The weather forecast is hanging in there despite fading in the stretch. It's still supposed to basically be nice, but the chance of stray storms seems to be increasing. But assuming the day is OK (because NYRA is always just so lucky with stuff like that), I think they're going to do well. I'm upping my prior estimate of the upper 40's to a number more comparable to last year's 52,861. NYRA's media department is surely working it; my inbox is constantly filled with updates and alerts. The post position draw was televised on MSG+; jockeys visited the Ronald McDonald House, they did the event at the Empire State Building, which is bathed in green and white lights, really to mark the occasion of the Jets' training camp just eight weeks away, but we'll let NYRA believe that's they're the official colors of Belmont Park....or whatever exactly the significance is!
On Thursday, there's a trainers' press conference at Belmont, a transcript of which will be available within 60 minutes on ASAP Sports.com; where, under Upcoming Events, it's noted:
142ND BELMONT STAKES (Equestrian)OK, the point is that they're doing a good job and they're really trying. They, and everyone there, must feel the world off their shoulders since the loan was agreed to.
Zito's horses arrived on Wednesday. Not sure about that 3-1 morning line on Ice Box; hell, I might bet him at that price. I know it's a big field and that the odds curve tends to flatten for these races these days. But whatever one thinks of his chances, his past performance lines just scream BELMONT!, he was second in the Derby (which > Preakness), and he's trained by Zito. I don't see him any higher than 2-1 at most.
Dale Romans repeated the workout pattern he used for First Dude before the Preakness, with a sharp five furlongs exactly a week prior. "He’s a throwback kind of horse, a big rugged kind of horse, nothing bothers him, and I don’t think three weeks [between races] is going to bother him," Romans said (quote sheet provided by the NYRA press office, thanks). His second in the Preakness was so outstanding that it's being ignored or forgotten that he seems to have a propensity for settling for place money; four times in his seven starts with only a maiden win to show. I'll be standing against, at least in the top slot.
Game On Dude is ranked at 10-1; here's hoping that his celebrity trainer attracts more money than that.
I like Fly Down (9-2). Romans talked about "turning the tables on Ice Box," but maybe he should be worried about this horse instead given First Dude's two finishes just behind him. He had a little step back at Fair Grounds after a tough win over his abovementioned rival off a layoff, moved forward to a career best, though apparently non-taxing Dwyer, is working fantastic, seems fresh in this spot with just three starts this year, gets four weeks off and a track he seems to fancy. The one thing that makes me think twice is that he's not really bred for marathon distances....but who really is in this, or most other fields? He came home strong in the Dwyer, drawing off in an impressive final furlong of 12.18.
Interactif (12-1) is a total question mark on dirt and therefore way underlaid at his 12-1 morning line in my opinion. “We decided to call an audible and send him to the Belmont,” said Pletcher. Sounds like "the owner made me do it" to me. Some interesting breeding here though as his third dam is the legendary Personal Ensign. That makes him also from the distaff family of distance horses like Miners Mark, My Flag, and Storm Flag Flying.