Calm before the Belmont Storm

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By Shawn Rychling


All is quiet this weekend in Elmont, New York, home to Belmont Park, as NYRA gears up for yet another attempt at a Triple Crown in next Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.


Justify will be making just the sixth start of his career as he goes for the Triple Crown. He broke his maiden on Feb. 18 and was the first horse since 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby having not raced as a 2-year-old.  It is hard to fathom that a horse can have a shot at the Triple Crown with just five races under his belt. But that is horse racing in the modern era.


The most recent year NYRA had this scenario was 2015 and we all remember that day when American Pharoah came to New York and ended the 37-year Triple Crown drought with a dominating performance in the Test of Champion, becoming history’s 12th Triple Crown winner.  Affirmed, in 1978, had been the last to win the Triple Crown before American Pharoah.


In the 37 years since Affirmed pulled it off, American Pharoah was the 13th horse to enter the Belmont starting gate with a chance to earn immortality — he would have been the 14th if I’ll have Another hadn’t been scratched the day before the 2012 race.


This time around seems like a little deja vu. Bob Baffert, trainer of American Pharoah, is also the trainer of Justify.  Ownership and jockey are different however. Winstar Farm instead of Ahmed Zayat and Mike Smith rather than Victor Espinoza.


Early indications are a field of 12 for the Belmont Stakes.  Perhaps the fact that Justify was all-out to win the Preakness has instilled less fear in the competition.


More on the race next week as well as NYRA’s Belmont Festival which has packed 18 stakes worth $9.4 million into three days of racing, Thursday-Saturday.


Now lets turn our attention to this Saturday’s racing with analysis of the late Pick 4 and be sure to look for our Saturday @NYHotList Pick 3 Special on Twitter.


7th race: (9) Starlite Mission took a huge step forward when trying the turf last time and may be the horse to beat in this spot. (2) Gabriella showed similar improvement last time on surface switch and should be ready in third career attempt. (11) New Pass enters off two decent efforts. (6) Ascender goes out for red-hot Chad Brown.


8th race: (2) Zap Zap Zap owns best, last race speed figure and shows back class. (7) E J’s Legacy is dropping to an all-time low. (4) Javelin has the most consistency from a speed-figure standpoint. (3) Stretch’s Stone is intriguing dropping way down off a 14-month hiatus. (5) Pretentious could factor with return to West Coast form.


9th race: (4) Analyze It is the horse to beat off three straight wins and sold speed figs. (2) Hawkish has improved with every race. (3) Catholic Boy is better than what he showed in the Fla. Derby. (6) Untamed Domain was sharp last start in return from freshening and could move forward.


10th race: (9) Poshsky (C) took some money before posting best speed figure since last June and is also 2 for 4 over a wet track. (1) Two Down One to Go (A) seems to be nearly impossible in this spot, but may be lone speed and breaks from the rail. (6) Reflected Star appears to be in good form and note the best-of-50 bullet in preps or this one. (5) Bow Tie Affair enters off a career-best race. (13) Joy Drive (A) is a main-track-only entrant and may be the horse to beat.


The Grid
Race 7 9 2, 11 6
Race 8 2, 4, 7 x 3, 5
Race 9 4 2, 3 6
Race 10 5, 9 6, 13 1

As always, Hot List picks and analysis are available on the MyWinners site by clicking here.  Good luck!