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2014 Belmont- Mike Jr.’s Picks

Belmont Stakes & Triple Crown Dreams

California ChromeThis is it! We are finally in the home stretch of the Triple Crown series with this weekend’s Belmont Stakes at Belmont. The world has watched as California Chrome captured the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes and everyone is holding their breath in anticipation of the Belmont and a possible end to the Triple Crown drought. This is truly a unique situation for HHR since we are only in our second year of writing these articles and here we are in the middle of what could be horse racing history.  I’m torn between writing my selections based on emotions and writing the selections based on finding value. The whole world seems to be in California Chrome’s corner. He’s more than proven himself in the past two legs of the Triple Crown series. He’s got the name that SOUNDS like it belongs next to Sir Barton, War Admiral, Secretariat and all the rest. He has the fairytale story that implies- here is a horse that defied the racing gods and made himself noticed. I won’t lie. I love this horse and I want him to win, I truly do. But (I envision an angry mob grumbling at this point, lol) I’m afraid he has some staggering odds to overcome to win this one, despite his 3-5 morning line odds. He’s due a loss, folks and this distance could be the factor that ends his Triple Crown dreams. He’s had two perfect trips so far and with his gate concerns, he’s due a bad start (although that might work in his favor, so don’t think that I’ve ruled that idea out).   But the bottom line here, no matter how much I personally want to see him win it for the sake of the sport, is that I have to stay true to myself as a handicapper and true to you as a reader of this blog. My wallet says go for value. That means betting against the 3-5 favorite. If Chrome wins it- I’m okay with that and will be happy for him as a fan. As a handicapper, I’m looking to get paid. Let’s see who has a shot at beating the Chrome warrior, shall we?

Wicked StrongFirst off, my hunch was to stay with who I’ve touted all along the way- Ride On Curlin. Say what you will about this horse, it can’t be denied that he has a lot of heart and is certainly no quitter. He had no problem getting himself within striking distance of Chrome in the Preakness, running 2nd and was gaining ground. With the extra distance, I do believe he will be a threat that may be overlooked quite a bit in this race. I will more than likely put a side bet on him and I will definitely factor him in on my exotics. The return of Wicked Strong has my attention as well. He had a troubled trip in the Derby and I think he would have made that a much closer race, had the trip went just a bit smoother. Still, his gate antics concern me. If he has another poor start in the Belmont, he might wind up too far back to make a difference. I’ll still consider him in my exotic plays. Commanding Curve was another probable that I toyed with, but I can’t help but think about how last year’s surprise 2nd place finisher in the Derby fared in last year’s Belmont and honestly hasn’t done much since. Maybe that’s a little unfair to Commanding Curve, but it scares me enough that I’m going to pass on him.

TonalistIn the Derby and in the Preakness, I stuck with plays that would either stalk or come from the clouds. Although I got good performances out of those selections (except for Kid Cruz, who we won’t talk about), I believe for the Belmont I’m going to go a different route. This is how I believe the race will shape up. I think that the focus of almost every horse and jockey in this race will be on California Chrome, without question. Typical front runners like General a Rod and Samraat are not going to try and charge for the lead or even right off of the lead. I believe they will follow Chrome and won’t move until he moves. I think that Wicked Strong and Ride On Curlin will edge a little bit closer to Chrome as well, around mid-pack. The one horse here who I don’t think will be focused on Chrome is Tonalist. He’ll go straight to the lead and try to win this one the way he ran in the Peter Pan. He’ll set the pace and as Chrome and his entourage start to get closer, Joel Rosario will let him out a little bit more, keeping everyone else in check. In the end, he’ll have more than enough kick to bring it home for the win. Now… that being said, should Chrome go after Tonalist, we’ll have a completely different race altogether and I believe, that could create a superfecta that will pay big. I may be wrong, but if Chrome fights for the early lead, I believe it will do him in. In that situation, I’m willing to test out several supers excluding him and hope for a huge payday, using Tonalist, Wicked Strong, Ride On Curlin, Samraat and General a Rod as keys. I wish California Chrome and his connections all the best on Saturday… but my wallet is looking elsewhere! Good luck everybody!

 

2014 Belmont Day Showdown

 

 

 

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Mike Jr, eldest son of Mike Lane Sr, is co-lead author at HandicapHorseRacing.com and was raised on thoroughbred horse racing and handicapping. Although father and son often butt heads on their selections, they both have much love and admiration for the sport. Mike Jr. brings a new, fresh perspective to horse racing and is often in search of new angles to try.

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