With the late scratch of I'll Have Another there was no Triple Crown, but perhaps if Union Rags would have had some better luck on Derby Day, could it have been a different story?
The colt was off at the back of the pack in the Derby and never really got clear running until it as too late, checking in seventh.
The usually reserved Matz thought he had a serious Triple Crown candidate, and he was proven right when his new jockey John Velazquez squeezed along the rail and outdueled front running Paynter to the wire to win the $1 million Belmont Stakes (G1).
The colt went off as the second choice and returned $7.50 for a $2 wager. The colt stopped the timer for the 1 1/2 miles in 2:30.42.
Paynter completed a decent $31.40 exacta, with 20-1 Atigun completing a $2 trifecta that returned $496.00.
Dullahan was sent off as the slight favorite over Union Rags but was never a threat in a disappointing seventh place finish.
While the retirement of I'll Have Another was a bitter disappointment, the race itself was one of the more exciting Belmonts run in quite awhile.
With Union Rags, Paynter, and Bodemeister, we have the beginnings of a good rivalry if they can stay healthy, and hopefully we will see them square off later in the year.
Hall of fame trainer Bob Baffert had the distinction of running second in each jewel of the Triple Crown this year, Bodemeister running second to I'll Have Another in both the Derby and Preakness, and Paynter running second yesterday.
In all three races the Baffert runners had the lead in the stretch and combined they lost all three races by just two lengths.
After failing to come up with the winner of the Derby and Preakness it was good to get back in the game with Union Rags as my top pick along with Paynter as my second choice, giving us the exacta straight.
Even without a Triple Crown on the line the NYRA has to be very happy with the way the day turned out.
A crowd of 85,811 wagered $13,777,920 on Belmont Stakes Day races, the second largest Belmont Stakes Day on-track handle ever, trailing only the $14,461,402 wagered in 2004 when Birdstone broke the Triple Crown bid of Smarty Jones.
The on-track handle was also the third largest ever at Belmont Park, behind only the $14,742,521 wagered on Breeders' Cup Day 2005 and the 2004 Belmont Stakes Day handle. It easily eclipsed the previous non-Triple Crown Day record of $10,581,093 set in 2001 by 30.2% and was up 36.4% over $10,098,573 in 2011.
The attendance of 85,811, the sixth largest ever at Belmont Park, smashed the previous non-Triple Crown Day record of 73,857 set in 2001 by 16.2% and was up 53.8% from 55,779 on Belmont Stakes Day last year.
Belmont Park is dark today so we will attempt to pad the bankroll with a ten race card from Churchill Downs.
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Here is today's opening from Churchill Downs to get the day off to a good start:
CD Race 1 Md $10,000 (12:45 ET)
7 Sister Geneva 5-2
2 Oh Sweet Mystery 6-1
3 Savannah's Glory 2-1
6 Be Quiet Lady 5-2
Analysis: Sister Geneva dueled for the early lead from the outside and tired to finish sixth last out under the seven pound bug last out for this tag. The runner up and fifth place finisher came out of the race to graduate in their next starts. The cut back to seven panels should suit and the filly gets a jock upgrade from the bug to Saez.
Oh Sweet Mystery was not a threat in her debut against maiden special weight company at Indiana Downs on turf and she was dismissed in the betting too, sent off at 31-1. She adds lasix and drops in for a tag here and note she popped a bullet work over the polytrack at Keeneland. With our third and fourth choices a combined 0 for 16, this gal just looks like she may have more upside making just her second career start and first on dirt.
WIN: #7 to win at 2-1 or better.
EX: 2,7 / 2,3,6,7
TRI: 2,7 / 2,3,6,7 / 2,3,5,6,7
Today's Featured Race of the Day from Churchill Downs:
CD Race 9 Alw $62,500N2X (5:05 ET)
2 Forty Nine Watts 6-1
4 Pleasant Run 8-1
3 Chilled 3-1
6 Afford 7-2
Analysis: Forty Nine Watts was beaten just a head last out in a game effort in his first go off a 6 1/2 month layoff. The gelding was floated out on the far turn, was brushed late and just missed in a tough beat. The gelding does his best working going long and the stretch out will suit. He steps into a tougher spot here facing Alw-2 foes but looks primed for a good effort and it looks as if we will get a fair price.
Pleasant Run was a decent fourth last out in his first start off a five month layoff. The winner of the race was Point of Entry, who came back to win the Elkhorn (G2) in his next outing on April 27. The sixth place finisher Middie was also a next out winner, beating Alw-2 foes and then running third in the Sea of Erin. He has a pair of career wins, one on turf and the other on poly. He fits well here if he takes to dirt.
WIN: #2 to win at 7-2 or better.
EX: 2,4 / 2,3,4,6
TRI: 2,4 / 2,3,4,6 / 2,3,4,6,9
These are price plays for exotic players looking to find a couple of extra contenders to use in their trifecta and superfecta wagers. Or for those with smaller bankrolls, you might want to get in a small win-place wager.
R9: #4 Pleasant Run 8-1
R10: #12 Special Dancer 8-1
Good luck today!