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2014 Belmont Stars & Stripes (Part 1)

2014 Dwyer Stakes

Kid CruzOn Saturday, July 5th we are celebrating our Independence Day weekend by handicapping the Belmont Stars & Stripes Festival and the 5 stakes races involved. In Part 1 of this article, I’ll be looking at the Dwyer Stakes, the Belmont Sprint and the Belmont Derby. In Part 2, Mike Sr. will take over and give his thoughts on the Suburban and Belmont Oaks. As an added bonus for our loyal readers, we will have our showdown picks for the Grand Slam covering races 6-9 highlighting mine and dad’s top picks for each race. Let’s get started with the $200,000 Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes. The Dwyer is the 4th race on the card Saturday at Belmont and will host a field of 6 three year olds traveling 1 1/16 mile. The 6/5 morning line favorite is the Todd Pletcher trained, Tiz Dark and he will be ridden by John Velazquez. Tiz Dark is coming out of a runaway win in a straight maiden 75k at this distance, where he dominated the short field by 6 ¾ lengths. This young colt has certainly shown a lot of promise, but I’m not sold on him as the favorite. The coupled entry here is more like it at 8/5 on the ML with Kid Cruz and Captain Serious. SpotThis duo sounds like a bad super-hero movie waiting to be made, I admit, but make no bones about it- this race should come down to the two of them. Captain Serious is coming out of a 3 length victory in the Mike Lee Stakes at Belmont and is undefeated in 3 starts. He also has the best speed figure in this field and my only concern is whether or not he can carry that speed over this distance. From the looks of it, Tiz Dark (he even sounds like a villain for these 2 to gang up on, lol) and Captain Serious will go head-to-head for the early front lead, giving Kid Cruz the opportunity to pick up the pieces. Kid Cruz is coming out of his come-from-behind win in the Easy Goer and looks great coming into the Dwyer. Not much value on him, though. So for longshot consideration, I like Spot at 12 to 1 on the ML. Spot will have Jose Lezcano in the irons for this race. Lezcano took Spot to a 2 ½ length win in the Grade 2 Swale back in March. Spot hasn’t fared well since and is overdue a big run. His works are sharp and I think he’s ready for a possible upset.

2014 Belmont Sprint

Central BankerThe $400,000 Grade 3 Belmont Sprint Championship is the 6th race on the card at Belmont for Saturday and will be the first race to kick-off the Grand Slam Pick 4. A field of 9 three year olds and up will sprint it out over 7 furlongs. The 5/2 morning line favorite is Central Banker. Cental Banker is coming out of a narrow win in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes back in early May. Corey Nakatani was along for that win and will be back in the irons for this one. Looking to give him trouble on the ML is Clearly Now at 3 to 1. Clearly Now has shown that he has the speed to win an event like this, but he hasn’t done it since his win in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler back in October of last year. Since then he has netted 2 fifth place finishes and 2 thirds. The horse that many are talking about in this one is Palace at 7/2 on the morning line. Palace has the best speed rating in this field and nearly matched that rating in his last outing when he won the Grade 2 True North at Belmont in early June.Moonlight Song Jose Ortiz was his rider for that race, but will be on my value/longshot play here, Moonlight Song at 12 to 1 on the morning line. Now, I don’t know if Ortiz made the decision to stick with Moonlight Song here (one of his regular mounts) or if Palace’s connections decided to go with his regular rider, Cornelio Velasquez, but at any rate, Moonlight Song looks good coming into this race and should be overlooked by the public. He’s certainly a late-bloomer and is out classed in this field, but he has been on fire in his last 6 outings, all of which had Ortiz onboard. His 7 furlong time is competitive with the rest of this field and I believe he could take this one from gate to wire.

2014 Belmont Derby

Toast of New YorkThe $1,250,000 Grade 1 Belmont Derby (formerly known as the Jamaica Handicap) will be the 7th race on the card Saturday and will feature a field of 11 three year olds traveling 1 ¼ mile on the inner turf. The morning line favorite at 3 to 1 is Toast of New York. One of the foreign invaders here, you might remember Toast of New York as the winner of the UAE Derby back in March. With that win, Toast of New York earned his way into the Kentucky Derby this year, but his connections decided to pass on the race. He’s undefeated in his last 3 starts and will be receiving first time Lasix here. Following him on the ML is another foreign invader, Adelaide at 7/2. Adelaide has finished no worse than 2nd in his 4 starts.Dance With Fate He will also be receiving first time Lasix for this race. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not very good at deciphering the past performances of foreign horses. All I can say is that both of these horses look ready to compete in this event and should not be ruled out as prime contenders. Sticking with what I know, I have to go with Dance With Fate. For those of you keeping score, I had Dance with Fate as my Derby selection this year and he ran 6th. Not too shabby for a young colt who I believe prefers the turf over dirt anyway. He’s had ample time to rest up and train for this race and I think he will really show us something in the Belmont Derby. For a recap of the Suburban and Belmont Oaks, go here- 2014 Belmont Stars & Stripes (Part 2). Good luck everybody!

 

2014 Belmont Stars & Stripes Festival Grand Slam 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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