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Belmont Stakes predictions and picks for all the Saturday graded stakes action at Belmont Park. Horse racing handicapper Matthew DeSantis gives us a breakdown for Saturday's NINE graded stakes races at Belmont, including his Belmont Stakes predictions and picks.

2022 Belmont Stakes Predictions: Free Picks For the Final Jewel of the Triple Crown

Saturday, June 11 is the 154th edition of the Belmont Stakes. Commonly referred to as The Test of Champions, the Belmont Stakes is a grueling 12 furlong (1.5 mile) test that will likely be the longest any of these horses ever run in their careers. It's an intriguing eight horse field that may lack star power, but does get the return of Kentucky Derby Champion, Rich Strike, and the way things will play out vary significantly depending on who you talk to about it. However, before the final jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown, there are a slew of graded stakes races to cover as well, including eight (8) Grade I races.

One criticism of Saturday's card is that while it has some of the biggest names in horse racing (Flightline, Speaker's Corner, Letruska, Jack Christopher, etc.) it also has very small fields that often do not present great value to bettors. While it might be tough to get past the favorites from a handicapping perspective, I will call out best value bets where possible to maximize your return on investment. Get my picks and analysis for all nine (9) graded stakes races, and the Belmont Stakes odds including the Grade I Belmont Stakes.

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2022 Belmont Stakes Saturday Predictions

Race 3

  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Name: Acorn Stakes - Grade I
  • Age: 3-year-old fillies & mares
  • Surface: Dirt

Right off the bat we have a small, top-heavy field in the Grade I Acorn Stakes featuring 4th place Kentucky Oaks finisher Echo Zulu (4-5) and multiple graded stakes winner Matareya (6-5). Echo Zulu was the champion juvenile filly last year, but when she returned as a three-year-old she was not nearly as dominant. However, her performance at the Kentucky Oaks was much better than it might look on paper. She had never been behind before in a race and had to deal with the blistering pace set by Yuugiri. Despite running incredibly fast early fractions, she was extremely game in the stretch and while she was overtaken by Secret Oath, Nest, and Desert Dawn, she fought the entire way. It's fair to wonder how much that race could have taken out of her, but the cutback to a one-turn mile at the Acorn seems perfect.

Meanwhile, Matareya is stepping up to a mile after three consecutive victories. Her last two were in the Grade III Beaumont and the Grade II Eight Belles, which she won by a combined 11 lengths. The last time she ran a mile she was outclassed by Secret Oath, which is nothing to hang your head about. She likes to flash early speed, but has the versatility to sit off. The problem for her is that there is no other early speed to challenge Echo Zulu and if she decides to do so it could torpedo her chances to win.

The rest of the field leaves a bit to be desired. Divine Huntress (12-1) is probably the next best horse and ran competitively at the Black-Eyed Susan three weeks ago at Pimlico. She's trending the right direction after a poor showing at the Rachel Alexandra back in February. Inventing (20-1) is a Todd Pletcher trainee who has yet to break her maiden. I do not mind maidens running in graded stakes races early in their careers, but her who maiden races have not come back particularly strong with only one next out winner. Finally, Dream Lith (15-1) once looked very promising when she won the Grade II Golden Rod last November at Churchill Downs, but she's trended the wrong direction since then. All three of these horses come from off the pace with Divine Huntress being the one who sits closest to the lead.


If you believe Echo Zulu and Matareya will lock up in a speed duel, then I'd encourage you to bet Divine Huntress and certainly use her in exotics. However, considering Matareya is stretching out to a mile, she seems unlikely to push too fast of a pace and I think Echo Zulu has her way and loves the shorter distance.

Race 3 Picks

  • Win: Echo Zulu (4-5)
  • Place: Matareya (6-5)
  • Show: Divine Huntress (12-1)

Race 4

  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Name: Just a Game Stakes - Grade I
  • Age: 4-year-old and up fillies & mares
  • Surface: Turf

Just as we saw Friday, we have another high-profile turf race chalked full of horses from Chad Brown's stable. In the five-horse Just a Game Stakes, he boasts the three favorites: Speak of the Devil (even), Regal Glory (6-5), and In Italian (9-2). The other two challengers, Leggs Galore (12-1) and Wakanaka (15-1) are going to have their work cut out for them to prevent a Brown trifecta.

