By Frank R. Scatoni, editor of The HorsePlayer Magazine.
$1,000,000 Belmont Stakes (G1)
Race 11 (Saturday, June 9, 2012:
post time: 6:40 p.m./ET; 3:40 p.m./PT)
12-furlongs on the main track (3-year-olds)
When one door closes, another one opens. Yes, it’s unfortunate that Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) victor I’ll Have Another has been scratched from this race, but let’s look at the positive: now, with no clear standout on paper, this year’s Belmont Stakes (G1) should offer some great wagering opportunities. Can DULLAHAN improve off his huge third-place finish in the Derby (G1)? Will UNION RAGS fulfill the massive potential he’s been hinting at? Can PAYNTER avenge trainer Bob Baffert’s two near-misses in the first two classics? What intrigue!
#1 STREET LIFE will turn out to be a very useful horse, and he should give a good account of himself today after a nice third-place finish in the Peter Pan (G2) thanks to the addition of blinkers. He still has a lot to prove, but a piece of the pie is not out of the question.
#2 UNSTOPPABLE U is a perfect 2-for-2 in his brief career, but this is a far cry from beating maidens and entry-level allowance foes. I do like that his mom was sired by former Belmont (G1) winner Point Given, but he’s going to need more than pedigree to upset the apple cart today.
#3 UNION RAGS was my Derby (G1) pick, and I’m not going to get off him today. He had a horror trip in that race, and I love the jockey change from the languid Julien Leparoux to the more aggressive John Velazquez. Detractors of this horse say he doesn’t have the pedigree for the classic distances, but I say hogwash. He has a long, beautiful stride, and his trainer can get horses fit enough to run all day.
#4 ATIGUN is coming off a sharp allowance win, and he’s been training really well coming into this race. He’s yet to make an impact against graded-stakes company, however, and he’ll have to prove he belongs with these today.
#5 DULLAHAN was a nice third in the Derby (G1), and he’s been pointed to this race with a vengeance, as his last bullet workout shows. He’s talented; he’s sharp; and he’s a proven stretch runner—all signs point to him being a major threat.
#6 RAVELO’S BOY looks hopelessly outclassed, and unless he’s just a long-distance specialist in hiding, he’s in deep today.
#7 FIVE SIXTEEN is another one that looks outclassed and will need to lean on his pedigree to have any shot against these.
#8 GUYANA STAR DWEEJ, like the two horses to his inside, is in deep. It took him forever to break his maiden, and he’s not been training all that well.
#9 PAYNTER was meant to be a good one from day one; he’s in excellent form, and he should have the pedigree to stay the 12-furlongs. He was only 3-3/4 lengths from I’ll Have Another in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), and considering that came in only his second-career start, continued improvement is not out of the question.
#10 OPTIMIZER has an excellent distance pedigree, and by that fact alone, he’s worth using in your exotics. His last few races have been awful, but if he can improve on his fast-closing second in the Rebel (G2), which was visually impressive, he could shock the world at a big number.
#11 I’LL HAVE ANOTHER has been scratched.
#12 MY ADONIS is a bit one-paced, and he’s yet to win a graded-stakes race, but he gets the best jockey in New York (Ramon Dominguez), and his trainer, Kelly Breen, has won this race before with another horse that also looked mediocre on paper. Can lightning strike twice?
1. #3 UNION RAGS
– Needs to fulfill his potential today.
2. #5 DULLAHAN
– Should be rolling late.
3. #9 PAYNTER
– Could be a freak.
LONG SHOT VALUE PLAY: #10 OPTIMIZER
– I really like his pedigree for this race.
I’m having a hard time separating my top-three contenders, so let’s do an exacta box with the top-three selections of #3 UNION RAGS, #5 DULLAHAN, and #9 PAYNTER, as well as our Long Shot Value Play, #10 OPTIMIZER ($10 exacta box: 3,5,9,10).
$25 win/place #3 UNION RAGS
(Bankroll at +$354.75 after Week Thirty-Nine Based on $50 Wagers
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