By J.J. Hysell
The torrential rain is expected to cease by Saturday morning, so track conditions are an unknown quantity at this point.
1. Frac Daddy (A. Garcia/K. McPeek) (30-1) - Kenny McPeek has been open about his strategy (see http://inthemoneypost.com/mcpeek-to-garcia-dont-let-the-two-horse-drop-in-front-of-you/) and he’s hoping Frac Daddy will carry his speed the entire circuit. Frac Daddy hasn’t tried a front-running approach before, so he’ll be in uncharted waters in many regards. Alan Garcia was aboard for his debut, in which Frac Daddy finished second on a muddy Belmont track. Pushing the gas pedal from the rail is the best option, so it’s understandable why McPeek is taking the approach. It’s tough to envision the colt going wire to wire at this distance. He’ll also be engaged in a front-running battle with next door neighbor Freedom Child.
Pedigree: The sire side is mostly middle-distance, but Frac Daddy’s dam side is loaded with stamina influence. His dam sire, Skip Away, was second in the Belmont and won several long-distance tests, including the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. His second dam, Power Play, won the 1 1/4-mile Delaware Handicap at 27-1.
2. Freedom Child (L. Saez/T. Albertrani) (8-1) - Free-wheeling Freedom Child will have a fight on his hands for the lead with Frac Daddy, and the question is, how would he handle having to rate? In the second start of his career, going a mile at Aqueduct, he was caught while rolling on the lead – by nemesis Orb no less. His Gulfstream win and sloppy Peter Pan run show his progression, but this a runner who needs the lead and it won’t be handed over this time around. He’s a solid exotics play, especially if the track remains wet.
“Depending on the pace, as long as we’re in control early on, if he runs anything like he did in the Peter Pan I think he’ll do it on the front end,” Albertrani said. “Orb, depending on where he’s going to be, if the pace is strong, naturally he’s going to come running. That’s the only horse, I think, that’s going to be a factor in the race as far as the closers go. But, if we’re on the front end and we’re not setting anything too quick, I think our horse will be very effective.”
Pedigree: Freedom Child derives his stamina from the sire side as he’s by Malibu Moon, a son of A.P. Indy. The dam side is mostly sprint an middle-distance. He has the highest Dosage of the Belmont field at 4.09. In an interesting twist, his dam, Bandstand, was trained by Dallas Stewart, the trainer of Golden Soul.
3. Overanalyze (J. Velazquez/T. Pletcher) (12-1) - He didn’t appear to care for the track in the Kentucky Derby, his first trip over a sloppy track, and there could be wet conditions today, so that’s a big question mark. The Arkansas Derby hasn’t evolved into a key race, and although he’s faced some of the top 3-year-old winners, he didn’t do much against them. He does have a few checks in the watch out column, however; he gets jockey John Velazquez, who is a top rider at Belmont and knows how to win this race. Also, he is proven over this track with his Remsen win and has been training well over it. On Friday, trainer Todd Pletcher told WFAN he felt Overanalyze had “the most likely” chance to do well in this race of the Mike Repole-owned trio.
Pedigree: Sire Dixie Union produced last year’s Belmont winner Union Rags, although he was likely helped by his class over a light field and an outstanding ride by – who else – Velazquez. The dam side has some sprint – check out that Two Punch – but also boasts dam sire Unaccounted For, who won the 1 1/8-mile Whitney and, interestingly, absolutely romped on a muddy Belmont track in an allowance race.
4. Giant Finish (E. Prado/A. Dutrow) (30-1) - Relatively consistent runner tried the big leagues in the Kentucky Derby and did fairly well to finish 10th in the slop. He battled against General Election in the John Battaglia, and General Election proved his mettle by winning the Arlington Classic on turf. Class is the question and, although a New York-bred, he’s yet to try the Belmont surface, so that’s an unknown element. His best asset is his pedigree.
Pedigree: Giant Finish is by Frost Giant, a son of Giant’s Causeway who is proving to be a standout sire right out of the gate. His dam sire, Hickman Creek, is by Seattle Slew and was trained by D. Wayne Lukas.
