Belmont Stakes 2015 Picks and Plays
Belmont Stakes 2015 Picks and Plays: Here we go again – another Triple Crown on the line with American Pharoah vying for the chance to be the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. Mind you, this is no easy task, proven by the thirty-seven-year drought of the feat. The last horse who did so was Affirmed, and we’ve had many go on this incredible journey only to be defeated in the final race, the Belmont Stakes.
I honestly feel American Pharoah has the looks of a Triple Crown winner and could easily win this race. However, often times something happens, like a bad break, a little pinballing, or getting pushed back at the start. You just never know what can happen in a race until it unfolds. This leaves a little bit of wiggle room for handicappers trying to cash a ticket if they are willing to take a gamble.
We have a field of eight ready to romp over the 1½-mile “Big Sandy” as the Belmont oval is often referred to, located in Elmont, New York. This race is set to take place Saturday, June 6, 2015, with a start time of 6:50 p.m. EST and is the 11th race of the day on a card of 13.
New York sure knows how to pick a card of races. Belmont day is hands-down one of my favorite gambling days, and there is no shortage of races lined up. There are six Grade I races, including the Belmont, comprising a total of $4,700,000 with the $750,000 Acorn, the $1,250,000 Met Mile, the $1,000,000 Manhattan, the $1,000,000 Ogden Phipps, and the $700,000 Just A Game. There are also three Grade II stakes races in the Brooklyn, the Woody Stephens, and the Jaipur. Game on folks; break out the highlighter and pens, and get started.
If American Pharoah is going to take the hat trick of horse racing in winning the Belmont Stakes, he has a few tough customers to face. Each horse in this field has a chance to creep up and hit the board or possibly nose him out at the wire. Let’s take a look at American Pharoah plus a few horses here that I feel could clunk up into the top four spots or possibly knock him off his throne.
American Pharoah is an extremely talented thoroughbred who won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, leaving just the Belmont Stakes in the way of the most coveted prize in horse racing, the Triple Crown. The Bob Baffert-trained homebred son of Pioneerof the Nile is owned by the Zayats who have had a few shots at winning the Kentucky Derby but were denied. They finally succeeded with American Pharoah. This horse doesn’t need much of an introduction and could very possibly become more than a household name come Saturday night. I’m not going to go into any more detail on him as most know where he stands – on the threshold of something “BIG.” He’s coming into this race training extremely well off a six-win streak, looking fit and ready to roll. He has a very nice high cruising speed that should do well on the Belmont surface. It’s hard to play catch-up on this track.
One of the major setbacks for the Triple Crown contenders is the quick turnaround from the first two races. This often gives those who skip the Preakness Stakes an advantage of over a month’s rest.
Todd Pletcher kept all of his horses out of the Preakness Stakes to get them ready for the Belmont, a race he has won twice, so he knows the ropes. Now, he’s taking a shot with Materiality and Madefromlucky who both have the credentials to finish in the money. Last year his horse Commissioner, my top pick, went all the way up front only to be nudged out just shy of the wire by Tonalist. I was gutted.
Of all these challengers, Materiality seems to be on a lot of people’s lists as one with the best shot to upset the applecart. This son of Afleet Alex had a troubled trip from the get-go in the Kentucky Derby but finished up in a decent sixth place. He should be able to get a much stronger trip this time with Velazquez riding, plus he’ll be fresh and ready to fire. He looks to be the main horse in here with some early speed and has a nice tactical advantage from post 8, drawing outside of American Pharoah. It sounds like he’ll be sent, so look for him to try and wire the field.
My go-to Pletcher horse is Madefromlucky. This son of Lookin At Lucky seems to be improving, and I think he has a nice shot to finish in the money. He sat out the Kentucky Derby and went on to win the 2015 Peter Pan Stakes on this track the weekend of the Preakness. That has often been the path of many looking to jumpstart their games into the Belmont. Tonalist went that route last year. Madefromlucky should be positioned between the early speed (which isn’t much) and the deep closers. American Pharoah could be the cream of the cookie sandwiched between the two Pletcher horses. I think Madefromlucky will try to wear him down. If Materiality and American Pharoah tire, he’ll get an early jump on the closers to take over the lead, and he’s worth a second look in my opinion. He appears to be getting good at the right time, and I like him best if there is an upset.
Frosted looks to be a serious contender to end up in the winner’s circle. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has this son of Tapit ready to fire as well as he sat out the Preakness Stakes and will be fresh. In the Kentucky Derby he traveled very strongly and ran just a trifle too late to finish up in fourth. He has fired off some nice works since and looks very fit. With Dortmund and Firing Line both passing on the Belmont, Frosted becomes the highest Kentucky Derby finisher remaining besides American Pharoah. He gets jockey Joel Rosario up, a veteran who is no stranger to this race. He ruined the dreams of Triple Crown contender California Chrome and his connections last year by nailing the win aboard Tonalist in the Belmont.
