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At the Gate - Friday

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It is an exciting time to be a horseplayer, with Churchill Downs, Belmont Park and Hollywood Park all opening, and of course we are now just over a week away from the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby (G1).
 
After a four day break we are back in action in the Big Apple with Belmont Park opening today for a 56-day spring/summer meeting.
 
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The marquee event of course is the Belmont Stakes (G1), the third jewel of racing’s Triple Crown which will be contested on Saturday, June 8. There are four supporting graded stakes on the Belmont Stakes Day card, which is one of my favorites all year.
 
There will be 26 graded stakes during the meeting with over $9 million in purses up for grabs, and both the jockey and trainer titles should be up for grabs.
 
Perennial leading rider Ramon Dominguez is still on the shelf after suffering a head injury in a spill back in January, and we will not see John Velazquez until sometime next week. Velazquez went down in a spill on April 7, cracking a rib.
 
Velazquez is making a quick recovery and says he will fit and ready to go for Derby Day as he will be riding the undefeated Verrazano, who likely is going to be the betting favorite.
 
He probably will not ride much next week, and it will be interesting to see if he is back to 100%, and I am sure trainer Todd Pletcher might be a bit nervous.
 
Churchill Downs will be racing under the lights for Opening Night, with a first post on Saturday evening at 6:00 ET.
 
The opening night feature is the Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (G3) which is the last points race for qualifying for the Run for the Roses.
 
The 20 points for the winner may be enough to stamp a ticket to the big race, and D. Wayne Lukas said that if Titletown Five were to win the Derby Trial, he would be willing to wheel the colt back off a week break and run on the first Saturday of May.
 
I will have my full card report for the Churchill Downs opening night card up here by Friday afternoon.
 
Click here to purchase my full card report for Belmont Park for Friday.
 
Purchase my Monthly Package and receive an entire month of Aqueduct/Belmont Park action, my weekend Keeneland and Best Plays Reports, and my Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby Day reports for just $99.95.
 
Here is today’s opening from Belmont Park to get the day off to a good start:
 
BEL Race 1 OClm $35,000N2X (12:50 ET)
6 Peggy Jane   2-1
7 Schillerette   3-1
5 Necessary Luxury   12-1
1 Read the Research   7-2
 
Analysis: Peggy Jane is coming off a fourth place finish at this level last out where she was beaten a length. The filly stalked the early pace, got caught behind runners in a pocket and had nowhere to run, finally angled out too late finishing behind a couple of foes she faces again today. She just needs a cleaner trip and she should be able to turn the tables today as the likely favorite here for the Chad Brown barn that was very live at the Big A meeting, hitting with 8 of 23 starters (35%).
 
Schillerette exits the same race as our top pick and she was beaten just a head and a neck for the top spot. She was bumped when sandwiched between foes early and finished up well last as the 6-5 favorite. She was making her first start for the Ness barn off the claim. Two back she ran a good second between a pair of next out winners. The winner Freud's Notebook came back to win the state bred Sonia's Scamp in her next outing on March 20. The barn hits at a 32% clip second off the claim.
 
Wagering
WIN: #6 to win at 9-5 or better.
EX: 6,7 / 1,5,6,7
TRI: 6,7 / 1,5,6,7 / 1,3,5,6,7
 
Today's Featured Race of the Day from Belmont Park:
 
BEL Race 7 Md Sp Wt (3:56 ET)
6 With Exultation   5-1
5 A Better Tomorrow   2-1
12 Sneaky Freud   3-1
4 Here He Fitz   8-1
 
Analysis: With Exultation is a $155,000 purchase making his debut for the Clement barn that is 20% winners (with a +ROI) with first time starters. This guy is bred to love grass, by Grade 1 turf winner Kitten's Joy out of a Cozzene mare who has dropped three turf winners and two of her sibs foals are stakes winners, top earner full bro Becky's Kitten ($328,047). The gelding spent the winter at Payson and was working steadily and figures to be ready to first at first asking.
 
A Better Tomorrow tries grass for the first time here in his third career start. Last out at Oaklawn Park the colt dueled for the early lead and held on well until late, checking in third and beaten a length for the top spot. He comes back here with blinkers added to the mix and while his pedigree leans more for dirt he does have one sib that is a turf winner. The Maker barn is 23% winners (with a +ROI) moving runners from dirt to turf.
 
Wagering
WIN: #6 to win at 3-1 or better.
EX: 5,6 / 4,5,6,12
TRI: 5,6 / 4,5,6,12 / 2,4,5,6,12
 
 
Live Longshots:
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.
 
Belmont Park
R1: #5 Necessary Luxury   12-1
R2: #4 Change At Jamaica   10-1
R2: #8 Velocci   8-1
R3: #3 Rubysandpearls   8-1
R4: #6 Blue Sixty Four   8-1
R7: #4 Here He Fitz   8-1
R9: #11 Taproot   10-1
R10: #8 Consoles Gotta Go   12-1
 
Good luck today!

  
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  HORSE RACING EXPERT
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Mike covers the New York racing circuit (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga) year round as well as Keeneland, Churchill Downs, the Triple Crown, and the Breeders’ Cup.
Last Year Mike had a solid Triple Crown, correctly picking the winning horse in 2 of 3 races. He selected I'll Have another to win The Preakness, and nailed Union Rags to win the Belmont Stakes as his top pick.

Mike has also had past succes in the Kentucky Derby,  winning with Animal Kingdom in 2011 and rode his top picks, Super Saver and Street Sense, to the finish line in 2010 and 2007 respectively.

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