5. Orb (J. Rosario/S. McGaughey) (3-1) – Can he bounce back from the lackluster Preakness performance? He has the advantage of returning to the normalcy of his home surroundings, which could help him not just in the race but mentally as well. He appears to have put on a little weight during the three weeks – a good sign. His versatility makes him tough to bet against. He’s one of the better distance runners in the race and he can handle an off track. He also appears to have the running style for the pace scenario we’ll see here, unlike in the Preakness, and drew a better post. The only question with Orb is his fitness: has the grueling Triple Crown trail drained him?
Pedigree: The son of Malibu Moon won the Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4-miles and should have no trouble trying 1 1/2-miles based on pedigree.
6. Incognito (I. Ortiz/K. McLaughlin) (20-1) - The most interesting long shot in the field, he’s a closer with a standout pedigree for the distance who has yet to try this type of company. He was handily beaten by Freedom Child over the sloppy track in the Peter Pan, but in most of his races – including the ones over sloppy tracks – he’s running well late, indicating it could be the distance he needs, not necessarily a fast track. He’ll have jockey Irad Ortiz aboard, who is riding very well of late at Belmont. McLaughlin spelled out the plan Friday, and it goes against the “Belmont Belief” of having to lay close to the pace.
“I was talking to Irad this morning. The thing is, we have to settle early. A lot of people think you have to be close, but we would like to settle back, mid-pack toward the rear. We can’t win if we’re up 1-2-3-4, in my opinion. We’ll be back and we might take mud in the face for a while. We’d like to get clear when it’s time to go.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s dry and fast, he doesn’t like dirt in his face so much. He just doesn’t like it,” McLaughlin said. “We have enough time and distance for the most part to get the last five-eighths with a clean face.
“He definitely was flying late up the rail (in the Peter Pan) and galloped out in front of all of them. We’ve always liked him. He really wants the distance.”
Pedigree: Incognito boasts a royal pedigree as a son of distance champion A.P. Indy, who won the Belmont, and out of the outstanding mare Octave, who won the Rachel Alexandra and Fair Grounds Oaks. One of the top distance pedigrees in the field; interesting to note the lack of the usual Northern Dancer-Nearctic-Natalma bloodlines that are often found in Belmont Stakes winners. This is a long shot to watch.
7. Oxbow (G. Stevens/D.W. Lukas) (5-1) - Impressive Preakness win was largely due to the astute strategy by Stevens to take the lead and cruise, but also showed Oxbow can go a long, long way on his own. It will likely be a much different scenario here with speedy Freedom Child and also Frac Daddy to challenge, possibly more. He’ll be pressured and history shows he hasn’t fared as well in those situations. There’s also a fatigue factor to consider as he’s one of a few here who will be completing the Triple Crown trio of tests.
Pedigree: If Oxbow loses, it won’t be because of his pedigree, but rather his running style. He’s by distance influence Awesome Again and out of the Tiznow mare Tizamazing by Cee’s Tizzy. Cee’s Tizzy is the sire of champion Tiznow.
8. Midnight Taboo (G. Gomez/T. Pletcher) (30-1) - Lightly raced Mike Repole-owned runner is taking a chance, and don’t blame them as he was a solid second to Irsaal on a muddy Belmont track and has shown some consistency in his short career. He’s a versatile runner who can come from off the pace or be close up, but this is a major class test for this runner.
Pedigree: This is one to watch if he ever tries turf, being a son of Langfuhr. The one plus in his bloodlines for the Belmont is the abundance of Northern Dancer influence.
9. Revolutionary (J. Castellano/T. Pletcher) (9-2) - Five different tracks, four different riders, various distances and surfaces – and he’s not finished off the board in seven starts. This is a warrior who can handle all types of adversity, including what could be another off track. He reunites with Castellano, who was on a roll Friday at Belmont and is 2 for 2 with this colt. He comes out of the Louisiana contingent that’s proven strong. He’s a versatile runner who can conform to various pace scenarios; he likely won’t be as far back as he was in the Kentucky Derby if he gets a clean break. He was galloping out strong after his Derby third-place run and has the advantage of a rest period by not running in the Preakness.
