JUNE 4, 2010
by Dick Powell
I like to procrastinate. I do it a lot and am quite good at it. For some reason, I have been putting off analyzing this year's Belmont S. (G1). Unlike many that have taken a "woe is horse racing" mentality when the winners of the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness S. (G1) decided to pass the race, I look forward to the Belmont Stakes each year with great anticipation.
In the past three weeks since the Preakness, I have devoted little time to figuring out the Belmont. Now that it's here, it's time to get busy and it won't take long. I like FLY DOWN (Mineshaft) to win the 142nd Belmont Stakes.
Back on February 26, I wrote "He (Fly Down) showed that he can sit off the pace, move when his rider wants him to, pass horses willingly and finish his races strongly. In other words, he's a legitimate Derby contender that will bear watching next time he runs." This was off an impressive allowance win at Gulfstream when he beat eventual Preakness runner-up First Dude (Stephen Got Even) by a head in only his third career start.
Nick Zito sent Ice Box (Pulpit) to the Florida Derby (G1) off a fifth in the Fountain of Youth S. (G2) in late February and he came up a winner by a nose, earning him a trip for the Run for the Roses where he finished a fast-closing second. Fly Down went to the Fair Grounds for the Louisiana Derby (G2) where he encountered all sorts of traffic and finished ninth.
At that point, I was re-considering my lofty expectations for Fly Down but then things began to turn. He came back to win the Dwyer S. (G2) by six easy lengths, rallying behind a soft pace and blowing the field away with a terrific final three furlongs. He earned a BRIS Speed rating of 101 while beating Belmont opponent Drosselmeyer (Distorted Humor) with ease.
A week later, First Dude came back with his terrific second in the Preakness which only strengthened the form of Fly Down's allowance win over him in only his third career start. Jose Lezcano stays with Ice Box so Nick Zito turns to Johnny Velazquez, who rode Fly Down in his career debut.
What was so impressive about Fly Down's allowance win at Gulfstream was that he did it with a wide, sweeping move around the far turn; something that rarely worked at this year's meet on the main track. He has a win over the track which us "old school" handicappers like to see and his trainer is noted for success in this race. Johnny won the Belmont aboard Rags to Riches three years ago over Horse of the Year Curlin.
Fly Down's sire, Mineshaft (A.P. Indy), is a son of a Belmont winner (who is a son of a Belmont winner) that has also sired a Belmont winner. Mineshaft loved Belmont Park, winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), the Suburban H. (G1) and the Woodward (G1), and might have sired a Belmont winner had Japanese runner Casino Drive not gone bad in the week leading up to the 2008 Belmont after winning the Peter Pan S. (G2).
So all the ingredients are there except for one thing: Fly Down is listed as the 9-2 third choice in the wagering which I will be happy to get since I think he might be lower at post time.
There's no real stickout among the other 11 starters so I'll play Fly Down to win and then box him in the gimmicks with Make Music for Me (Bernstein), Drosselmeyer and Game on Dude (Awesome Again). It might not make the history books for a memorable Belmont Stakes, but who cares if you have the winner.
The latest example of why I am against anything but a $2 minimum bet for various Pick X-type bets was at Monmouth Park on Monday. What makes the Monmouth Park Pick 5 so attractive is the 15 percent takeout. But, they allow 50-cent bets on it and Monday we saw a perfect carryover opportunity go by the wayside.
In the first leg of Monday's Pick 5, THE COGNAC KID (Hennessy) defied his 104-1 odds and held on by three-quarters of a length with Francisco Maysonett in the irons. Usually, when a horse pays $210.20 to win, it's safe to say that there'll be a carryover. And, the second leg was won by a winner that paid $11.60, the third leg winner paid $8.40, as did the fourth leg winner, and the final winner of the sequence paid $16.40. Not a single favorite and a 104-1 longshot and the Pick 5 paid only $35,349.
The trend of Monmouth not being a stone-cold speed track continued in the second weekend of racing and the BRIS Track Bias Stats bear it out. For six-furlong races, the "early" running style was only third best behind "early/presser" and "presser." Also, the inside was not the place to be as horses breaking from the middle to the outside did the best.
In one-mile and one-mile and 70-yard races, "early/presser" running styles also did the best. You didn't have to be far back but so far it looks like horses running near the lead away from the rail are getting the best footing on Monmouth's main track.
Send this article to a friend