The Belmont Stakes on Saturday is anything but anticlimactic for those of us who follow horse racing. Though there is no horse going for a sweep of the Triple Crown, the Belmont is a classic race with great history to it.
At 1½ miles, the Belmont is a marathon distance that none in the 14 horse field has raced before, and it’s doubtful will try again.
This unknown is what makes the Belmont so fascinating to handicap.
A good way to describe how a Belmont should be run is to compare it to a human marathon race. Go out too fast too soon and you’ll have nothing left for the end. It’s a good example of pace makes the race and why steady gallopers — not explosive speed horses — tend to do well.
Orb (3-1) won the Kentucky Derby, and Oxbow (5-1) won the Preakness. Both deserve the lion’s share of the attention and betting interest.
However, in my bones I think this Triple Crown series is ripe for three different winners. I do not feel it’s an indictment of the quality of this 3-year-old class, but how the talent is so evenly spread.
My choice is Overanalyze (12-1) for trainer Todd Pletcher. Overanalyze has won four of eight career starts, alternating big wins with equally big losses. Well, he lost his last start in the Kentucky Derby. Overanalyze has a strong resume, too, with graded stakes wins in the Arkansas Derby, Remsen and Futurity. His form cycle suggests he will run well Saturday under jockey John Velazquez.
My second pick is the logical favorite Orb. His Preakness loss is the kind of race I will draw a line through. Very slow pace, stuck down on a deeper rail, less energy than in his Derby win.
If Orb were showing the physical signs of a grueling Triple Crown series, I doubt if trainer Shug McGaughey would even start him here.
Revolutionary (9-2) has finished in the money in all seven lifetime starts. That tells me he’s ready to run every time out. He is a dead late closer who will be grinding away while others tire in the deep stretch.
And finally Unlimited Budget (8-1) is a filly running against the boys Saturday. She is among five starters that Todd Pletcher has in the Belmont.
■ ENG’S PICKS — Overanalyze, Orb, Revolutionary, Unlimited Budget
■ MOHEGAN SUN — I’ll be at Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn., for the Belmont as a guest handicapper with Tom Quigley, publisher of The Horseplayer Magazine, for their 1,000-seat free ballroom party.
■ TOURNAMENTS — Tournament players will have two fun events this weekend. The Sam’s Town Live Money contest is today and Saturday. Entry is $200 with a $300 live-money bankroll. On Sunday, Treasure Island will host a Wager to Win qualifier for the 2014 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. Entry is $500.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.