Post 2019 Belmont Stakes

What can I say? I came, I saw,  I won a little bit for the day thanks to Mitole. However, with $14 sausage and pepper sandwiches and $6 soft drinks I  couldn’t say I went home with more money than I had when I arrived at BEL.  But on days like yesterday, you just have to put up with mediocre food and drink. It’s worth it to be part of the raucous crowd.

Here are my views about the day.

  • The weather was glorious.  A wind came up for a bit, but really didn’t affect any of the races significantly. Humidity was low, temperature just right.  You have to enjoy those days when you get them.
  • The track looked great. I’m sure it was impressive on TV. And thank goodness no horse went down.
  • The grandstand was cleaner than I remember last year, but if they want another BC, they need to brighten some things up.  Some deep cleaning, paint, and lighting would be welcomed. Perhaps the lack of concern about the cob webs is telling us something. It wouldn’t hurt to upgrade some of the seating either.
  • There were plenty of younger people there. I’m not sure how much they bet, but I learned how many millennials it takes to use a betting machine. I have a proposal: you get three minutes at the machine. After that amount of time, the machine spits out tickets on any bets you made and returns your updated voucher. Here’s the best part of my idea. You can’t reinsert your ticket into that machine for five minutes. You can move to another machine, you can go to the back of the line, but you don’t get to stand there interminably handicapping and betting. Show up, make your bets, have concern for your fellow handicappers. It was great to see the young fans, but Belmont has to take the huge opportunity to make their signature day more than just the one day a year they show up.
  • They need an updated system for the betting machines. Something that is intuitive and quicker. A lot of the rookies were perplexed. I could hear the group of them surrounding the machine saying things like, no, push that button. It has to be easy to keep people interested.
  • They also need a few guys wandering  around to instruct people on using the machines on those days. Troubleshooters. Maybe have a continuous loop showing near the self-service machines.
  • There were a lot of lit cigars in the grandstand. It wasn’t bothering me, but some people were bitching.  It isn’t that hard to walk outside to smoke your cigar. After all, it is against the law to smoke in the grandstand even if you think you are “outside.”
  • It was impossible to get anywhere near the paddock or saddling area to evaluate horses for looks or energy. I don’t think there is anything that can be done, but it was frustrating because there were some horses coming off layoffs that I wanted to see.
  • They did have food trucks available outside next to the backyard. Unfortunately I didn’t see them until late. It would have been nice  to know we didn’t just have to order the suspect Philly Cheese Steak. I was pretty sure it was processed beef and absolutely sure the top was cheese whiz.  I know you’re not there for the food, but for me to last from 11 am to 7 pm, I’ve got to get some calories.
  • Using the LIRR was great. Trains were packed but on time.
  • I really love NY. Sitting on a bench under a tree in Bryant Park drinking some Rooibos Tea, watching a steady stream of people playing outdoor ping pong and something that looked like Bocce Ball but had a different name, was as relaxing as it gets. You’d hardly know you were in the middle of the horn-blowingest city in the country.

I may make the Belmont an annual trip.

The Belmont 2019

Well, the ecstasy or pain of the 2019 season of the Triple Crown will be over Saturday  around 7:00 pm. It was somewhat an eventful set of races. The Kentucky Derby had its first disqualification for an on-track incident when Maximum Security, the horse that crossed the finish line first, was disqualified and placed 17th.

The more I watched replays from different angles and sources, the more I shifted my opinion toward leaving  Maximum Security up. War of Will, a potential favorite in the Belmont, was moving well past the eighth pole when he literally ran up the backside of Maximum Security.  After taking a physical beating from War of Will, he did what any horse would do instinctively – he jumped out of the way. The demolition derby resulting from that swerve  resulted in the overly harsh demotion.

I’m not going to argue with anyone about the true winner. The race is official and there is nothing anyone can do to change that. As well as War of Will was running, if he had an open lane he might just have finished on top. If Maximum Security, War of Will and Country House  return for the big races at Saratoga, Monmouth, or Parx, it may settle some of the arguments.

