By Bob Ehalt
As soon as Justify came out of the fog and won the Preakness, Belmont Park became the center of the horse racing world.
From now until the Belmont Stakes on June 9, Belmont will dominate the sport’s discussions as fans of all ages talk about Justify’s chances of winning the final leg of the Triple Crown and becoming the 13th Triple Crown champion.
The excitement will be revved up beginning on June 5 with the post position draw, which will take place at Citi Field.
One big reminder of the great day of racing on tap comes this Memorial Day weekend. Missing from the schedule is the Metropolitan Handicap, which was traditionally the featured race on Memorial Day and is now part of the huge Belmont Stakes undercard.
In its place, there will be a slate of stakes for New York State-breds on Monday.
As for Saturday, the featured race at Belmont is the $100,000 Paradise Creek, a seven-furlong turf stakes for 3-year-olds that attracted horses from some of the best barns in the sport.
The even-money morning line favorite is Gidu, owned by Zayat Stables, who gave us 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, and trained by seven-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher.
The 3-year-old son of Frankel is coming off a win in the $75,000 Columbia Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Prior to that, he was second in the Grade 3 Dania Beach at Gulfstream Park. In his four career starts, Gidu has finished no worse than second.
The 5-2 second choice in the field of five (a sixth entrant is a main track only starter) is Masked, from the barn of Bob Baffert, who trains Justify and also trained American Pharoah. Masked started his career in California and then shipped to Churchill Downs for the William Walker Stakes but did not fare as well as Justify in Bluegrass country. Masked pressed the pace but weakened and wound up third.
Curlin’s Honor (3-1) ships in from Woodbine where he won the Woodstock Stakes on a synthetic surface. The Paradise Creek will mark the turf debut for the son of Curlin.
The rest of the field includes Ambassador Jim (6-1), who was fourth in the Bridgetown Stakes at Aqueduct last month, and Black Stetson (8-1), who won the Bridgetown at 18-1 odds.
Handicapping contest in Stamford on Saturday
Also on Saturday, Winners patrons in the Stamford area can try to take home their share of a $5,000 guarantee prize pool in the Winners Stamford Handicapping Challenge at the Winners branch inside of Bobby V’s restaurant in Stamford.
The contest will feature racing from Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, Parx and Gulfstream Park, with a first-place prize of $3,000. The entry fee is $50.
For more information, visit: https://www.mywinners.com/winners-stamford-challenge/
As a hopefully helpful handicapping guide, I’ll be hosting a Twitter Takeover at @MyWinnersCT offering selections and analysis of the day’s races.