Belmont Stakes, 1-1/2 miles, 3-year-olds
Possible overlays Morning line
#1 Chocolate Candy 10/1
#2 Dunkirk 4/1
#3 Mr. Hot Stuff 15/1
#8 Flying Private 12/1
The Belmont Stakes is an intriguing race because 3-year-olds are tackling a mile-and-a-half distance for the first time and almost certainly will never race this far again.
Over the years, longshots have popped that were real head-scratchers when looking at their past performances, and I think it’s because of the slow early pace. The pace is much quicker at shorter distances than the Belmont Stakes, which leads some talented horses to tire badly in the stretch. But if the early pace is slowed to a crawl — like is often the case in the Belmont — then some horses can sustain their runs for much longer distances.
For example, when Commendable won the 2000 Belmont Stakes, somebody asked trainer D. Wayne Lukas how he got a sprinter to win a 12-furlong race. And Lukas said that Commendable galloped the first six furlongs, then it became a six furlong race.
Therefore, I expect the jockeys in this race to come out of the gate with their mounts in a hammerlock and their feet on the dashboard. Also, a slow pace would be disadvantageous to the 2-to-1 betting favorite Mine That Bird, who runs his best races closing from the clouds. That style works best with heated pace battles that burn out the early pace setters in the stretch.
Mine That Bird is a good horse, but I can’t take 2-to-1 at this crazy distance.
The best early speed looks like #6 Charitable Man, who won the Peter Pan while pressing the leader on May 9. However, if Dunkirk runs his best then he should be close to the front on the far turn.
Between these two, Durkirk is the better bet to win at this distance based on the sustained pace rating he earned in the Florida Derby. Two California-based horses — #1 Chocolate Candy and #3 Mr. Hot Stuff — have been running on synthetic surfaces where they have shown that they can run on if the early pace is slow enough.
Finally, D. Wayne Lukas saddles #8 Flying Private, who is improving and must be respected off is 102 Beyer Speed Figure earned in the Preakness Stakes.
At the window, I will bet $250 to win on #2 Dunkirk at 3/1 or better; $150 on #3 Mr. Hot Stuff and $100 on Chocolate Candy, both at 6/1 or more; and $100 on #8 Flying Private at odds of at least 8/1.