Saturday’s Belmont Stakes Day program has drawn lots of attention, and not all of it is positive. Many Grade 1 races on the undercard feature incredibly short fields, which minimize opportunities for horseplayers to find value.
I do, however, find the late Pick Five interesting. It starts with the Grade 1 Met Mile and ends with a pair of races following the main event. I’ll attack it with a ticket that starts at $42, and here’s how I’ve put that play together.
Step one: Don’t get cute
I understand it’s seen as a cop-out to take a heavy favorite. Having said that, if No. 1 Flightline is right, he’s not losing the Met Mile.
I respect the three other Grade 1 winners in this field. However, No. 2 Speaker’s Corner probably isn’t as fast as Flightline, No. 3 Aloha West is stretching out to a new distance, and No. 4 Happy Saver likely wants more ground. Put all of that together, and you have a favorite I just cannot advise going against.
Three deep in the Manhattan
The Grade 1 Manhattan may not be the highest-quality turf race it is in most years. However, it’s drawn a field of 10, and that means we could find an appealing betting board.
I’m going three deep, and my top pick is No. 9 Santin. He’s moved forward considerably in a fairly short time and was last seen winning the Grade 1 Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Unlike many of his opponents who have been around for quite a while, Santin may still have room to improve. Add in that he probably won’t be favored, and my interest is officially piqued.
I’ll also use No. 2 Gufo and No. 5 In Love, and the latter is going to be a pretty big price. However, In Love has late-2021 speed figures that stack up pretty well with this field. If you assume he needed his 2022 debut in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile and that he’s likely to move forward second off the bench, he fits.
A single in the Belmont Stakes
I previewed the Belmont elsewhere on Playfecta, and I won’t rehash too much of it here. However, I’ve thought No. 6 Mo Donegal was a Belmont Stakes horse for months. I think this 12-furlong trip will hit this grinding type right between the eyes, and he’ll have gas left in the tank when others may be running on empty. For the purposes of this wager, if he doesn’t win, I lose.
Don’t sleep on the late double
There ARE wide-open races in the back half of the Belmont card. They just aren’t stakes races. The last two events of the 13-race program are grass grab bags, and I’ll go four deep in the first one.
No. 8 Al’s Rocket and No. 12 North Carolina are likely to take most of the money, and I understand why. The former drops in for a tag for the first time, while the latter gets back to turf and sure seems like the main speed. I’m using both, but I think two others also merit some attention.
No. 4 Just Like This makes his debut for Brad Cox, and it wouldn’t be shocking if he can run a bit. He sold for $250,000 at auction back in 2020, and he does have a fairly recent bullet drill on his work tab. Also, No. 10 Necco has every right to improve at second asking. Jimmy Jerkens’s first-time starters often need a race to get going. He adds Lasix and gets a bit more distance, both of which should help him.
Seven deep to finish it off
Your guess is as good as mine with regard to which runner will go favored in the Saturday finale. I think it’s the toughest betting race of the day, and I’m using more than half the field.
No. 4 Shamalamadingdong is my tepid top pick. She came back running in her first start since August, when she rallied along the rail to break her maiden. Joel Rosario sees fit to ride, and there sure seems to be plenty of early speed signed on. Such a setup would give her a big chance.
No. 5 No Payne, No. 6 Fontanafredda, No. 7 Happy Hill Lil, No. 8 Dufresne, No. 12 Palace Gossip, and No. 13 Theodora Grace are on my ticket as well. Theodora Grace is an also-eligible and needs a scratch to draw into the field. If she doesn’t run, my ticket goes from $42 to $36.
The $42 late Pick Five ticket
R10: 2, 5, 9
R12: 4, 8, 10, 12
R13: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13