It’s Belmont Stakes Day Saturday at Belmont Park, but while much of the attention will be paid to that race later in the afternoon, my action here focuses on the early Pick Five, which starts bright and early. If you want to see my all-stakes Pick Four, you can find it on the “Champagne and J.D.” YouTube show, but for this column, I want something unique, and the structure of this $10 play certainly fits that description, as I’ll lead off with an ice-cold Pick Three. Here’s how I’ll play it.
Early Pick Five Predictions
We’ll kick things off with a maiden race for 2-year-olds, and I’m particularly fond of one of the few runners in here with some experience. That’s #3 HAGLER, who didn’t disgrace himself when second behind a clear winner in his debut. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez’s horses sometimes need a race to get going, and any improvement from the 73 Beyer Speed Figure he put forth in his unveiling would make him a handful. I respect Todd Pletcher trainees #2 KEEPCALMCARRYON and #4 WIT, but if one was all that great, why is the barn saddling two? I’ll take Hagler and hope we get a shred of value.
My price play of the day runs here, and I really hope this event stays on the turf (and that the field stays intact). I really like #4 MIGRATE, who debuts for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and has a world-class pedigree. He’s by Candy Ride, and his dam, Mama Tia, has thrown seven winners. Furthermore, that dam is herself a half-sister to Runway Model, a multiple Grade 2 winner who threw multiple Grade 1 winner McKinzie.
I think there’s a lot to like with Migrate at or near his 8-1 morning line price. I’m not sold on either Chad Brown trainee, nor the runners exiting what I thought was a pretty weak race on May 2nd. I’ll gamble and hope Mott has Migrate ready to run at first asking. If he does, a lot of tickets will go up in smoke.
Here, however, I can’t get cute. This is the Grade 1 Woody Stephens, and I think this seven-furlong sprint is tailor-made for #3 JACKIE’S WARRIOR. He set ridiculous fractions in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs, where he fended off all challengers (including #4 DREAM SHAKE) to win by a head. He’s a perfect 5-for-5 in races run around one turn and 0-for-2 in two-turn events, so I don’t think we’ll see him go long again anytime soon.
There are others in here I respect, but Jackie’s Warrior’s in his element here, and there’s a chance he may even improve off of his last-out performance, which came following a two-month freshening. If that happens, we could see something pretty special.
Now that we’ve singled in three straight races, we can afford to spread a bit to close things out. This is the Grade 2 Brooklyn for older horses going the Belmont Stakes distance of 1 1/2 miles, and I’m using more than half the field.
My top pick is #6 MORETTI, but he’s not without his holes. He got very good last spring and summer, when he won three of four starts and was second to Tacitus in the Grade 2 Suburban. He’s shown he can handle marathon distances, and he’s been working well, but the lack of a race since August is a major concern. Still, if he’s right, I think he wins. His stalking style should be a plus in a race with some early speed, and I think he’ll be in prime position to pounce going into the far turn.
#2 RY’S THE GUY, #4 ROCKETRY, #8 TIZAMAGICIAN, and #9 LONE ROCK are on my ticket as well. Your guess is as good as mine with regard to which runner in here will go favored. It should be an excellent betting race, and I hope I’ve gone deep enough.
The payoff leg is the Grade 1 Acorn, a race short on quantity but not on quality. It’s drawn plenty of horses who last ran on Kentucky Derby weekend, and I think all but two of the six runners in here can win.
I think #1 TRAVEL COLUMN has the most room to improve. I’m not quite sure why she was on the lead in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. That isn’t her game. She wants to stalk and pounce, and I think she’ll get that trip in this spot. Add in that the last-out clunker may inflate her odds a bit, and I think she’s a must-use.
I’ll also use all the even-numbered runners in here. #2 OBLIGATORY capitalized on a pace meltdown to win the Grade 2 Eight Belles, #4 DAYOUTOFTHEOFFICE ran a winning race in that event and goes second off the bench, and #6 SEARCH RESULTS was beaten just a neck in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and could capitalize on a cushy outside post.