A very rich field competes for the rich prize money of $1,200,000 in the Belmont Derby which is run on the inner turf track of Belmont Park.
The race is of course a Grade 1 but none of the 3-years-old racing today are proven winners at this class level. This makes judging quality challenging. Luckily for us, only two of the 9 horses come from abroad, so the analysis is slightly easier, but this is a pretty open race…
Almost every horse has a realistic shot at it, so it should be a very interesting race.
On the Belmont Park Inner Turf course, the turns are sharp, so it helps to be on the lead, or close to it.
Some horses will have harder trips on the outside and pace handicapping will be a major factor today.
All horses in the running have a relatively patient running style so we can expect a waiting game for the first mile and then fireworks in the stretch.
A couple of horses have a better shot than others at glory today, but this is a very open race…
In the 10th race of Belmont Park on July 7 2018, the field notes are as follow:
Number 1, CHANNEL CAT steps up in class bigly, having never won at stakes level, not even in ungraded stakes. He finished third last time out, in a small field of 5, behind two of today’s contestants. CHANNEL CAT was closing strongly in the third quarter of that race, but he never came close to the contestants in question. Tepid workouts since do not indicate major physical progress and it looks like CHANNEL CAT is outmatched today.
Number 2 ENCUMBERED is another one who is unproven at the Graded Stakes level and who is taking a step up for the second race of his 3-year-old campaign. ENCUMBERED fought hard for the lead in a turf mile last month and finished 5th, 5 lengths behind Hawkish against whom he runs again today. His trainer is pretty good at bringing back horses in form the second time out rather than straight after a vacation, so it is possible that ENCUMBERED will be better today. He has a couple of sharp workouts in the last two weeks and he therefore might be hot. The pace in this one should not be too hard and with a spot near the rail it is not impossible that ENCUMBERED could go all the way this time. At 30-1 morning line odds I think that it would be a valid bet to take…
Number 3, ANALYZE IT was a heavy favorite last time out on the same Belmont Park Inner Turf course and lost to today’s number 7, his only loss in a short career. ANALYZE IT had to race two-wide on both turns so this relatively bad trip might help explain the loss but the eventual winner, Catholic Boy, had the best of him pretty decisively in the stretch… Analyze it draws the better post position today however so maybe the tables will be turned. The good tactical speed and post position should give him an easier trip and put him in striking distance in the stretch. This is going to be a hard race though, so the 5-2 morning line odds seem a little low.
Number 4, HUNTING HORN travels to the USA for the first time after a solid win at Ascot two weeks ago on this same distance. That win was a Group 3 in which HUNTING HORN had a relatively easy trip. His trainer always seems to ship a horse from across the pond for that event and he has struck in 2016 with this ploy, so a repeat is possible. HUNTING HORN’s last race was solid, and the final quarter was pretty powerful, so he looks like a contender today even though he is likely to be parked outside on the sharp turns of the Belmont Park Inner Turf…
Number 5 MARAUD disappointed in his last race, but he is a proven Grade 2 winner and a horse who can stay close to the lead or come back from further. In his last race, he was pushed hard for the lead (against today’s number 2 horse) and faltered. Today can play two ways: either they try the strategy again (against a relatively low pace expected), or they take a gamble and are patient, like everyone else. I think that it will be very tempting to try for the lead again, especially with the Belmont Park Inner Turf track bias that favours those near the lead. The workouts are tepid and it does not seem like he is in great form though, so I suspect MARAUD will be parked outside and once again falter in the stretch.
Number 6, KINGSTAR is a lightly raced French horse who is stepping up in class quite a bit, coming from an allowance win and previously only a place in a 6-horse Grade 3. French turf racing is probably the best in the world and their horses are not bred to compete young so there is no telling if KINGSTAR is a budding star or just a decent colt. At face value here though, it looks like Kingstar is outclassed and it is better to just watch him run today.
Number 7, CATHOLIC BOY had an easier race than today’s number 3 last time out, racing on the inside all along, but he showed a lot of determination in the stretch when steadied yet came back powerfully. He likes to run near the lead and with today’s outside post position that might mean running 2 or 3-wide for the whole mile and a quarter. On the Belmont Park Inner Turf ring, that’s not easy. CATHOLIC BOY looks pretty sharp and he has the class needed to perform well today. The outside post might hinder his chances, but he is still a strong contender.
Number 8, HAWKISH has won two in a row decisively, including a Grade 2 last time out where he bested a couple of today’s opponents. His strong 4-wide move on the last turn was pretty impressive and HAWKISH seems to have kept well based on good workouts since. He will need to try and find an opening to not be parked too wide for the two turns. But if he manages to stay in the mix near the end, he could overpower in the stretch for the win.
Number 9, MY BOY JACK comes back from a two months break following his Kentucky Derby where he finished a good fifth in the large field, finishing the race strongly. He has taken part in some high-class races and did well overall but his best performances were on the dirt, so one can wonder why he is coming back to turf today. MY BOY JACK is a classy horse, for sure, and knows how to close hard so he has a chance today but I prefer the chances of others and I suspect his closing odds will be too low to warrant a bet.
Out of nine horses running, you could make a case for 7 or 8 of them winning…
It is a good day to remember that when betting on horse racing, the goal is not to find winners, the goal is to find value.
The morning line odds are a guess by the Belmont Park track handicapper and I think that the prices will be very different at post time. But assuming that the prices stay relatively the same, I think there are a few horses that can offer value.
ENCUMBERED is a long shot here but he draws a good post position and if the others remain patient, he might be able to set easy fractions and go wire to wire at very good odds.
HUNTING HORN might be a bit disregarded by the betting public as he is an unknown here in the US but his performance 2 weeks ago was pretty impressive so he might be able to best them all on first try. If the odds drift high enough, I think that it is a good bet to take
HAWKISH knows how to close a race and with a short resume so far, he is allowed to progress even further. He has won the highest class race of all last time out in solid fashion so he probably has the goods to take on this field. The outside post position is a little unfortunate but for a closer like him it should be less of a challenge than for others.
JULY 7 BELMONT PARK RACE 10 BETTING PICKS:
WIN BET at 20-1 or more on Number 2 ENCUMBERED
WIN BET at 5-1 or more on Number 4 HUNTING HORN
WIN BET at 5-1 or more on Number 8 HAWKISH
Exacta Box 2-4-8