The Preakness was won with no drama by War of Will. It was a new top for him, and I’m sure the connections believe they gave us reason to wonder if he was the best horse in the Derby.

Let’s go through the Belmont field.

  1.  Joevia. If you’re looking for a longshot with a very small chance of winning this is your horse.
  2. Everfast. This horse is a true plodder. In the Preakness he came from well off the pace to run second. Perhaps his  jockey Joel Rosario made a mistake being that far off. He has a couple of downsides. He’s run in 11 races and is still eligible for NW2L. He also passed a lot of horses that you won’t hear much about in the future. But, I like the jockey change and the useful workout five days before the race. He’s run a lot of graded races and he showed steady improvement in his last four races. Bourbon War has his number, but I wouldn’t be afraid of using him somewhere in the verticals.
  3. Master Fencer didn’t break particularly well and did what he always does – gobble ground in the stretch. It’s entirely possible he will improve in his second race in the states. Leparoux keeps the mount. Frankly he’s not my favorite rider, but if he can find a lane he might also be used in the backholes.
  4. Tax. Why is the oddsmaker down on Tax? He’s bred well enough and perhaps his Derby on a sloppy track can be excused. The blinkers off doesn’t bother me. He showed they were no help at all in the Derby. Plus his two wins were without blinkers. I would also take Irad Ortiz over Alvarado. If you throw out his Derby, he’s right there. He’s a bit of a wildcard, but it looks like he’s a better bet than his morning line might indicate. Enough positives to be dangerous.
  5. Bourbon War. He just seems to have lost his mojo. Unless you believe Mike Smith is going to be able to straighten out the horse it’s hard to get excited about him.
  6. Spinoff. He was 50-1 in the Derby and ran like it. He’s a horse that did well in the Louisiana Derby, one of the better preps, but his wins came in his maiden and an optional claimer. He may push the pace, and that can only help the closers. I really can’t recommend using him.
  7. Sir Winston. He is another one of the horses that seem to be inclined to close. While he showed an ability to press last year, he hasn’t been better than 7th at the first call in his 2019 races. I don’t know how he was put at 12-1 on the morning line. He’s not as good as some of the other off-the-pace horses.
  8. Intrepid Heart. The mighty combination of Todd Pletcher and Johnny V may be on a downhill slide. The 2018-19 stat for the combination at Belmont is 19%, not bad but not up to where they were a few years ago. His two wins came in a maiden and an OC$75K. While he’s shown some speed, I don’t think it will help him much in the Belmont. His Peter Pan was nothing to get excited about. Another horse underlayed on the ML.
  9. War of Will. I talked about his Derby, and if you were heads up for the Preakness, it wasn’t hard to put him in the mix. What bothers me is that Mark Casse didn’t give him a public work since the Preakness. He can run to the front, and he may steal one, but I’m hoping he founders in the last eighth. He’ll volley with Tacitus for favoritism, but I can’t use both of them. Gotta pitch this guy. It’s more a parimutuel no-bet than deft investing.
  10. Tacitus. I watched the Derby15 or 20 times looking for disadvantages to horses. Here’s what I saw forTacitus. As he broke out of the gate he was having some trouble grabbing hold of the track. In less than an eighth of a mile he ducked inside and outside and Jose Ortiz showed great strength in getting the horse straightened out and running. he stayed off the rail and made a powerful move before downshifting mid-turn to avoid horses in front of him. He came into the stretch no better than 8th and he still had trouble with the traffic. Once he found a lane and steadied he found a new gear, finishing well. He had a bullet work six days before the race. As long as he gets out of the gate and doesn’t pull back too far, he’s got a good chance to win.

My value trifecta/superfecta is 10 /2,4/2,3,4/2,3,4,6,8,9.  Good luck if you are betting the race.