Betting the Belmont All Over Again
With I’ll Have Another’s bid for the Triple Crown now off the table it’s back to the drawing board for finding a winner. Before we break down what his absence does to the Belmont Stakes and the field, we’ll first have to recognize our champion colt.
“It’s a bummer. It’s not tragic, but it’s a huge disappointment.” That statement by Trainer Doug O’Neill puts today’s unfortunate and freakish injury into a better perspective. It was an incredible journey for I’ll Have Another. To see it come to unexpected end just over 24 hours prior to the post parade has been tough to stomach. However, while it’s hard to see I’ll Have Another come so close it’s still good to know that he is expected to recover before he pastures into a healthy retirement.
I take my hat off to a memorable champion and his entire team. They handled themselves with class leading up to the Belmont Stakes and with grace upon breaking the news today. Doug O’Neill handled his colt with poise leading up to and throughout the 2012 Triple Crown so to see him and owner Paul Reddam grip the hand they were dealt with calmness and without asking for sympathy deserves my applause. Here’s to Team I’ll Have Another, his magnificent triumphs and rewarding journey.
While my bid will have to be without the horse that got me here it doesn’t mean that his name won’t serve me an assist. I’ve been relishing the idea of winning my own personal Triple Crown. I’ve already declared it. When asked, I’ve responded the same way almost every time. So in his honor it stays the same; “I’ll Have Another.”
But before my proclamation is carried out, I’ll Have to find Another winner. While my guy’s absence may not change a thing in regards to how the field approaches the Belmont Stakes, it still leaves me wondering; where I do I begin now that my horse has scratched? Start from scratch.
A good place to begin is by narrowing down who I think can carry their form through the Belmont Stakes distance. The easiest way to handicap from here is by eliminating. Granted any of these horses can come back to burn me but not making the cut is Unstoppable U, Five Sixteen, Guyana Star Dweej and My Adonis. All four of these horses could just be waiting to make a big splash but until they do, I can’t qualify them as capable of holding their 1 Mile form through the final half mile.
My two live longshots go to Atigun and Ravelo’s Boy. Atigun is trained by Kenny McPeek who steered surprise 2002 winner Sarava into the Belmont Stakes winner circle. His approach towards trying to close hard from well off the pace wasn’t good enough in the Arkansas Derby but he’s likely to have improved on both his distance training and closing speed since then. Ravelo’s Boy is another horse that has shown potential as a closer but has come up short in his graded stakes attempts. After a long layoff Ravelo’s Boy looks to close harder over the extra distance and finish inside the top three for the first time in graded stakes competition.
I’m still on the fence about how to play Optimizer. At this point the consideration is including him in an exotic wager to protect against a surprise D. Wayne Lukas showing that would sabotage my ticket. I agree with many that he is better suited to be racing on turf but maybe the extra distance will play to his advantage. Regardless, I still can’t bet him straight and will have to consider throwing him into an exotic.
Dullahan is now the Belmont Stakes Morning Line favorite at 9-5. Just behind him at 3-1 is Union Rags. Last time out both of these horses made a huge move for the wire in the final quarter-mile of the Kentucky Derby. The difference is that Dullahan was closer to the front. Where Union Rags prefers to be is in close stalking position while Dullahan has proven he can close from anywhere. The big difference between them however is that Dullahan looks more fit for this distance. Both of them have been receiving huge compliments this week regarding their physical appearance and how they’ve looked out on the track but again, Dullahan has the advantage.
Finally, there’s Paynter, a horse that is a bit of a mystery to me. He’s lightly raced but expected to be bred for distance. I’m not sure why exactly but he’s likely to see some action. Maybe it’s because Mike Smith and Bob Baffert are due or maybe it’s because Zayat Stables is due. Either way I’m undecided on how I’ll play him so I’ll wait to see where his odds end up closer to post time before I choose.
An ideal situation for me would be if Union Rags overtakes Dullahan as the favorite because 9/5 odds is something I could do without. He is the morning line favorite and I’m hard pressed to validate why he shouldn’t be considered as the horse with the best chance to win. He’s got my attention so I’ll be watching his odds very closely as I look to play him and against him.
The quest for the day that the elusive Triple Crown is once again achieved remains for another day. I’ll Have Another leaves no doubt that he was arguably the best horse in the field and possibly the best Triple Crown bid since Affirmed in 1978. Injuries however are a grueling reality in sports so we wish him a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing the team again on the Triple Crown trails ahead.
Thanks to I’ll Have Another and his team for a thrilling first two legs of the 2012 Triple Crown.
Written by: Little Brink