The Belmont Stakes field is set, so we now know for sure which horses will be looking to end I’ll Have Another’s march to history. The field can be broken down into four basic groups — the favorite, the elite contenders, the intriguing possibilities, and the major longshots. There are a few too many of the latter for my taste. However, it is still a very interesting group, and it will certainly provide a good test for the sport’s current big star and his connections.
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Here’s how the field will enter the gate (Post Position, Name, Morning Line Odds, Trainer, Jockey):
1. Street Life (12/1), Chad Brown, Jose Lezcano
2. Unstoppable U (30/1), Ken McPeek, Junior Alvarado
3. Union Rags (6/1), Michael Matz, John Velazquez
4. Atigun (30/1), Ken McPeek, Julien Leparoux
5. Dullahan (5/1), Dale Romans, Javier Castellano
6. Ravelo’s Boy (50/1), Manuel Azpurua, Alex Solis
7. Five Sixteen (50/1), Dominick Schettino, Rosie Napravnik
8. Guyana Star Dweej (50/1), Doodnauth Shivmangal, Kent Desormeaux
9. Paynter (9/1), Bob Baffert, Mike Smith
10. Optimizer (20/1) D. Wayne Lukas, Corey Nakatani
11. I’ll Have Another (4/5), Doug O’Neill, Mario Gutierrez
12. My Adonis (20/1), Kelly Breen, Ramon Dominguez
Trainers and owners always complain about post positions, but there aren’t a lot of glaring excuses in this draw. I’ll Have Another has no reason to complain at all. He can sit outside of the fray and look at how the race is going to set up. He has shown that he can be versatile enough to adapt to the race, so he’s positioned to chase the pace if it is reasonable or settle off it if it gets crazy early on.
It may not be the perfect post position, but it is fine. If he is meant to win this race then he can win it from here. The morning line provides no value at all, though, but that was absolutely to be expected.
Paynter is likely to set the early pace. He’s probably further out than he would ideally be, but he can certainly get the lead from there, and the weak horses inside him won’t be a significant challenge for him. Unless one of the longshots want to get crazy early on to try to steal the race Paynter should be in the lead through the early fractions.
It’s tough to win this race from the inside posts for some reason, so Union Rags would likely rather be a few holes further out. Ruler on Ice won from that same spot last year, though, so it’s certainly not an impediment. For a horse that has struggled in traffic and with pace, though, this should allow him to find some room to run and avoid some real issues. I’m still not convinced that this horse is good enough, but if he is then he should be able to prove it here with a lack of major excuses.
Dullahan is going to look to get out of trouble and relax early on, and he’s well positioned to do so. The horses around him should be moving forward, so he should be able to settle back, find the rail, and bide his time near the back of the pack until the end of the final turn. This is a good spot for him, though his post position was less important than any horse in the field.
There are three horses in this field — Ravelo’s Boy, Five Sixteen, and Guyana Star Dweej — that have no business being in this field in my eyes. It makes me happy, then, that they have been stuck together in the gate, and in a place where they should stay out of the way of the key horses early on. Nothing would frustrate me more than to see I’ll Have Another’s bid at history derailed by a collision out of the gate with one of these nags, so thankfully that’s not a concern.
Street Life is gaining momentum as a live longshot. His position on the rail isn`t perfect, but it suits him better now than it would have earlier in his career. He used to like to be on or near the pace, but in his last race he set way off the pace early on. The rail is a much better place to be if you aren`t worried about getting the lead because you can avoid the crush of horse flesh descending onto the rail if it provides any problems. I`d like him better in the middle of the gate, but this doesn`t rule him out.
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