I was surprised that NYRA's oddsmaker Eric Donovan tabbed Nehro as the 4-1 second choice in the Belmont, leaving Shackleford as the third choice at 9-2. I'd been assuming that the Derby and Preakness winners would be favorite and second choice respectively. But it's true that the pp lines show Nehro passing Shackleford at a mile and a quarter. So the natural assumption gives him the edge at a mile and half. That's often the way the money goes in this race, as most recently evidenced by Ice Box being 9-5 last year(!) Of course, we've seen many such horses flatten out from, rather the thrive on, the added ground.
In any event, it shows some independent thinking on Donavan's part from his employer's narrative of the matchup of the Derby and Preakness winners. Even the NYRA press release announcing the post position draw and despite those morning odds reads:
It's Animal Kingdom vs. Shackleford, 10 Others, in Belmont Stakes.
I really don't like Nehro here, especially so at second choice! And, as I explained in the last post, nor do I like Animal Kingdom as the favorite. Makes it almost a race that I have to bet in some way then on principle, even though I don't really care for it much. Besides the top two, I also don't at all like Mucho Macho Man, one of the 10-1 third choices; and if you like the other, Master of Hounds, at that price, well then why, at least based on their Derby performances, wouldn't you take a shot on Santiva or Brilliant Speed, both of whom finished virtually even with that one, at more generous prices instead.
I would totally take a shot on Shackleford if the bettors go for the closers, and he drifts up to 5, 6-1. No way I think he's a mile and a half horse, don't get me wrong. But he seems to be on the improve and man, look at this race....this is a field that he could open up some meaningful lengths on the main contenders. The only horse who has shown a hint of early speed of late is Prime Cut, who has some serious class issues here, besides the fact that he's been stalking the pace of late. If Shackleford can get to the quarter pole up by open lengths - and that at a time when much of the field is likely to already have put in their best run - who knows, he could be tough to catch even as he's staggering towards the finish line.
So, I have no pick at this time. Will probably fool around in some Pick Whatevers with all of those top five betting choices other than Shackleford eliminated; and keep a eye on the tote as post time approaches for some spontaneous ideas. The kind that I would usually try to resist for a normal race.
Fortunately, there are 12 other races, so I'm gonna go look at those, and hopefully get some thoughts on some of them up here on Friday night sometime.
First a couple of other things:
Versus will have two hours of Belmont-related programming on Friday afternoon. (And anyone who's been watching Stanley Cup action on the network over the past few weeks is well aware that they have coverage around the event.) An hour of "Belmont classics" starting at 4, and then an hour from the track with coverage of the Brooklyn Handicap and the Poker Handicap (and, regarding the latter, be sure to check out the status of grass racing on Friday after some torrential rain this evening. I know they'll try to keep a stakes race on, but they will also be thinking about Saturday which, ominously, has the chance of rain in the forecast too).
I dunno actually what kind of impression that TV coverage from Belmont on a Friday afternoon will make on a national TV audience. I imagine that NYRA would prefer to be directing the coverage, avoiding any long pan shots of the empty grandstand.
There's a full day of music on Saturday, though a long ways from the commercial wimpy pop fare presented at Pimlico on Preakness day. I'll just print the whole schedule as provided by NYRA here:
* 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. – The following strolling musicians will perform for fans:Don't think we'll be seeing any of the above playing in Williamsburg anytime soon. But I'm sure it will be fun, especially after some bourbon that I'm not allowed to bring in. Joey Molland was in Badfinger, and Mitch Ryder had a #4 single in Devil With the Blue Dress with the Detroit Wheels back in the 60's. Seems kinda like a random pairing; like Ray Davies and Mary Wells, or Wayne Fontana and John Mayall.
o Buddy Merriam’s Bluegrass Trio (Grandstand entrance)
o Harvey Schneider’s Dixie-land Trio (West end entrance)
o Vocalese Barbershop Quartet (Clubhouse entrance)
* 10 a.m. – noon – Sean Dolan Band (Backyard stage)
* 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. – Ernie Munick will perform for fans throughout the Grandstand
* 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. – “Augie” the Belmont Park mascot will greet fans
* 11 a.m. – NYRA Controller Jelena Alonso performs “The Star-Spangled Banner”
* Noon – 2 p.m. – Godfrey Townsend Band with Joey Molland and Mitch Ryder (Backyard stage)
* 2:15 p.m. – Buglers Sam Grossman (“Sam the Bugler”) and Ryan Resky perform “God Bless America ”
* 2 – 6 p.m. – Southern Exposure Band (Backyard stage)
* 6:25 p.m. – Frank Sinatra’s recording of “ New York , New York ” will accompany the Belmont Stakes horses onto the track (the Belmont is race 11 with a 6:35 p.m. post time)
Anyway, NYRA seems to be most excited about playing Frank Sinatra's New York, New York during the post parade - it got its own press release! I guess they're delirious after the flap over Jay-Z and Alicia Keys last year. However, if I was Joey Molland or Mitch Ryder....or Ernie Munick for that matter....I don't know how I'd feel upon reading the article on NYRA's Belmont Stakes site with the headline Sinatra’s “New York, New York” Headlines Belmont Stakes Day Tunes.