Pace is an important aspect of handicapping any race - after all, it makes the race as the saying goes. In the Belmont, though, the pace is less of a concern than almost any other race. The race is so long that the early fractions aren't typically very aggressive, so you have to worry less about what the early leaders will be able to maintain and whether the closers will be able to make their move. Pace still matters, though. Frankly, the biggest concern is whether the horses will still be moving forward at the end of the marathon race. And a big contributing factor to that is that they are not forced to do something stupid early on that burns their candle too soon.
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The Belmont pace this year is going to feature some traffic jams. There are a lot of horses that like to be on or near the lead, and a lot who like to be at or near the back of the pack.
Tips on betting the Belmont Stakes: Early speed
Classic Empire likes to be up close, and he showed in the Preakness that he is willing to set the pace if he has to. There will be strategic considerations at play here, though. Entering the stretch at the Preakness he had burned out Always Dreaming and was in the lead and in control. Horses very regularly win when in such a position. Classic Empire didn't dramatically fade, but Cloud Computing was just better on the day. The connections of this horse won't want to be chased down late again, so we could see a more passive early approach here. Remember, he likely wasn't looking to lead last time, either, but the brutal start by Conquest Mo Money robbed the race of the likely leader.
Epicharis likes to be near the lead as well. He led most of the way last time out in the UAE Derby before giving up the lead to Thunder Snow near the wire. He doesn't have the perfect pedigree for this race, so chances are good that he'll want to be conservative early on this time as well.
Gormley won't want the lead, but he is very likely to be pressing the pace from reasonably close. He had a lousy Derby but has been working very nicely lately and should be sharper this time around.
Irish War Cry is likely to be pressing the pace as well. He races a lot like his famous father, Curlin, which means that he likes to slowly grind opponents into the ground. He doesn't explode, but he doesn't quit, either
Meantime is going to be part of the early pace - perhaps a significant part. He's lightly raced, so the sample size is small, but he seems to be at his best when he is mixing it up early. Mike Smith is on board for the first time in this one, so you can be sure that the pace will be judged as well as it can be for the horse.
Patch hasn't been that impressive to this point in his career. He is bred as well as any horse can be for this race, though - he has four Belmont winners, including two Triple Crown winners, in the first three generations of his pedigree - and he is reasonably fresh. I expect his connections to try to force his advantage by setting the early pace and forcing others to match him.
Twisted Tom is an interesting case. He is a horse who likes to be on or near the pace, but he is taking a big step up in class here and hasn't had the speed figures that would measure up with this group. His connections are excellent, though, so he could overcome his shortcomings.
Belmont Stakes Betting Advice: Closers
After a second in the Derby and a fourth in the Preakness, Lookin at Lee will again take his comfortable spot near the back of the pack for a Triple Crown race. He has shown that he can deal with pace scenarios that don't set up perfectly for closers, which could be an asset here.
Multiplier is another closer, but there are reasons to think that things might get shaken up a bit for him here. This is only his second start with his current connections, and the first - the Preakness - was not very impressive. He closed, but only sort of, and he wound up sixth. He also doesn't have a great pedigree here. I suspect that the connections will push him further forward than he typically is to try to give him the best chance they can.
Hollywood Handsome is a horse that doesn't really have much of a chance on paper. He is bred like a miler and has not fared very well against the highest level of horses he has faced. He needs strong early pace to chase, and he isn't that likely to get it here.
J Boys Echo is another long shot, though one I like a lot better than Hollywood Handsome. He'll be coming from far back, too. His trip in the Derby was an absolute disaster, and he didn't handle it well. He's been sharp in training, and his connections expect much more from him this time - as you would expect they would.
Senior Investment, fresh off his surprising third-place finish in the Preakness, is back to make more noise. He is a closer, but in this group he's likely to be the first of the large group of closers.
And in between
Tapwrit is the lone horse in the field that can't easily be put into one of these groups. He is a true stalker - a horse who likes to be in the middle of the pack early on. If things go to form then we should see him somewhere behind Gormley and ahead of Senior Investment, acting as the bridge between the frontrunners and the closers. It could be a good place for him to be.
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