BELMONT STAKES: I’ll go with the cool, white-haired fellow in shades

Posted: June 9, 2012 in HORSES
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While it’s certainly understandable why everyone is sulking over the dispatched chances of Belmont Stakes-, and Triple Crown-, hopeful I’ll Have Another, I continue to scoff at the notion there is no reason to bet – or watch – the third leg of horse racing’s trio of marquee races.

Eleven others have failed to duplicate Affirmed’s accomplishment in 1978, most recently in 2008, when Big Brown fell short after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

And the reality is, while there were plenty of bettors who would plunk down those $2 win bets – okay, maybe there would be some $5 whales – on I’ll Have Another, I’m thinking there was just as much value in looking for the longshots to pull the curtain closed on the 12th attempt at the Triple Crown in 34 years.

Yes, I admit it, I’ve occasionally felt like one of those “I’ll see another Triple Crown winner before I die” horse-racing fans, and was kind of excited to see I’ll Have Another take its shot at having another prance to the winner’s circle; but I’m not going to let its retirement sway me from betting the race.

Sure, the sport took a major hit, and could have used an injection much stronger than Lasix to boost interest for the summer, before Breeders Cup 2012. But hey, there’s always Bob Baffert, right?

When all else fails in thoroughbred high stakes, we look for the white-haired gent in shades, you know, the cool lookin’ fellow. Baffert always seems to save the day with something stirring to talk about. Remember 2001, when Point Given became the first horse since 1967 to win the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes, the G1 Belmont, and the G1 Travers Stakes?

That horse was supposed to show up in Louisville, for the Kentucky Derby. It finished fifth, astonishingly, bi Monarchos and Invisible Ink delivered a $1,200-exacta.

But Baffert and Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens proved they had the Horse of the Year, and made their point with Point Given.

Baffert’s been on the receiving end of what trainer Doug O’Neill is going through, having a horse win the first two races and not nab the third of the Triple Crown. Of course, O’Neill will never know with his horse out, while Baffert found out the hard way with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002), who all failed to win the Belmont Stakes.

Well, here we are in Elmont, New York and Baffert didn’t have any success with Bodemeister in the Derby. He yanked the horse out of Pimlico, electing not to run him in the Preakness Stakes (I actually wondered if he was conceding the Triple Crown to I’ll Have Another at that point). And now we’re at the final chapter of this annual trilogy, and Bodemeister is stabled up somewhere, and it leaves me with one choice on the one race I’ve always had an affection for since Julie Krone won the Belmont in 1993 aboard Colonial Affair.

I’m taking Paynter, the 7-2 third choice for Zayat Stables. Lightly raced, the colt has won two of three starts, most recently an allowance race at Pimlico just a few races before I’ll Have Another took the Preakness. I’m never making a bad choice when taking jockey Mike Smith aboard a horse, the guy is a proven winner.

History is on this horse’s side, from his sire, Canadian Hall of Fame horse Awesome Again. Not to mention his Hall of Fame trainer. Awesome Again won the 1998 Breeder’s Cup Classic trophy along with four other major race victories, while my favorite trainer to turn to has cashed in nine times in Triple Crown races.

Sure, horse racing may have taken a hit in never knowing whether I’ll Have Another could have won another, but when all else fails, turn to the white-haired gent in shades.

You know, the cool lookin’ fellow.

LONGSHOT EXOTICS – With the favorite scratched, and me turning to the third-choice with Paynter, I’m looking for a longshot to couple it with, or at least include in my exotics. And that has to be Unstoppable U, which reportedly showed little in a May 19 workout but apparently has improved dramatically since then. On the track, this colt has won his first two starts: a maiden special weight and an allowance race, by a combined nine lengths. Talk about a beast, this is a runner, and a horse that knows this track. It enters off an April 27 victory in an optional claiming race at Belmont.

This horse trained here his whole career, and that’s going to be a big edge. Fact is, to be successful in Elmont, you have to train at this track to win at it. There’s a reason they call Belmont ‘Big Sandy;’ there’s an edge to horses that have been here.

Whatever you today in this race, be sure to include Unstoppable U for a small win bet, anย Exactaย and most certainly all of your Trifecta boxes.

See you in the winner’s circle.

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