to his owners, and to his trainer.  It is hard not to like this horse and his connections.  However, he will offer no value on Saturday and is vulnerable against this field of generally well rested foes.

My quick and dirty thoughts on this one:

California Chrome will need to avoid being pressured into running something other than his race here - whether he controls it on the front end of has to rate mid-pack.  I expect to see Samraat and Tonalist near the lead early setting a rather quick early pace.  As the early pace starts to fade, California Chrome will stay on with the late surge by Wicked Strong, Ride On Curlin, and Commanding Curve.  Ride on Curlin comes up short as he bounces off of his last big effort - even with the switch to Velazquez in the irons.  Tonalist may hang around late into the stretch as he starts to tire.  The other late runners seem to lack the class to contend here despite fairly strong pedigrees suggesting they have some stamina, such as Matuszak.  Commissioner has yet to prove to me that he belongs in graded stakes company with his best work in the slop over this course (and the current forecast looks to be a gorgeous day).  Medal Count appears to prefer the polytrack, Matterhorn has the breeding, but hasn't shown much else yet.  General A Rod hasn't had the chance to show anything in the Derby or Preakness having been taken up, but may be an early factor on the pace before the distance does him in.

My picks, in preference order:
9 Wicked Strong (6-1) - troubled trip and bad post in the Derby and still managed to get up late; top choice but not by much
4 Commanding Curve (15-1) - big 8 wide move in the Derby and a troubled trip with a strong close in the Louisiana Derby - is sharp with 5 weeks off and can handle this distance
2 California Chrome (3-5) - great horse, but extra distance and early pace here will be his demise
11 Tonalist (8-1) - bred for the distance, solid connections, but think the early pace here is too fast for him to sustain
6 Matuszak (30-1) - three straight troubled trips, can get the distance, but has yet to prove any kind of class - exotics only if you want to go deep in a trifecta or superfecta

I don't expect to play anything here since my confidence level is low on this race.

If I am wrong and California Chrome wins for fun - I will ask my management if I can start wearing the same nasal strips to work...

Good luck all!

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