Brian Nadeau on the Belmont Stakes

Once again, Brian Nadeau of Horseplayer Now has taken us from January to June, offering insight and analysis on every significant race on the road to and through the Triple Crown. Many, many thanks to him for all of his contributions, and I hope that he–and you–cash a big one. Good luck and safe trips to all –Teresa

Belmont Park: The Grade I, $1 million Belmont Stakes at 1 1/2 miles —Brian Nadeau

#1 Street Life: Well-bred stretch runner added blinkers and was a solid third in the local prep, the GII Peter Pan, for Chad Brown and will look to use a late burst to better that effort in the toughest assignment of his career. Enters on the upswing and did improve when the hood went on, so if the pace gets heated and some of his saltier rivals find the 12 furlongs too daunting, he’s not a bad price alternative; exotics appeal.

#2 Unstoppable U: Speedster is one of two entered for McPeek (who upset this race with wild longshot Sarava in 2002) and figures to head to the front and try and take them as far as he can from an advantageous rail draw. Undefeated runner enters off a win over a weak local group but did impress visually when re-breaking late to make it 2-for-2 lifetime, though obviously the waters get tons deeper today, not to mention that he tries two turns for the first time. Speed is a very dangerous commodity in the Belmont and he’s got some talent, but there are others who will be near him early, so a stop and fade seems most likely; not using.

#3 Union Rags: The darling of the spring and winter Derby Future Book favorite has failed to live up to the hype and will try to make amends for a seventh place finish in the Derby, when he broke slow and was mired in traffic before passing tired rivals late. If you’re a speed figure player, he’s literally the same moderately fast horse he was as a 2yo, so it’s a bit uncertain why there’s so much hype in this corner, because it’s pretty clear he has not moved forward with the rest of his generation. On the plus side, he gets a key rider switch to Velazquez and will likely be much closer to the pace, but the reality is that he’s never run fast enough to win a race like this at any point in his career; just not seeing the appeal.

#4 Atigun: The second from McPeek enters off a solid optional claiming win in the mud at Churchill and has definitely been a tougher horse since the blinks went on two starts back. Owns some tactical speed and is on the upswing, but he’s never threatened in two graded races thus far and this is a salty spot to make a dent. Still, it’s not like he’s meeting any world beaters and there’s something to be said for a horse that’s improving and will be running on late; figures in the mix.

#5 Dullahan: Stretch runner was a troubled third to Derby/Preakness hero I’ll Have Another in Louisville, and Romans wisely passed up a trip to Baltimore to enter fresh here over a trip he should love. Multiple GI winner was thought to be a synthetic/turf specialist but showed in the Derby that he’s a player over conventional dirt and confirmed the belief with an eye-popping 45 4/5 bullet over the local strip six days ago. All value was lost when the favorite scratched, so expect about 5-2, which isn’t too appealing, but he gets top billing nonetheless; call to mow them all down late.

#6 Ravelo’s Boy: Longshot hasn’t met the starter since finishing a well-beaten fifth in the GII Tampa Bay Derby in March and looks like a rank outsider in this field. Stretch runner is weak on figures and will be spotting a lot of ground to better horses, so he’s tough to tout; bombs away.

#7 Five Sixteen: The second of three straight longshots has no more than a maiden win to his credit, has never run in a graded stakes, and enters off a layoff after being beaten almost 12 lengths in an entry level allowance at Aqueduct; enough said.

#8 Guyana Star Dweej: The last of the longshot newcomers was a distant second to Unstoppable U last time but at least he should appreciate the return to two turns today. Makes his graded stakes debut in a tough spot and just seems well below the contenders; needs softer to threaten.

#9 Paynter: Up and coming Baffert/Zayat colt will try to get some revenge for stablemate Bodemeister when he starts as the “now” horse off an extremely fast allowance win on the Preakness undercard. Lightly raced colt has a ton of upside and an abundance of tactical speed, too, which figures to put him just off the early lead while getting first run on the rest, which is often a style that works in the Belmont. With the big horse scratched and the others tough to trust, he instantly becomes appealing, though the “too much, too soon” theory is on display for a horse that is making the fifth start of his career since February 18; demand value if leaning this way.

#10 Optimizer: Lukas colt flashed some potential in the GII Rebel at Oaklawn Park earlier this winter but has not lived up to that run, yet forges on after a well-beaten sixth in the Preakness. As a son of turf champion English Channel,he figures to get the trip but with absolutely no speed in this corner and no true form to speak of, he’s hard to get excited about; longshot.

#12 My Adonis: Talented runner makes his Triple Crown debut from a tough draw, but he seems to have enough speed to negate things and get position entering the first turn. His graded stakes runs on dry land haven’t been pretty, so you wonder if he’ll need the skies to open up to have his best chance. Nothing wrong with Dominguez picking up the mount and as a son of BC Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect, he’ll  get the trip for Breen, who won this are last year with Ruler On Ice; not the worst price stab in the world.

Selections:

#5 Dullahan

#9 Paynter

#1 Street Life

#4 Atigun

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