Betting Advice and Handicapping for the 2018 Belmont Stakes Undercard
The undercard of all of the Triple Crown races are strong and intriguing, but the lead-up to the Belmont Stakes is always the deepest and most competitive. It's really an embarrassment of riches, with five Grade 1 races and three Grade 2 contests on offer starting with the Ogden Phipps in Race 3, and that doesn't even account for the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. It is a little bit of heaven for race fans, and it features a whole lot of big-name horses at the top of their categories. Here's a look at each of the eight graded races on the undercard:
Race 3, Ogden Phipps Stakes (Gr. 1): The graded action starts out with one heck of a battle at a mile and a sixteenth on dirt for older fillies and mares. This is a great field. Salty, Fault and Unbridled Mo have each won a Grade 1 already this year - and there have been only three for horses in this class. And Abel Tasman is the reigning three-year-old champion, having won both the Kentucky Oaks and the Acorn last year. Abel Tasman was lousy on the Derby undercard in her season debut, but Bob Baffert and Mike Smith combine with her and have a hot hand. She and Fault will get most of my attention here.
Race 4, Acorn Stakes (Gr. 1): This is a one-turn mile for three-year-old fillies. Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Girl is back for the first time since that huge win. She will be a strong favorite here, and she is going to be very tough to beat. This sweeping turn and long straight away plays perfectly into her speed. If she is on her game then she will win. The other very interesting filly, though, is Caledonia Road, the 3/1 second choice. She won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last year and picks up Mike Smith for this race. She'll be tough, but the favorite just suits this test too well.
Race 5, Brooklyn Invitational (Gr. 2): This race is often an interesting indicator of what shape the track is in, because it is older horses running the same mile and a half distance of the Belmont. Three horses stand out as interesting here. War Story won it last year and is back for more. He's the 2/1 favorite. The other two of note are both 5/2. Bob Baffert has Hoppertunity, a horse that has won more than $4 million without ever quite being good enough to impress. And Hard Study comes in off a three-race win streak. I'm a big Baffert guy typically, but I'd take Hard Study from those three here.
Race 6, Jaipur Invitational (Gr. 2): This is a six-furlong sprint on the grass, and it's going to be fast. Disco Partner ran the fastest six furlongs ever in this race last year and is back as the 5/2 favorite. And Stormy Liberal won the Breeders' Cup Sprint last year. I'd take Stormy Liberal at the slightly higher price, but mostly I just want to sit back and watch these horses tear up that turf.
Race 7, Woody Stephens Stakes (Gr. 2): This is for three-year-olds running seven furlongs, and we often see horses that we met somewhere on the Triple Crown trail. The field is deep here, and we should get a good sense of where the sprinting class will come from this year. For my money the pick is clear. Engage is just the third choice at 4/1, but he has win twice on this track, and with Jose Ortiz riding for Chad Brown he has ideal connections for the spot.
Race 8, Just a Game Stakes (Gr. 1): This is for fillies and mares four years and older going a mile on turf. This is a situational pick for me. If the turf is running fast and fair earlier in the day then Lull is the clear choice. She has the ability to run away from the field in a race, and Jose Ortiz will let her fly if the track suits her. If the track is slow, though, then I'd likely just pass.
Race 9, Metropolitan Handicap (Gr. 1): The good old Met Mile is often the best race on Belmont day - including the Belmont itself, unfortunately. While that hopefully won't be the case this year, this is still a very intriguing race. Strong Derby contender Bolt d'Oro is taking on older horses here. I respect the horse, but I definitely can't say the same for his trainer, and this is a very tough spot for him. At 4/1 there is no way you can consider playing him to win. I like Bee Jersey a lot at 5/1 and think he's only going to get better, but this one should be all about Mind Your Biscuits. He had an incredible come-from-behind win in Dubai on a track that was favoring speed, and he has a chance to thoroughly establish himself as the best of the best right now.
Race 10, Manhattan Stakes (Gr. 1): The final race before the main event is a mile and a quarter on turf for older horses. As is often the case in New York turf races, Chad Brown will be very tough to beat. He has both the favorite, Beach Patrol at 5/2, and the second choice, Robert Bruce at 3/1. Brown has won this race four of the last six years, so he will be tough here. Of the two, I find Robert Bruce the most interesting. He has won eight straight, though the first seven were in Chile. I lean towards him, though will also be using Hi Happy, the 7/2 Pletcher horse that is coming off a big win, in my exotics heavily as well.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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