Skip’s Belmont Handicap
In post position order (morning line odds in parentheses).
1. Master David (20-1)
Skip’s Odds: 30-1
Comment: Trained by a master, Bobby Frankel. Finished very well from far back in Purge’s Peter Pan. Could be sitting on a big race. Would not be surprised to see him finish in the money.
2. Purge (5-1)
Chances: Slightly better than slim
Skip’s Odds: 12-1
Comment: Will be on or close to the lead. His performance in the Peter Pan confirmed his quality. Upset potential, but was dusted by Smarty in Arkansas, who has made just as much, if not more progress since then.
3. Caiman (50-1)
Skip’s Odds: 500-1
Comment: Lacks the quality of the others.
4. Birdstone (15-1)
Skip’s Odds: 75-1
Comment: A good two year old, had a disappointing spring. Unlikely, but not inconceivable.
5. Rock Hard Ten (8-1)
Chances: Serious threat
Skip’s Odds: 7-1
Comment: Like Purge, lightly raced with every right to improve. Awesome physical specimen, training brilliantly. Made a good move on the turn in the Preakness before Smarty kicked sand in his face and drew off. Should close the 11 1/2 length gap with a better trip today, and is bred to get the 1 1/2 mile distance. Might possibly be able to match strides with Smarty if he can keep him in his sights.
6. Royal Assault (20-1)
Chances: Between slim & none
Skip’s Odds: 99-1
Comment: Can get the distance, but too slow for these.
7. Tap Dancer (50-1)
Chances: Closer to none than slim
Skip’s Odds: 250-1
Comment: Gaining when beaten 3 lengths by Royal Assault in the Sir Barton. So what?
8. Eddington (10-1)
Skip’s Odds: 45-1
Comment: Admirers have jumped off his bandwagon, but to his credit, he’s managed to finish third in Graded Stakes company in his last three races. Trainer Mark Hennig has been working on his apparent laziness and indifference, and rightly so. Indifference won’t get the job done against Smarty Jones. Question of the day: will he refuse to run the entire a mile and a half, or will the longer distance allow him to recover from one of his mental lapses?
9. SMARTY JONES (2-5)
Chances: Strictly the one to beat
Skip’s Odds: 2-5
Comment: An amazing horse. Rival trainers have been gushing about him since the Derby, which is unheard of. Normally they think they have the next contender to knock off the Derby winner. If he gets the trip, he’ll win by open lengths again. But the mile and a half distance is uncharted territory for these. An odd pace scenario, an ill-timed move by Elliot, a crazy challenge which unnerves Smarty and winds him up too early, any of these could quash the dreams of millions. But Smarty & Co. have done everything right so far, and you gotta have faith.
My call: Smarty will coast, move when called upon, open up and win by 6 lengths. Cheering will erupt in bars, betting parlors, and living rooms from coast to coast.
My bet: Smarty Jones on top of Master David and Rock Hard Ten in the exacta.