From a race shape standpoint, Leggs Galore is going to lead them around early with In Italian not too far behind. Both like to be on the lead, but Leggs Galore is more of a pure sprint horse. Since there is likely to be a decent pace, the race shapes up nicely for both Regal Glory and Speak of the Devil. Regal Glory is the more decorated of the two having won Grade I races in two of her last three efforts. She's won an astonishing 11 of her 18 career races and is six for 11 winning at the mile distance. For a six-year-old she does not run often, but she prefers to stay near the pace before unleashing a run late.

Her stablemate, Speak of the Devil could not have been more impressive in her North American debut last month as she dispatched her competition at the Grade II Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs with ease. In Italian and Wakanaka were two of the horses she blew past on her way to the winner's circle. She will come from the back, but the capacity with which she closed behind a slow pace last time out makes me confident she will be able to do it again here.

In Italian is clearly the weakest of the three Brown horses but has never finished worse than second in her five-race career, which includes a victory at the Grade III Honey Fox back in March at Gulfstream Park. However, if you're looking for value behind the Brown trio, think about using Wakanaka underneath. At 15-1 she presents great value as a horse that finished third behind Speak of the Devil and In Italian last time out. She prefers the mile distance and should sit fourth most of the way around. She's never finished off the board at a mile and she gets Joel Rosario on the turf, which is always a positive.

Race 4 Picks

  • Win: Speak of the Devil (even)
  • Place: Regal Glory (6-5)
  • Show: Wakanaka (15-1)

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Race 5

  • Distance: 1 1/2 miles
  • Name: Brooklyn Stakes - Grade II
  • Age: 4-year-old and up
  • Surface: Dirt

The lone Grade II on the card is an intriguing race as it is an uncommon distance to run on dirt for older horses. Nevertheless, there is a clear favorite in this 12 furlong affair in the form of Lone Rock (2-1) who has been running and winning at this distance for quite awhile. In six career races at 1 1/2 miles, Lone Rock has five wins and a second. It certainly feels logical to pick him again here, but I'm intrigued by some other entrants.

First Constitution (9-2) has been stepped up in distance to 11 furlongs in a stakes race last time out and beat two fellow runners in the Brooklyn Stakes, Portos (12-1) and Locally Owned (20-1), by over four lengths. His pedigree would seem to indicate that more distance is welcomed and he's the sort of up-and-coming horse in this division that might provide you some nice value. Additionally, he's trained by Todd Pletcher who is among the best at getting horses to stretch out.

Pletcher's other horse, Fearless (3-1), is just three races removed from sprinting against Speaker's Corner so the massive stretch out feels a bit surprising. Perhaps stretching him out is a long-term goal, but unless Fearless gets an incredibly slow pace, it's hard to imagine he will have more than others when kicking for home. He has done well at 9 furlongs, but adding 3/8 of a mile is no small task. Similarly, Brad Cox's Warrant (3-1) seems like an odd fit at this distance and will probably get bet down due to his connection to the Eclipse Award-winning trainer.

Locally Owned (20-1) is an intriguing long shot to use underneath as has won races going longer and you can cross out his last two efforts as one race sent him to the bench for six months and his last time out was probably a tune-up for this race. He's a hard-knocking horse who has finished in the money in 16 of 26 career races and should get a nice trip sitting a little further back in case the lead is pressured. In a race where several horses are stretching out for the first time, I like using a horse at a price that is proven at the distance.

Race 5 Picks

  • Win: First Constitution (9-2)
  • Place: Lone Rock (2-1)
  • Show: Locally Owned (20-1)

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Race 6

  • Distance: 7 furlongs
  • Name: Woody Stephens Stakes - Grade I
  • Age: 3-years-old
  • Surface: Dirt

This might be the Pat Day Mile, Part II. The morning line favorite, Jack Christopher (1-2), came back from a nine month layoff at last month's Pat Day Mile and reminded everyone why he was once considered the early favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. A shin injury derailed that campaign, but he has been absolutely dominant in his three career races with a Grade I and Grade II win under his belt. Breaking from the inside post, jockey Jose Ortiz will use his speed to get out early and may let Pappacap (10-1) take the lead as Jack Christopher prefers to sit off the pace. He's training beautiful and if he fires he may win by over a half dozen lengths.

