Live Longshots and Value Plays for Action-Packed Belmont Stakes Weekend

My Sister Nat, a 15-1 morning-line contender in Friday’s New York Stakes, is one of Mike Curry’s top longshot picks for the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Belmont Park. (Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo)

The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival is this weekend with a full slate of fantastic racing, beginning Thursday and running right through the loaded Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets card on June 5.

Saturday’s Belmont Stakes card features nine graded stakes with purses of at least $400,000 each, including three qualifying races for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Read more about Saturday’s card here.

The highlight of the weekend, of course, is the 153rd Belmont Stakes, the final jewel of the 2021 Triple Crown. As with each of the other two Triple Crown races, I took a look at some of the races over the weekend to identify some value bets and live longshots to consider in hopes of making some money. Let’s get right to it with some price plays for Belmont Park from Thursday through Saturday.

Thursday, June 3

Race 6, $200,000 Intercontinental Stakes, 5:43 p.m. ET

1. Publication (10-1) – Regal Glory (#8) looks especially tough as the heavy favorite here, provided the race stays on grass with heavy rain in the forecast for Thursday. She is 6-for-8 on wet turf and owns a victory on this turf course. That said, I really like lightly raced Juddmonte homebred Publication to improve in her second start of the year. She won her final race as a 2-year-old at this seven-furlong distance and finished super-fast in her season debut with a final five-sixteenths of a mile in :28.98 (according to Trakus data) for a 1 1/16-mile race. She was absolutely flying late. This is a step up in class and I’m not sure soft turf would be ideal, but  her dam (mother) Filimbi won on heavy turf in France and finished in the top three on three occasions in the U.S. in Grade 1 races on turf rated good or yielding.

Race 8, $200,000 Wonder Again Stakes, 6:45 p.m. ET

3. I Get It (20-1) – Like Publication above, this is another I would prefer if the turf was not almost certain to be rain-drenched, but I really like the way she has progressed this year as a 3-year-old and her most recent start leads me to believe she really has figured things out. She finished with a final quarter-mile in a blistering :22.51 (according to Trakus data) to win a one-mile race by a half-length going a mile in the Sanibel Island Stakes March 27 at Gulfstream Park.

Friday, June 4

weekend Television schedule

Thursday, June 3: 3 p.m.-8:30 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Friday, June 4: 12:30 p.m.-5 p.m. ET and 6 p.m.-7 p.m. on FS2; 5 p.m.-6 p.m. on NBCSN; post time varies on TVG

Saturday, June 5: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.-8:15 p.m. on FS2; 3 p.m.-5 p.m. on NBCSN; 5 p.m.-7 p.m. on NBC; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, June 6: 12:30 p.m.-6 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Race 4, 2:24 p.m. ET

3. Lemon Drop Road (12-1) – I think getting back to a one-turn sprint should really benefit this one, who ran the best race of his four career starts going three-quarters of a mile at Aqueduct two starts back on April 9. You can toss his last race on the grass and take a look at how he’s been training for a very patient trainer in Jimmy Jerkens. Sure, the horse directly to his outside, Mahaamel, looks tough on paper as the 4-5 favorite, but I think Lemon Drop Road has as good a shot as any of the others to beat him.

Race 6, 3:34 p.m. ET

7. Bingo John (10-1) – He’s run pretty well in three starts on “off” tracks, so with plenty of rain in the forecast that was a big consideration here. Plus, you have the potent jockey-trainer tandem of Florent Geroux and Brad Cox and a 5-2 morning-line favorite in #3 Brilliant Brooks that looks vulnerable to me. I think there is some significant upside with Bingo John that there is not with some of the others entered.

Race 8, $300,000 Bed o’ Roses Stakes, 4:40 p.m. ET

3. Alandra (15-1) – This was a filly I was really high on as a 2-year-old who won her debut for trainer Shug McGaughey, a trainer who typically does not win at a high rate with first-time starters. She disappointed after that and really did not distinguish herself as a 3-year-old either, although her lone win in four starts last year came on a muddy main track at Belmont Park, which could come into play with rain in the forecast. What I really like is that Alandra has put together two promising starts to begin her 4-year-old season and enters off a win at one mile on the Belmont main track May 15. The fact that the conservative McGaughey is bringing her back here on three weeks rest and testing her against stakes competition inspires the confidence to back her at what figures to be a big price.

Race 9, $750,000 New York Stakes, 5:15 p.m. ET

4. My Sister Nat (15-1) – She’s an entrant I really like to finish in the top three at a big price. I expect that the turf will be “good” at best on Friday, and My Sister Nat has always liked a bit of cut in the ground. She’s a powerful finisher who was super consistent last year until an unplaced finish in the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf in her final start of 2020. She ran first or second in her other four starts and should improve off an OK fourth in her season debut May 1 on this turf course against quite a few of these horses. I have a hunch she’ll be overlooked … and she shouldn’t be.

Saturday, June 5

Nova Rags (SV Photography)

Race 3, $400,000 Woody Stephens Stakes Presented by Nassau County Industrial Development Agency, 12:47 p.m. ET

1. Nova Rags (8-1) – With three horses to his outside in #2 Drain the Clock (7-2), #3 Jackie’s Warrior (7-5), and #6 Caddo River (4-1) who will be pressing 100% to get the lead and another who might join them in #4 Dream Shake (5-2), I expect the pace to be blistering hot early. If the race falls apart late I like Nova Rags to pick up the pieces and I could even see #5 Tulane Tryst (20-1) closing for a share. This is purely a pace play as I’ll look to beat the speed with off-the pace runners.

Race 8, $500,000 Longines Just a Game Stakes, 3:58 p.m. ET

7. Abscond (30-1) – When I look for bombs to toss into exacta/trifecta bets (and usually a small win wager), I like to identify runners coming out of off-the-board finishes where they were close to the winner and runners who always run well but frequently come up just short. Abscond fits the bill on both accounts. Most probably will look at her fourth in the Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes behind three opponents she’ll face here and figure she’s just not good enough, but Abscond was only three-quarters of a length behind winner Blowout and has every right to improve in her third start of the year with five weeks rest. Of course, all three of those horses could also improve but they are not 30-1 for a jockey-trainer tandem in Joel Rosario and Eddie Kenneally that has won four of 10 starts together in the last two years for a $5.08 return on investment.

Race 11, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, 6:49 p.m. ET

6. Known Agenda (6-1) – He was my pick on top for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and I believe his outcome was determined at the post-position draw when he got the inside post in a 19-horse field. Shortly after the start with a herd of runners closing in on him, Known Agenda backed out and dropped near the back of the field and never really had a chance. With only eight runners here and a high likelihood for a much cleaner trip, I believe we’ll see the real Known Agenda here. He’s been terrific since adding blinkers and the speed figure he earned for winning the Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill 'n' Dale Farms at Xalapa indicate he’s a win contender. Trainer Todd Pletcher has won this race three times and all three of them came in with five weeks of rest either from the Kentucky Oaks (Rags to Riches, 2007) or Kentucky Derby (Palace Malice, 2013; Tapwrit, 2017).

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