Pedigree: While his sire, War Pass, is known for sprint and middle distance, his dam side is complete with stamina influences. Dam Runup the Colors won the 1 1/4-mile Alabama Stakes and is a daughter of A.P. Indy. For more on the importance of dam sires in regards to distance, one needs to look no further than Animal Kingdom.
10. Will Take Charge (J. Court/D.W. Lukas) (20-1) - Court jumps back aboard this fellow who is reminiscent of Union Rags – just figuring out what to do with the huge body he’s developed. He should enjoy the sprawling space Belmont provides, but Mother Nature hasn’t been kind to him, as his races in slop have shown a significant drop in performance. Lukas hints of his two runners, this is the one likely to flourish in this particular race.
Pedigree: There’s some stamina on the sire side of this son of Unbridled’s Song, but his dam side offers more, as Take Charge Lady was second in the Kentucky Oaks and won several Grade 1 races at a route distance. It’s not as appealing as some of the other pedigrees here, but it’s by no means a strictly sprint-middle distance bloodline.
11. Vyjack (J. Leparoux/R. Rodriguez) (20-1) - The son of Into Mischief didn’t fire at all in the sloppy Kentucky Derby and appears happy to be back in New York, albeit a different track. If the Belmont was at Aqueduct, he would be on top of tickets, but he’ll be facing another tough class – and distance - test here. The move to Leparoux is interesting, and he might take a Gotham-like route this time around.
Pedigree: It’s tough to gauge the Into Mischief progeny at this juncture; it’s not a pedigree you’d likely see in most 1 1/2-mile races. Interestingly, his dosage is one of the best in the field at 1.80.
12. Palace Malice (M. Smith/T. Pletcher) (15-1) - The blinkers-on experiment transformed into a debacle that made the son of Curlin an unstoppable speed ball over the sloppy track in the Kentucky Derby. He’ll likely have a more subtle trip this venture, although he should still be close to the pace. He’s received outstanding reviews for his works at Belmont and was training forwardly prior to the Derby as well, so the fitness is there. Toss the Louisiana Derby, in which he was hopelessly trapped on the inside, and you have a consistent horse. He’s a wild card. but he’ll have to find the best route from this position and last through the stretch – something he wasn’t able to do in the Blue Grass Stakes.
Pedigree: Pedigree would tab him as a distance grinder, being by Curlin and out of Palace Rumor by Royal Anthem. This is another one to watch if he tries turf – his dam, with her Theatrical bloodlines, loved it.
13. Unlimited Budget (R. Napravnik/T. Pletcher) (8-1) - The filly comes into the race off some solid works over the surface and doesn’t appear taxed from her third-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks. Napravnik knows how to get the best from her as they won the Rachel Alexandra. She’ll try to maneuver from mid-pack or closer from this post, but will likely be quite wide on this trip, and possibly over a wet surface. The distance could be a tough challenge for her.
Pedigree: A daughter of Street Sense, she’s got the benefit of Derby-winning bloodlines on the sire side. The dam side, however, is mostly middle-distance with no standout stamina runners.
14. Golden Soul (R. Albarado/D. Stewart) (10-1) – The champion of our In the Money Derby-winning exotics, he returns for another round at a new track. That’s the main obstacle for this distance runner, who should have no trouble tackling this distance or a wet track. He loves the Churchill Downs surface; can he transfer to Belmont? He was delayed getting back on the track after the taxing Derby, but his last work at Churchill showed he’s regained his fitness. He’ll need a heads-up trip from this far outside post. Definitely not ruling him out.
“He gallops so strong all the time,” Stewart said. “He galloped almost two miles every day, and that’s even more taxing than working. And he did serious, old-time gallops. I think through the stretch, he’s going to have a good bit of stamina, because he’s feeling great.”
Pedigree: He’s got it all – the Sadler’s Wells run-all-day, the Northern Dancer influence and the off-track breeding. What’s not to like here?