McLean’s Picks For Today’s Stakes Races At Belmont Park

Gene McLean has put together his picks for today’s stakes races at Belmont Park. No one in this industry has more experience or talent in reviewing, forecasting and handicapping Thoroughbred racing.

5th: 2-7-5-8-1…The Tremont Stakes: Admiral Jimmy (2) was ultra impressive, going the first half mile in :44 4/5 and just galloped off to hide in his first start. Gets the nod over another one of Todd Pletcher’s entries, Salmanazar (7). (Pletcher has four of the eight entered, FYI.) Salmanazar broke on top from the far outside post at Keeneland, and went on to beat a real good one in Copper Bullet – who just came back to win at Churchill Downs in impressive fashion. A good one beating a good one means a good thing. Direct Dial ( 5) broke his maiden at Keeneland by 73/4 lengths. That’s impressive for any horse, or any age, at any distance. For a 2YO going 41/2 furlongs it is even more eye-popping. I am betting the 7 (note, he is my second choice) across the board and then boxing in the exactas with 2-7-5 and the 2-7-8. I bet a good 2-7 exacta box, too.

8th: 8-3-4…The G2 True North: Whitmore (8) has won five in a row since the debacle he threw in the Kentucky Derby a year ago. Undefeated at this distance in six tries. Beat a champion in A.P. Indian in his last. What is there not to like, other than the low odds? Noholdingback Bear (3) may be able to split the top two contenders. Loves this distance and lost to Stallwalkin’ Dude (4) by just 13/4 after a wide trip in the Diablo Stakes. Better trip may equal better result on Friday. Stallwalkin’ Dude has been on a roll since last August. He has recorded Beyer Speed Figures over 100 in six of his last nine starts and the lowest is a 98. Figures to be stalking the lead and loves this course. I bet the 8 to win only and over the 3 and 4 in the exacta.

9th: 2-6-8-1-4-5…The G2 New York Stakes: Suffused (2) has been one of the hottest grass mares in the world over her last 7 starts, which has resulted in four stakes and three Graded stakes victories. Had a tough trip in her last, but gets her regular rider back and that will be a huge improvement. Sea Calisi (6) beat Suffused in their last, but she had a garden trip and loses her rider to Dacita (8). This Millionaire is a talented filly, but with the jock switch and the fact that she has only won once in four tries at this distance, I think she may be vunerable. Dacita has four straight races that has been settled by a bob (or two). She won two of them and ran second in the other two. She gets her best distance on Friday and will be running at the end, again. I bet the 2 to win/place and key over/under all the rest.

10th: 11-3-10-4–1-2-12-13…The G3 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational: Taghleeb (11) has never been better and is a 6YO now. He has never won at Belmont in 5 previous starts, but he is 1-for-1 at the grueling 2 miles distance. He appears to be at his best right now, too. Now We Can (3) ran a big second in this race a year ago and is back to try to do one better. But he isn’t coming into the race this year as sharp and the 8YO may have seen better days. Red Cardinal (10) just may be the best of the shippers this year, coming off a huge win in Germany. Wall of Fire (4) tried the blinkers for the first time in his last outing and that isn’t an equipment change tried much across the pond. Will get Lasix for the first time on Friday. Could be ready to roll. I bet the 11-3-10 exacta box and the 11-3-4 exacta box, as well. And, I wheel the 11 over/under all the numbers above. I bet the 11 and 4 across the board.

11th: 2-9-5…The G3 Bed O’Roses Invitational Stakes: High Ridge Road (2) should get a better trip on Friday than she did in either of her last two starts. If she gets a decent trip from off the pace, she will be very tough to beat. By the Moon (9) had a big run in the Vagrancy Handicap in her last, but she has just one win in eight lifetime starts at this 7 Furlong distance and has already lost two tough ones to High Ridge Road. The filly that might split the top two is Lightstream (5). Not as accomplished as the top two on paper, Lightstream will need some racing luck coming from way off the pace at this distance. But she gets the services of HOFer JJ Castellano. I box the two three and then wheel the 2-9 over/under the “all button” in the exactas. I bet the 2 to win/place.

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

    Full Bio >

More From Gene McLean