Friday, June 6, 2008

Belmont Stakes Preview: Will Big Brown Do It?

For the past three weeks I have been trying not to get too excited and caught up in the common thinking that BIG BROWN is most definitely going to win tomorrow and that nothing can stop him. Mainly because after seeing 5 near misses from 1997-2003, I got really emotionally wrapped up in SMARTY JONES, as I got on his train before even the Derby, and by the time he romped in the Derby and Preakness, I was positive that Smarty could not be beat and would definitely do it. And when he failed, even though he was certainly the best horse in the race, it really bummed me out. {why he lost is a whole nother story and subject to great debate}.

I'm not as emotionally invested in BIG BROWN as I was SMARTY JONES or SILVER CHARM, so I'm trying to be more reasonable.

For one, ANYTHING can happen in horse racing. Hell, SPECTACULAR BID lost a "certain" triple crown when he stepped on a pin and ran the Belmont with a hurt foot. Bad luck, a bad start, getting rank, other horses tiring him out, jockey moving too early, etc, etc.

Secondly, there is a major contender that is coming at him, and who is fresh, while BIG BROWN will be running his 3rd race in 36 days. CASINO DRIVE has insane breeding for the Belmont {12- TWELVE!- Belmont winners in the first four generations of his pedigree- totally insane}, easily won the Peter Pan Stakes, the major prep race at Belmont Park for the Belmont Stakes, and is half brother to both 2007 Belmont winner RAGS TO RICHES but also to 2006 Belmont winner JAZIL. He basically has been pointed towards the Belmont his whole racing career, and he will be a formidable foe. Don't be at all surprised if he wins.

So will he do it? I have no idea. If he does, then it will be great for the sport, but the downside for me personally is that his trainer, Rick Dutrow {and to a lesser degree his owner} is a dick. It's not the same feeling as pulling for Bob & Beverly Lewis when they had shots at it with SILVER CHARM and CHARISMATIC, or when trainer John Servis almost did it with SMARTY JONES. If they do win then we'll just hear more and more pompous shittalking from the connections, but at the end of the day it's not about them, it's about the horse. So if he does it then I'll focus on that.

So if BIG BROWN wins it will be an amazing story, and if CASINO DRIVE wins then it too will be a great story, as it will mean that his momma, BETTER THAN HONOUR, will have sired three consecutive Belmont winners, which has never happened- in fact, I don't know if one momma has ever sired three consecutive winner of any race on Earth, ever.

With those as the two big stories, those two horses will both be massively overbet and offer little {CASINO DRIVE} to absolutely no {BIG BROWN} value. So the smart play is to bet DENIS OF CORK across the board. He came flying from last in the Derby to finish 3rd, he should be able to handle the mile and a half, and he skipped the Preakness and should be fresh. Even if he gets the SHOW {3rd place} you should get your money back and a small score {assuming he goes off in the neighborhood of 10-1 to 15-1}.

The rest of the field will basically be longshots both on paper and at the betting windows. But you never know. Hell, if before the 2004 Belmont anyone- ANYONE- went around saying BIRDSTONE at 36-1 was going to beat SMARTY JONES and win, that person would be dismissed as severely stupid and/or silly. Same with SARAVA who won in 2002 at an astounding 71-1 when triple crown hopeful WAR EMBLEM stuttered at the start and finished up the track.

So there it is. Enjoy the spectacle, hope for a Triple Crown for BIG BROWN, or a historic win for CASINO DRIVE, but as far as betting play DENIS OF CORK across the board- that is what I would do if I was at the track tomorrow.

ABC this time. Post is at 3.04 p.m. PST, and I think ABC's coverage comes on at 2 p.m. PST, with ESPN or ESPN2 having coverage up until then.

Enjoy the race!

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