ELMONT -- Hello from beautiful Belmont Park in Nassau County, where the stakes portion of the Belmont Stakes day card is about to begin. The track is currently listed as good, but a light rain has started to fall. The dirt track was listed as muddy to start the day and was upgraded early in the card as the sun has been shining most of the morning and early afternoon. The turf course is listed as yielding and the main stakes races will remain on the grass.
Sometimes I think you have to be part meteorologist in this job. If you didn't have a chance to see my thoughts on the Belmont, my advance in this morning's paper it can be found here. The current odds on the Belmont have Orb as the 2-1 favorite and Revolutionary, my pick, as the current second choice at 5-1.
The first stakes race was just completed and west coast shipper 2-Power Broker ($4.70) from the Bob Baffert barn was much the best in The Easy Goer. Mike Repole's 7-Micromanage finished second and paid $9.00 to place. Repole has three starters going in the final leg of the Triple Crown, including Mignight Taboo, Overanalyze and Unlimited Budget.
We'll carry you through the stakes portion of the card up until they head for the paddock for the Belmont here at Big Sandy. The 35th running of the Grade 2 True North is up next. It looks like the Zayat Stables coupled entry of 1-Justin Phillip and 1A-Fast Bullet are the even money favorites with Repole's 6-Caixa Eletronica the 5-2 second choice.
3:13 p.m.: Some quick thoughts from rider Rosie Napravnik after the Easy Goer on the very popular Power Broker: "I didn't have any instructions, but I figured we would be close. There was actually a nice pace up front. I breezed him a couple days ago and I knew he was coming into the race on his game. He was running very comfortably the whole way." She will be trying to become the second female to win a Triple Crown race, following in the footsteps of Julie Krone who won the 1993 Belmont aboard Colonial Affair.
3:25 p.m.: It looks like the public was right on with 1A-Fast Bullet holding off stable mate 1-Justin Phillip in the True North by 2 1/2-lengths, breaking from the three hole. It appears that the center of the track is the place to be so far this afternoon, as horses on the inside have been spinning their wheels most of the day so far.
Today's Pick-6 handle is $1,203,177 and the first two legs have been very chalky with the favorites winning the first two races in the sequence. The $1 million guaranteed Pick-4 kicks off next with the first Grade 1 of the afternoon, The Longines Just A Game. It is a pretty salty field with several quality horses, including Jim Rome's Jungle Racing Stables' and Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint champion 6-Mizdirection who comes east for the first time in her career. The 5-year-old mare is 3-2-1-0 at the one mile distance on the turf.
3:30 p.m.: I like the 1-Hungry Island, 2-Stephanie's Kitten (I let her beat me at Churchill, not again), and 3-Centre Court, so I'll be trying to beat Mizdirection in here. We have put together a little Pick-4 ticket, hopefully we can get out of the first leg!
3:45 p.m.: Heading down to the winner's circle for this race and paddock for the next. I'm going deep in the Woody Stephens with the 1, 5,6,10 and 11 and hoping for a longer shot like the 5-Honorable Dillon or 10-Merit Man to pull an upset. Looking for a celebrity sighting also, will report back momentarily.
4:35 p.m.: What a stretch drive in the Just A Game! 2-Stephanie's Kitten ($8.00) re-rallied to overtake a game 7-Better Lucky in a great duel down the stretch on the yielding turf course. That puts us live to 5 horses in the next race where we're looking for a nice price in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens. Johnny Velazquez was aboard for Ken and Sarah Ramsey.
There's a pretty good crowd in and around the paddock and from when I've been down at the winner's circle it seems like the crowd is starting to build. We'll go with a 55,000 estimate for today's attendance.
4:40 p.m.: Some quick quotes from jockey Johnny V after the win:
“It was do-or-die, you stay there or you die in there. It was one of those things. She handled the ground great so that was the most important thing. When I asked her, she was there for me,” said the Hall of Fame jock.
“The opening was there. I saw Mike’s horse [Smith, aboard Mizdirection] was drifting out anyway, and I was behind Julien [Leparoux, aboard 3-Centre Court]. I know she gets out a little bit, so I sat there right next to Julien. I thought if I could hold him in there and then get through on the inside, it would be perfect. It opened up just enough for me and when I shot through there, she went.”
4:45 p.m.: In case you were wondering we've had a change in the official drink of the Belmont Stakes.The Belmont Jewel is now the official drink of the Belmont Stakes. Created by mixologist Drew Revella, this drink -- made with small-batch bourbon shaken with pomegranate and lemonade -- takes over for the Belmont Breeze, the former official drink of the third leg of the Triple Crown.
[Ingredients: 1.5 oz Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon, 2 oz lemonade, 1 oz pomegranate juice. Preparation Step1: Shake vigorously with ice and serve on the rocks. Garnish with maraschino cherry or lemon twist].
4:55 p.m.: It looks like trainer Todd Pletcher is ready to get his afternoon rolling as 7-Forty Tales at 8-1 overtook the two front runners 11-Let Em Shine and 6-Zee Bros who dueled in blazing fractions (21.99, 44.73). 1-Declan's Warrior also closed late but it was too little, too late for the Nick Zito-trainee.
The Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap is up next with 3-5 favorite 1-Point of Entry, the horse to beat. You may remember that he scratched on Derby day before the much anticipated match up with Horse of the Year Wise Dan. If you're looking for some alternatives to PoE, then you may consider 5-Optimizer (6-1) and 9-Finnegan's Wake (20-1) as potential suitors.
If you're looking for live odds on the Belmont, check the NYRA webiste link here for up to the minute information on the wagering pools.
5:00 p.m.: The weather has continued to improve after a light rain buzzed through here about an hour and a half ago. The sun is out and the track has to be drying out as the day has gone along. Another horse on the outside won the last race, so it appears to be the place to be.
5:55 p.m.: 1-Point of Entry ($3.10) wins by 1 1/2-lengths over 5-Optimizer in the Manhattan after a four month absence from racing. 9-Finnegan's Wake finished fourth behind the Chad Brown trained Real Solution, a son of turf specialist Kitten's Joy. The final jewel of the Triple Crown is on tap next and we'll be heading down to the paddock then into the trackside winner's circle to obtain some post-race quotes from the losing connections.
6:00 p.m.: We'll stay with our pick in this morning's paper 9-Revolutionary, currently the 5-1 second choice behind the morning line favorite 5-Orb who is down to 2-1 on the tote board. It should be a great race with lots of betting value, the third choice on the board is 2-Freedom Choice at 8-1 followed by 3-Overanalyze at 9-1. There are currently six (!) horses between 10-1 and 20-1. I'll throw a few bucks on 6-Incognito as a long shot play, as closers have excelled as the day has waned.
Good luck everyone! We'll check back with a quick post after the race.
7:32 p.m.: And it's 12-Palace Malice ($29.60) to win the Belmont over 7-Oxbow, who ran a valiant race to follow up his Preakness victory. The Derby winner, 5-Orb completed the trifecta and 6-Incognito completed the super. Thanks for following along and we'll have our print commentary in tomorrow's News.
-- Gene Kershner