Trainer Mike de Kock decided to keep his horse Mubtaahij here after finishing eighth in the Derby to train for the Belmont. This should give him a nice edge as he’s been extensively working on this track, and the added distance is right in his ballpark. He’s won two stakes races at 1-3/16 miles. He should be more settled and ready after his Derby run and the required travel and quarantine. The addition of Irad Ortiz Jr., who ranks fourth on the money list in 2015, gets the call, and I dig the jockey change. Mubtaahij should stay with the pack before using his ability to finish strong with his nice turn of foot down the stretch. Looks like a live wild card to me to hit the board.
Last but not least for me is the Nick Zito-trained son of Midshipman Frammento. He drew into the Kentucky Derby after the scratch of Stanford and managed to finish in a late-running eleventh. With the added distance, I like his chances of getting a better trip in a smaller field. He’s got a late running style which usually doesn’t bode well for the Belmont. Frammento makes 25 Belmont Stakes starters for Zito in a race he’s won twice and finished in second seven times.
The two times Zito has won the Belmont, the Triple Crown was on the line. First, there was the upset of Smarty Jones in 2004 with Birdstone and then upset of Big Brown in 2009 with Da’Tara. I was all over his other entry Anak Nakal that day when Da’Tara wired the field. Belmont is Nick Zitos home track, so I never like to count him out. Can he do it again with Frammento? He’ll be a nice longshot, and Zito wouldn’t have it any other way. Birdstone won at 36-1 and Da’Tara at 38-1. Frammento has fired some nice four-furlong bullets to build up some stamina. Mike Smith gets the call, who is no stranger to winning this race as he won with Drosselmeyer in 2010 and Palace Malice in 2013. The blinkers coming off caught my eye as well.
Lady and the Track Team Picks & Plays:
Kari: I’m not doing much with this race. American Pharoah is going to be tough to beat, and a Triple Crown would be fantastic for the sport. I’m going to play some of the races on the undercard Saturday like I did last year. I went with ladders on a few longshots and had seconditis all day but hit the place/show on Top Fortitude, Sweet Whiskey, Strathnaver, and Commissioner. As far as this race is concerned, it depends on the morning line. If Madefromlucky stays around 10-1 or higher, I’ll play him across the board. I prefer him for the upset. Frammento is intriguing from the trainer standpoint alone for me, so I’ll most likely put some place/show money on him as well. If you are sold that American Pharoah is going to win, I would suggest trying a trifecta and/or superfecta keying American Pharoah on top with a few favorites in second then use the all button (the whole field) for the 3rd and 4th positions. Best of luck to everyone Saturday.
Sigi: My top picks are Frosted, American Pharoah and Mubtaahij. I’m playing Frosted to win and a trifecta Frosted/American Pharoah-Mubtaahij/American Pharoah-Mubtahiij-Materiality-Keen Ice
Reinier: Frosted, Materiality, Madefromlucky, American Pharoah.Playing this race is tricky because I think Frosted and Materiality will be heavily bet too. But I’ll suggest Frosted, Materiality and Madefromlucky boxed even though I may change my mind.
Casey: My pick is Madefromlucky if American Pharoah doesn’t fire. I’ll single American Pharoah, then I’ll box American Pharoah, Madefromlucky, Frosted and Materiality.
Jess: I’m really liking Frosted, Materiality, and American Pharoah, mostly because I’d love to see a Triple Crown winner finally! For longshots, I like Tale of Verve, especially if it’s going to be a wet track.
Lizzy: I want to see a Triple Crown winner so I’m only rooting for American Pharoah. I’ll make my bets on the undercard races on Belmont day.
Jay: I’m rooting for Mubtaahij to pull an upset in the 2015 Belmont Stakes. I’ll put $100 down on the longshot to show just before the race begins.
Trixie: I’m going to play a superfecta with 5,6,8,1 and will send my winnings to the South Florida SPCA.
Belmont Stakes 2015 Post Positions & Odds
Race 11 6:50 pm ET
1 Mubtaahij 10-1 Jockey I. Ortiz/Trainer de Kock
2 Tale of Verve 15-1 Jockey Stevens/Trainer Stewart
3 Madefromlucky 12-1 Jockey Castellano/Trainer Pletcher
4 Frammento 30-1 Jockey Smith/Trainer Zito
5 American Pharoah 3-5 Jockey Espinoza/Trainer Baffert
6 Frosted 5-1 Jockey Rosario/Trainer McLaughlin
7 Keen Ice 20-1 Jockey Desormeaux/Trainer Romans
8 Materiality 6-1 Jockey Velazquez/Trainer Pletcher
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