Pappacap finished second to him at the Pat Day Mile and going back to one-turn sprinting seems to suit him well. He does have a tendency to come up short against the best competition, but he never runs a bad race. Similarly, Wit (7-2) is coming off a thrill victory at the Grade III Bay Shore Stakes in April at Aqueduct. After a hot start to his two-year-old campaign, Wit was derailed by gate issues and slow starts. He seems to have fixed those and matured nicely moving into his three-year-old year. He lacks the speed of Jack Christopher and probably needs one of the other runners to pressure him up front to open things up for his closing running style.

Morello (9-2) is an intriguing horse who last time out was abysmal at the Grade II Wood Memorial where he blew the break and ran at the back in a race featuring Mo Donegal and Preakness champion Early Voting. However, now he goes back to a one-turn sprint where he's undefeated and has a Grade III victory to his name. While he likes to run on the lead and theoretically could push Jack Christopher, his early fractions and speed figures are nowhere near the same ballpark as his competitor.

Where I'll try to find value is with Chasing Time (20-1) who is coming off a nice third-place finish at the Grade III Chick Lang that was on the Preakness undercard three weeks ago. He's owned by MyRacehorse so he'll get bet down but he should still be a useable price in exotics. Much like Pappacap, he seems to have benefitted from getting off the Derby Trail and cutting back in distance. Without anyone able to pressure Jack Christopher, he may sit closer to the lead than some think and handling the seven furlongs should be a breeze.

Race 6 Picks

  • Win: Jack Christopher (1-2)
  • Place: Pappacap (10-1)
  • Show: Chasing Time (20-1)

Race 7

  • Distance: 1 1/16 miles
  • Name: Ogden Phipps Stakes - Grade I
  • Age: 4-year-old and up fillies & mares
  • Surface: Dirt

The 2022 edition of the Ogden Phipps may be the closest thing to the Breeders' Cup Distaff we will see all year. The five fillies and mares in the field are among the best in North America. Leading them around the track will be morning line favorite Letruska (6-5). She's won 19 of her 25 career starts, an absurd number made even more absurd by the fact that she's won five of her last six Grade I efforts. Her last time out at the Grade I Apple Blossom Stakes was a perfect encapsulation of why fans love her so much as Clairiere (3-1) looked as though she was going to pass her in the stretch, but the six-year-old mare dug down and repelled the challenger. She's got guts, but this is a loaded field where she will have to rebuff wave after wave of challenger.

The first horse likely to push her is Search Results (9-2). She's breaking from the far outside and coming off an impressive win at the Grade II Ruffian. The big question for Search Result's jockey, Irad Ortiz Jr., will be whether he is content to stalk the pace or pressure Letruska on the lead. Pressuring her runs the risk of wearing out both horses and opening things up to the excellent closers Malathaat (5-2) or Clairiere. Sitting further back will allow Letruska to have her way and have plenty left for home.

Malathaat and Clairiere will be hoping for a duel on the front end and both are excellent closers. I was underwhelmed by Malathaat's 2022 debut in April at the Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland. She won, but posted a low speed figure and really had to grind against an okay field. However, that was her first action in six months so you'd expect a better effort on Saturday. As mentioned before, Clairiere ran gamely behind Letruska at the Grade I Apple Blossom and has been training beautifully leading into this race. She feels like a horse that is overshadowed by her more famous competitors, but she's got a Grade I victory and considering the small field size, she should not be too far back.

As a fan, I'll be rooting for Letruska because I think my dad would disown me if I did not, but as a bettor and handicapper, I think this may just be too tough of a field for her. I think Search Results puts just enough pressure that she will not be able to hold off the duo of Malathaat and Clairiere.

