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Andrew Champagne delivers his best picks for Belmont

We’ll head to Belmont Park for Saturday’s fifth race, which has drawn an interesting field of seven 2-year-olds that will traverse the 6 ½-furlong distance. It’s not an easy trip, as sprinters may find it too far while two-turn types may not have enough time to get going.

I think this is a very fun betting race, in large part because I’m going to take a stand against the 8/5 morning line favorite. Anytime you can go against a horse like this, you stand to make some money if you’re right, and I’m hoping such a scenario presents itself. Let’s take a closer look!

The Beatable (Likely) Favorite

I understand why #4 DEMOCRATIC VALUES will be a short price. Chad Brown’s runners must be respected, he’s working fairly well, and he hammered for $475,000 at auction last September.

Having said that, I think there’s reason to believe he may need a race to get going. His pedigree (by Honor Code, out of a Dixie Union mare) says he wants even more ground than he’ll get in this race, and while the August 17th work at Saratoga was very good, every other work over the last six weeks hits me as just so-so. If I’m playing an 8/5 favorite on debut, I want more than what’s available here, so I’ll take a shot against him.

The Other First-Time Starter

If we’re betting first-time starters, I want #7 ALPHA SIXTY SIX, who debuts for the tandem of Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez. He fetched $400,000 at auction a year ago, and his last three workouts have been excellent. The outside draw is a big plus for a debuting runner, and I sincerely hope we get the 5/2 morning line price (which hits me as a bit of an overlay).

The Returning Runners

#1 HEMLOCK and #3 UNPRECEDENTED have a lot in common. Their trainers don’t usually have first-time starters fully-cranked, yet both showed speed in their debuts at Saratoga. The former was fourth behind next-out stakes winner Another Miracle, while the latter debuted at this tricky distance and dueled through fast fractions in that event.

Both second-time starters also come in off of solid recent works, and they may drift up a bit in price given the two buzzy debuting runners that line up against them. Experience can prove incredibly valuable, and it’s not like they ran duds when they were sent out for the first time, either.

Betting Strategy

I’m tossing Democratic Values completely. I’ll box my trio in exactas, and lean a bit heavier on Alpha Sixty Six, who seems to have everything lining up in his favor at first asking. Hopefully, tossing the likely favorite will unlock some value!

2 units: Exacta box, 1,3,7

1 unit: Exacta key box, 7 with 1,3

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