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The field for the Belmont Stakes is set. A couple of no-hopers have joined the field hoping for a small share of the purse, so there will be 10 horses vying for the big prize. Shock of shocks, Big Brown is the morning line favorite at 2/5. That price is going to look pretty good compared to where he will be at post time. Here's some quick Belmont Stakes analysis now that the Belmont field as it is set:
1. Big Brown (2/5) - The favorite gets the rail, but in this race post positions are almost irrelevant. If the horse wants the lead he can probably get it. If he wants to sit back and let the race develop he can. I am very confident he will win it, but I would have been equally confident if he were forced to start 50 yards behind the gate and jump it. There are no excuses - we just have to wait.
2. Guadalcanal (50/1) - The last entrant in the race is also the biggest joke. He's a maiden who hasn't won in five career starts. He's also making his stakes debut here. The only thing this horse has going for it is that it has already run a mile and a half, though it was on turf. The only thing I hope for this horse is that he doesn't get into Big Brown's way. No chance.
3. Macho Again (20/1) - This gray son of Macho Uno was second in the Preakness, and I suspect his connections would be very content to come in behind Big Brown again here. He's an improving horse that I expect big things from later in the summer and I will have him in my exotics. That being said, I'm not sure there is a scenario in which he can win.
4. Denis of Cork (12/1) - After a disappointing run in the Illinois Derby, this horse rebounded to finish third in the Kentucky Derby. Calvin Borel, as is his trademark, hugged the rail in that race. It's more than a little interesting that Borel isn't back in the irons - Robby Albarado takes his place. Two horses that ran in the Derby have made up three of the last four Belmont exactas, and this horse seems like the best of the returning group behind Big Brown.
5. Casino Drive (7/2) - Here we have one of the biggest enigmas we have faced in a long while. He's only run twice, one of those races was in Japan, his training methods have been bizarre in the weeks leading up to this race, and he's on his third jockey in three races. There are a ton of questions, but he has the clear look of a freak so we can't just reject him outright.
6. Da' Tara (30/1) - This horse is in here for two reasons, and neither of them is to win. First, he is the only horse other than Big Brown that likes the lead, so he is in to set an honest pace. Second, Nick Zito trains him and also trains Anak Nakal, so this horse could be used to set up the race for the other runner. Not likely to be a factor - his last race was at 1 1/16 miles and he didn't have the juice to maintain his speed until the end, so the added distance won't help.
7. Tale of Ekati (20/1) - The Wood Memorial winner was fourth in the Derby. Barclay Tagg trains him, and he would very much like revenge for the loss of Funny Cide in the Belmont in 2003. He's not likely to get it, but the horse should be in the mix. He's talented, but has yet to find any consistency at all.
8. Anak Nakal (30/1) - He finished seventh in the Derby, but that result can't be viewed as a disappointment. He had a decent race and got, for him, a decent result. He would have to improve significantly in the Belmont to be relevant, and it's hard to see how that will happen. He hasn't been relevant in any race all year, and he won't be here, either.
9. Ready's Echo (30/1) - Todd Pletcher needed to have a horse in this race to defend his win with Rags to Riches last year, but he's not going to string together consecutive wins. This horse chased Casino Drive around the track in the Peter Pan and ended up third. He's got a lot of sprint breeding in his pedigree, but he gets stronger as the race goes along, so the distance here could be his friend. I'll be shocked if he is a factor.
10. Icabad Crane (20/1) - Few people were talking about this Maryland local at the Preakness, but he was a solid third. In his race prior to the Preakness he beat Mint Lane for the win, and that horse was second to Casino Drive in the Peter Pan. I'm not sure what that means, or if this horse is any good outside of Maryland, but he'll factor into the bottom part of my exotics.