Race 7 Picks

  • Win: Clairiere (3-1)
  • Place: Malathaat (5-2)
  • Show: Letruska (6-5)

Race 8

  • Distance: 6 furlongs
  • Name: Jaipur Invitational Stakes - Grade I
  • Age: 3-years-old and up
  • Surface: Turf

The Jaipur is an unusual turf sprint that has no early speed. Morning line favorite, Arrest Me Red (5-2), is best frontrunner and his combination of trainer (Wesley Ward) and jockey (Irad Ortiz Jr.) are among the best in turf sprints. That said, this is a step up in class for Arrest Me Red and on a day with a lot of short prices, it feels like a good idea to attack a 13-horse turf sprint to get a price.

Let's start with Casa Creed (9-2) who has run against the best and won. He's coming back from running in the Middle East, which is always a concern for me. Some horses come back from those Middle Eastern trips without any problems, but other horses take months to recover while others are never the same. His workouts look fresh, but he's a closer in a race where nobody appears interested in pushing the pace. He's got the overall talent to win, but may need a little pace to help him get to the finish line first.

Three long shots to consider are Gregorian Chant (8-1), Scuttlebuzz (6-1), and Smokin' Jay (15-1). Gregorian Chant finished third last time out behind Arrest Me Red and has been turning in consistent speed figure performances. Since switching to turf sprints eight races ago he has finished in the money six times with four wins, including a Grade III. Scuttlebuzz is taking a significant class jump, but is running his best races right now. He broke a 100 Beyers last time out when he won the Elusive Quality Stakes over this same Belmont turf. His trainer Rudy Rodriguez is one of the best with sprinters. Finally, Smokin' Jay is coming off a solid second at the Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico three weeks ago. He keeps getting better each time he runs on turf and this will be his second start back from a layoff.

While the pace sets up well for Arrest Me Red, I think Casa Creed has the class. His speed is just too good to get past and I like using some long shots underneath to add value in vertical wagers. I expect Smokin' Jay and Gregorian Chant to run well given the conditions and race setup.

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Race 8 Picks

  • Win: Casa Creed (9-2)
  • Place: Gregorian Chant (8-1)
  • Show: Smokin' Jay (15-1)

Race 9

  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Name: Metropolitan Handicap - Grade I
  • Age: 3-years-old and up
  • Surface: Dirt

The Met Mile feels like the Ali v. Frazier of its day as it features two dominant horses but also pits differing ideologies against each other. In one corner you have Flightline, the four-year-old colt who is undefeated in three career races including the Grade I Malibu Stakes. However, in many ways Flightline represents everything wrong with thoroughbred horse racing. He's exceedingly fragile, only runs once every six months, and is being kept in bubble wrap just long enough to get him to stud where he is bound to pass down his fragility and running style.

In the other corner you have Speaker's Corner who has won three consecutive graded stakes races including the Grade I Carter Handicap last time out. His speed figures keep getting faster and he's run in three times as many races at Flightline despite being the same age. He will inevitably be an effective sire, but not before he turns in a long and prosperous career on the track.

What makes the match up more intriguing is that both are frontrunners who wire the field, however, only one of them will be able to do that this time out. If you look at speed figures, incremental fractions, and pace figures Flightline's performance at the Malibu last November leaves Speaker's Corner in the dust. To put it another way, the last time out both horses ran seven furlongs and while their final times were comparable, Flightline ran his opening half mile a 1.5 seconds faster. If Speaker's Corner tries to match that type of speed he'll get cooked. Therefore, my guess is that Speaker's Corner rates and sits second, but that also will concede the race to Flightline.

If you're looking for a horse from the back to add some value, I'd consider Happy Saver (8-1). He's never run a bad race and is cutting back in distance. He's also never missing the board while amassing three wins in four starts at Belmont Park. He feels like the type of horse that will be able to pick off anyone who is too speed compromised by Flightline and will pick up pieces late. I don't love Aloha West (5-1) in this spot stretching out, but I do think he'll be improved second back from the layoff.

