The Happy Handicapper / The 149th Belmont Stakes

Bob Summers would’ve been writing about his weekend at the Belmont Stakes. – He passed away on September 10, 2010 and his voice and racing insights left us wanting more. – I wanted to carry on his love of the sport and had the opportunity to meet him. I was very lucky to have him as a special guest on the Winning Ponies Internet Show on June 3,2010, and this would be the last opportunity I had to enjoy his stories. Once a month I will wear the “Happy Handicapper” cap and pass along my insights about the Sport of Kings.

The Belmont card was chock full of betting opportunites, and many races overshadowed the 149th running of ‘The Test of the Champion.” But the August Belmont Memorial trophy awaited the winner, and the race went to post at 6:37 pm. – It was a great day to get your gamble on with a card that offered 13 races, a million dollar pick-six pool, and a $1.5 million guaranteed pool for the all-stakes pick-four. – If there was some better racing I surely didn’t find it on this day, and all eyes would be glued to the field as they entered the starting gate for the big race.

My first score came in the 4th race with the (G-1) Acorn Stakes. – The Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman was back in and had Mike Smith aboard. The Oaks had a sloppy sealed track and she came off a bit awkwardly. When she hit her high cruising speed she circled the field in a “Silky Sullivan” style that gave the world goosebumps. – At Belmont there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the track was blistering fast. – Every good horse player should return with a “bet back” off a sweet win. Think of it as an homage to the Racing Gods. – When Mike Smith started rounding the far turn it looked like it was to be between Abel and Salty who both came in from Louisville. – Smith gave one of his best rides of the day diving to the rail saving precious ground as Salty tipped off four wide. Down the lane the masterful move by Smith proved to be the best decision. One that would notch him five victories in the day. When she paid $6.30, this was real value for such a talented gal.

The 5th race was one to watch and have a beer and a hot dog as Songbird sang her sweet tunes down the lane and just played with the field in the (G-1) Ogden Phipps. – She is more than special, and it won’t be long until the comparison talks begin among the last remaining scribes and handicappers. – Another masterful ride by Mike Smith.

Race #7 – The (G-2) Woody Stephens named for the HOF trainer who wrote the book on how to win the Belmont Stakes. – American Anthem proved to be the best and dispelled any rumors that Bob Baffert doesn’t do well when he travels to the east. – I got hooked on trouble runner #11 Petrov who saw every bit of the track this day going wide and wider. He still managed a solid 4th being 7 wide at the 1/8th pole. – Another reason why Mike “Money Man” Smith may be the best rider in the nation.

Race #10The (G-1) Manhattan was one of my best plays of the day. #4 – Time Test came in for the Chad Brown barn and was making his second start for the trainer. There are a bevy of stats that made me dig depper in my pockets this race:

  • Brown wins 21% 2nd off the layoff
  • 2nd time lasix yields a 17% win clip
  • Javier Castellano and Chad Brown have been winning (46%) the past two months
  • A trip over the track as a beaten favorite sealed the deal for me

Ascend grabbed the lead at the one mile mark going 1 1/4 and repelled the attack of everyone including Time Test who ran a beautiful second place effort.

Race #11 – The 149th Belmont Stakes – 1 1/2

I was sold on the Japanese invader Epicharis and he was to be even better than the previous runner Lani from the year prior. But he came up with some soreness and was scratched as lame in his right front foot. I thought all was lost until I dug a little deeper. – #2 Tapwrit caught my eye early in the year, and I bet with both hands as he won the Tampa Bay Derby. He was so impressive that I feared he may have peaked a little too soon, and that worry came true tossing in two clunkers in the Bluegrass and Derby. Time cures most everything, and this proved to be the answer winning the Belmont under the guidance of ultra-talented Jose Ortiz of the famed Ortiz brothers.

I also thought the one-eyed Patch would show up and he looked the part for awhile. Lookin At Lee just looked tired down the lane as he fought the good fight taking on all comers at multiple tracks. He may return later in the year with some well deserved rest. – Irish War Cry came back off the Derby, and showed once again that Graham Motion knows his horses and brought him back ready to score. He fought on bravely and we’ll hear more from him later in the year. – The horse to watch from race was Senior Investment. He came is as an outsider and took good money at the windows. He was bumped around and still managed a solid 5th place effort in this tough test. He’ll come back for Kenny McPeek and give us plenty to watch with a little luck from the Racing Gods.

That’s a wrap from the “Happy Handicapper.” – I’m sure Bob enjoyed the race watching over and rooting with some of the best scribes handicappers, and riders sitting by his side. Until next month, the Happy Handicapper takes off his cap and waits with baited breath for the next big event.