The Belmont Stakes is probably the easiest Triple Crown race to handicap.
At 1? miles, there's plenty of room, so Kentucky Derby winner Orb won't suffer Preakness claustrophobia. With a handful of early speedsters, there's no way Preakness winner Oxbow steals another race. And on an expected muddy track like the Derby, pretenders won't last late in the longest U.S. major stakes.
Throw out long shots, stay with class. Orb wins the Belmont over Revolutionary, with Freedom Child third.
That's right, toss Oxbow after jockey Gary Stevens fooled other riders to steal the Preakness. He won't hit the board, much less become the leading three-year-old colt. Don't buy into filly fever with Unlimited Budget in this time of sequestration, either.
The Belmont is really two races. The sprinters run the first mile before collapsing and closers run the last half-mile to win. Unless the second coming of Secretariat emerges, there's no way sprinters like Palace Malice and Frac Daddy finish in the top 10.
But they will impact the race. Oxbow showed competitors that someone can steal a race from the start, but that only happens once. The next race, everybody tries it, and the frantic early pace wears out the pretenders.
Entering the stretch, you see the real race materialize. Oxbow will lay fifth entering the half-mile straightaway, but there's no cushion to hold off other late runners.
And this is where Orb emerges. Trainer Shug McGaughey has spent three decades at Belmont Park and wins big races. Easy Goer beat Sunday Silence just once in four meetings in 1989 -- at Belmont.
Orb isn't a wonder horse, but he's the best of a mediocre crop. Orb excels over a wet track, which should come at Belmont, while his late-running style fits this race. The only question is does he pay less than 3-1.
Revolutionary is the same style runner as Orb and might have won the Derby if not for a horribly rough early trip. This might be a box exacta play and a good stretch duel, but Orb has a little more late kick.
Freedom Child is an excellent choice in triples. Throw out his 10th-place finish in the Wood Memorial when a starting gate mishap caused stewards to refund wagering on him. Instead, review Freedom Child runaway Peter Pan Stakes over a sloppy track at Belmont on May 11. He steadily pulled away for a 13?-length victory. But Freedom Child doesn't have to lead from the start. Watch for him to wait for the late charge. It wouldn't be a shocker to win at 12-1.
It will rain money at Belmont. An Orb-Revolutionary-Freedom Child triple should net at least $200.