Race 9 Picks

  • Win: Flightline (3-5)
  • Place: Happy Saver (8-1)
  • Show: Speaker's Corner (8-5)

Race 10

  • Distance: 1 1/4 miles
  • Name: Manhattan Stakes - Grade I
  • Age: 4-years-old and up
  • Surface: Turf

With a large turf field you can go in a lot of directions. On paper it appears there might be some decent early speed with Tribhuvan (8-1), Santin (7-2), and potentially Channel Maker (8-1), but the old joke of New York turf racing is that whenever you think there is going to be a hot pace, it turns into a crawl around the track.

Last time out Santin hung on for a thrilling victory at the Grade I Turf Classic at Churchill Downs. I've been a huge believer in this horse for the last several months to the point where my close friends in horse racing now refer to me as Matthew DeSantin. He's at a shorter price today, but he's never run a bad race and keeps improving each time out. His trainer, Brendan Walsh, is among the best on the turf and his decision to add blinkers last time out appears to be a stroke of genius as it helped Santin focus down the stretch when he out dueled Mira Mission. That said, I think there might be a bit of regression as the Churchill Downs turf that day was not friendly to closers and he only had to beat one horse up front. This will be a strong field running at him and I'm not sure he's up to the task.

Gufo (3-1) is among the most consistent turf horses in North America. He's only missed the board once in his career, but interestingly, he typically falls short when running against large fields. It appears that he often gives himself too much to do as he fall so far back that it takes too much time to weave through traffic. As an example, in the three career graded stakes races where he's run against 10 or more horses, he's never finished better than third. Now, that's a small sample size, but in a 10-horse field, it's certainly something to consider. That said, he always shows up and should be used.

The two horses I'm intrigued by are Adhamo (4-1) and In Love (15-1). Adhamo is a Chad Brown horse, which is typically a winning recipe on turf. He finished third behind Santin and Mira Mission last time out on a day where it seemed like everyone was stuck in the mud (or grass) in the Churchill Downs turf. His jockey, Flavien Prat, is one of the best at weaving through traffic and timing his runs, which is exactly what Adhamo wants to do. Additionally, when Brown and Prat team up this year at Belmont they are winning 43% of the time. Those are hard numbers to bet against.

As for In Love, I think you can put a line through his last race where he was coming back from a six month layoff. He ran better than you might think at the Breeders' Cup Mile despite finishing seventh that day. He only finished three lengths back and was making up ground late. Prior to that he reeled off three consecutive victories including a Grade I at the Keeneland Turf Mile. I'd expect a bump from his last effort and if he's able to just make a modest improvement that will be enough to put him in the money.

Race 10 Picks

  • Win: Adhamo (4-1)
  • Place: In Love (15-1)
  • Show: Gufo (3-1)

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Race 11 Prediction (The Belmont Stakes)

  • Distance: 1 1/2 miles
  • Name: Belmont Stakes - Grade I
  • Age: 3-years-old
  • Surface: Dirt

Well, we finally arrived at the big race. Morning line favorite We the People (2-1) is going to take the lead as he is the only horse in the field who has any early speed. As a result, We the People's jockey, Flavien Prat, will have a decision to make. Will he rein We the People in and make him run slow early fractions or will he let him loose to run his own race? Personally, I hope he does the latter. Reining a horse in is rarely a winning strategy even if it looks good on paper since by running more slowly, you invite more challengers to stay close. Ideally, you would want to see We the People open up several lengths on the field and run a honest (48.3ish) opening half mile. He has the pedigree to handle the distance and if he can run his own race then he has a real chance to wire the field. His last effort at the Grade III Peter Pan is of much debate since it was a dominant victory, but the quality of the field is in question and it was over a sealed, wet track.

However, after a day full of favorites, I have a feeling we'll see an upset, which is why I have my eye on Creative Minister (6-1). To show you want a wild ride the Triple Crown run can be, Creative Minister's trainer, Ken McPeek, had three of the highest profile Kentucky Derby horses this spring in the form of Tiz the Bomb, Rattle n' Roll, and Smile Happy. I did not like any of those three, yet as we conclude the Triple Crown run, it turns out McPeek's best 3-year-old dirt horse is Creative Minister. I loved him underneath at the Preakness and he ran a strong third behind Early Voting and Epicenter. In the Belmont, he is the most likely candidate to sit second behind We the People and should carve out a perfect stalking trip. He also has the right pedigree for 12 furlongs and appears to be fresh after running just three weeks ago at Pimlico. Creative Minister feels like an ascending horse who has yet to run his best, which is a great opportunity to find value.

