By Gene Kershner
ELMONT -- The main event will obviously be the focal point of the nation tomorrow afternoon, but if you love racing, the undercard is loaded with some of the best talent in the land. There will be eight other graded stakes races before the Belmont Stakes, including an all-Grade 1 Pick-Six ending in the Belmont. Total purses exceed $8 million on the day and the card has a mini-Breeders' Cup feel to it. If you can find the right singles there is some money to be made if you can key the right horses.
The key horses in my plays will surround My Miss Sophia in the Acorn, Beholder in the Phipps, and Grandeur (IRE) in the Manhattan.
Let’s take a sneak peek at the five G1 races leading into the final leg of the Triple Crown.
Race 6: TVG Acorn Stakes ($750,000) - This stake for 3-year-old fillies filled up nicely with 13 fillies, the only one missing from the group is Untapable, the Kentucky Oaks winner, who will likely run next in the Mother Goose. The second two finishers in the Oaks have entered as both 8-My Miss Sophia (6-5) and 7-Unbridled Forever (10-1) should contend for the win. The winner of the Eight Belles at Churchill on Oaks day 3-Fiftyshadesofgold (8-1) should covet the mile distance for trainer Bret Calhoun. Gary Stevens will be aboard the speedy 1-Fashion Plate (12-1), who didn't handle the Churchill track and will be at a price off her last effort.
Post Time Outlook: 1 -My Miss Sophia; 2-Fashion Plate; and 3-Unbridled Forever
Race 7: Ogden Phipps ($1 million) - This 1 1/16-mile race features the long-awaited rematch between 5-Beholder (7-5) and 6-Princess of Sylmar (9-5), last year's top two finishers in the Eclipse voting for champion 3-year-old filly. Add last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff second place finisher 1-Close Hatches (5-2), who has three Grade 1 victories under her belt, and you have one helluva race. While it looks to be a toss up, Beholder has looked the best on the track all week and is out to prove she can run on both coasts.
Post Time Outlook: 1 - Beholder; 2 - Close Hatches; and 3 - Princess of Sylmar
Race 8: Longines Just a Game ($750,000) - The Just a Game attracted 10 older fillies and mares going a mile on the Widener Turf course. Three Grade 1 winners head this talented field including last year's winner 6-Stephanie's Kitten (4-1), who will try to rebound off a poor effort at Keeneland. The other two Grade 1 winners are 9-Discreet Marq (5-2) who hasn't missed the exacta in eight straight races and 10-Better Lucky (3-1) for Godophin Stables. 5-Coffee Clique (10-1) is a possibility at decent odds with Castellano in the irons coming off a Grade 2 win at Churchill on Derby day.
Post Time Outlook: 1-Better Lucky; 2-Discreet Marq and; 3 - Coffee Clique
Race 9: Metropolitan Handicap ($1.25 million) - The race best known as the Met Mile was moved this year to Belmont Day from Memorial Day which was a long-standing tradition. Last year's Belmont winner 1-Palace Malice (8-5) drew the rail and will be your pos time favorite. The race has drawn some real speedsters including last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner 4-Goldencents (10-1), 5-Moreno (10-1) and 13-Shakin it Up (6-1). Add to the mix two of last year's Derby trail horses 2-Vyjack (30-1) and 9-Normandy Invasion (5-1)and you have a tremendous field for this year's edition of the race. With all of the speed, I'm looking at Normandy Invasion to pick up the pieces in a close finish. Upset possibility: 10-Clearly Now (10-1).
Post Time Outlook: 1 - Normandy Invasion; 2 - Palace Malice and; 3 - Goldencents
Race 10: Knob Creek Manhattan ($1 million) - The race preceding the Belmont on the turf at a mile and a quarter has drawn 10 horses with Woodford Reserve Turf Classic runner-up 6-Seek Again (3-1) and Phipps Stables 6-year-old 1-Imagining (7-2) heading up the pack. Contenders to the top two choices include 4-Grandeur (IRE) (5-1) and 5-Boisterous (8-1) who finished a nose behind Seek Again in the Turf Classic on Derby day. An upset possibility is 9-Kaigun (15-1), who participated in the Canadian Triple Crown trail last year for trainer Mark Casse, should make this another interesting race.
Post Time Outlook - 1 - Grandeur (IRE); 2 - Imagining and; 3 - Seek Again
Check tomorrow morning's paper for my print column and thoughts on the Belmont Stakes and be sure to follow me on twitter @EquiSpace throughout the day. Good luck and let's go cash some tickets!