Interactif will have to overcome his post position to win the Belmont.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Interactif will have to overcome his post position to win the Belmont.
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Rick Samuels

Belmont Doings: 'It's a Tote Board Race'

Steve Haskin looks for value in wide open Belmont Stakes.

Every day seems to bring a new Belmont Stakes (gr. I) pick. What else is new?

This year’s Belmont is that kind of race. There is no standout, and the majority of the horses entered seem to have a legitimate shot to win.

Of course, as usual, we’ll be concentrating on longshots and potential overlays. Our price horse in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Stately Victor, has done nothing wrong, and certainly deserves another shot in the Belmont.

When Todd Pletcher announced Interactif would be running, that all but sealed our pick, having written about him all year, wanting to see him on dirt at least once. Yes, he appears to be a grass/synthetic type of horse, but his pedigree is all dirt, and he’s been unlucky with post positions, having drawn on the outside in several big races. Well, he goes and draws post 12 in the Belmont, putting himself at a disadvantage once again. The key is taking this horse back, but that is not going to be easy now.

Despite the bad draw, we’ll still have to use him and just hope he gets a break somewhere along the way and is able to sit back without losing too much ground early. With the forecast calling for scattered thunderstorms, an off track would play in his favor, as grass horses in general do well in the slop.

And then there is our intended longshot pick, Stay Put, who should love the distance and an off track. He’s been handling the track well, and despite his lack of early speed in his big races, he has shown the ability to lay closer to the pace, and even when he’s come from far back he’s demonstrated a quick turn of foot, but simply lost too much ground turning for home. He still was beaten less than three lengths in both his stakes appearances. He looks to be a live longshot here who has an excellent pattern on the speed sheets.

So, there are three horses already who look to be enticing horses at a price.

From an observational standpoint, over the past week and a half, the horse who has shown the most physical improvement since the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) has been Make Music For Me. His coat looks fantastic, he’s put on weight since the Derby, and he looks like a happy horse. The biggest problem they’ve had with him is trying to get him in the barn after grazing. He’d plant his front feet and refuse to go in.

His training has been a bit unorthodox, working a stiff mile and then coming back and working and galloping on the training track. His gallops on the training track have been strong, and he obviously seems to prefer that surface, which leaves a question mark regarding how he’ll handle the main track. But from a general standpoint, he couldn’t be going into the race in better shape, mentally and physically.

So, that gives us four potential price horses.

Also, it must be stated that Drosselmeyer has had the best work turned in by a Belmont starter, Uptowncharlybrown  has been getting stronger by the day, and Game On Dude looked awfully good in his first gallop over the Belmont surface.

We haven’t seen Dave in Dixie yet, but he’s been a horse we touted strongly on the Derby trail until he threw in two disappointing efforts. So, who knows about him? And we haven’t seen Spangled Star, who is stabled at Aqueduct.

So, add all those horses to the three big horses – Ice Box , First Dude , and Fly Down, and you have an excellent, but confusing betting race.

This is a tote board race, and our bets will determined by value. We’ll have to bet Interactif, but not as confidently as we would had he drawn better. And we have to bet Stay Put and Stately Victor, throwing all three in with one or more of the favorites. Our final bets will be determined by the odds, as this column is all about value.

If we have to boil it down to how they’ve been training, then Interactif has to be considered a solid pick, despite his post position, considering in his last three works he’s come home his final quarter in :22 and change, :23 flat, and :23 and change, the last being merely a maintenance work. That indicates a horse who looks ready for a huge effort. But anyone betting him will have to do so knowing he could be compromised by his post position and will need luck somewhere along the way.

We’ll definitely have savers on Stay Put and Stately Victor (can’t abandon him now).