The big question is whether the closers will have the pace to run into as they did five weeks ago at the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately for Mo Donegal (5-2), Rich Strike (7-2), and Barber Road (10-1), they will not see the blistering early fractions they saw at Churchill Downs, which will make it more difficult for them to close from the back of the pack. The good news is that each of them should like the distance and if We the People falters then the race opens up. Mo Donegal has closed successfully behind moderate fractions when he tracked down Early Voting at the wire at the Grade II Wood Memorial. While there are parallels between the Wood and the Belmont, Early Voting is a horse that seems to run his best when he has a target and gets lost on the lead, which is something Mo Donegal took advantage of that day. We the People does not appear to be that type of horse.

Meanwhile, Rich Strike and his jockey Sonny Leon are going to need another perfect trip and I don't think they get it. Rich Strike was a good story and a nice horse, but I think there will inevitably be some regression to the mean. This leaves me with Barber Road who is getting a new jockey in the form of Joel Rosario who is one of the best in the business. He was 11 wide around the final turn at the Kentucky Derby and still managed 6th. I think a better trip and fewer horses will be perfect. Rosario can be a maddening jockey at times, but he is a wizard at weaving through traffic and I feel like he's the perfect match with Barber Road's running style.

Second-place Kentucky Oaks finisher, Nest (8-1), is running against the boys just three weeks after the filly who beat her at the Oaks (Secret Oath) finished fourth at the Preakness. The Todd Pletcher trained filly has the perfect pedigree for the race as her dam's sire is A.P. Indy who was the sire of Rags to Riches who was the last filly to win the Belmont in 2007. Additionally, the colt Rags to Riches beat that day was Curlin, who is Nest's sire. Rags to Riches was trained by the New York-based Pletcher who has three Belmont Stakes to his credit. All of that said, she just feels too slow for this field. Perhaps her speed figures jump up, but the race does not set up well for her as she also would prefer a hotter pace up front as she got at the Oaks.

The two longest shots, Skippylongstocking (20-1) and Golden Glider (20-1) are interesting. I liked Skippylongstocking at the Preakness as a potential value play underneath and he finished fifth, but was nearly nabbed at the wire by Simplification. That was noteworthy as Simplification suffered from pulmonary bleeding during the race. The fact Skippy was losing ground to a horse that was bleeding does not seem to be an ideal recipe for him stretching out to a new distance. Meanwhile, Golden Glider finished a distant second to We the People at the Peter Pan Stakes last time out but his best performance might have been a fourth-place finish at the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes where he finished by Zandon, Smile Happy, and Emmanuel, which is a formidable trio. He might be able to carve out a nice trip close to Creative Minister and it wouldn't shock me if he ends up on the backend of the superfecta.

Ultimately, I think Creative Minister is going to run a huge race and assert himself as one of the best three-year-old colts on dirt. His rise has been swift and somewhat unexpected but he's got the goods and the race should allow him to sit a perfect trip off We the People. I expect We the People to run well and I think he can handle the distance but wiring the field at 12 furlongs is a tall task and I think he gives way late. I prefer using Barber Road underneath as he seems to have a knack of hitting the board and Rosario should give him the perfect ride. Mo Donegal may be the most likely winner for this race, but I think his performance at the Wood Memorial is a bit misleading because of the issues we discovered Early Voting has on the lead. Prior to that race he seemed to be a horse that lost interest at times and the gap between him and Barber Road is not as big as some claim. Either way, come Saturday night, we will crown a new Belmont Champion.

Race 11 Picks (The Belmont Stakes)

  • Win: Creative Minister (6-1)
  • Place: We the People (2-1)
  • Show: Barber Road (10-1)
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Article Author

Horse Racing

Matthew DeSantis is a horse racing handicapper with a fondness for lightly raced horses with improving speed figures. You can find him at the track playing surface changes and second off the layoff.


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