Scott Shapiro: Saratoga's Belmont Stakes Day All-Stakes Pick 5 Analysis | Saturday, June 8, 2024

Five weeks ago, it was Mystik Dan and Brian Hernandez Jr. skimming the rail and having just enough late to hold off the strong charges of Sierra Leone and Forever Young in one of the more thrilling Kentucky Derby finishes in recent memory. Then, three weeks ago it was the ageless D. Wayne Lukas and Jaime Torres taking the field in the Preakness gate-to-wire with Seize the Grey. Now the Belmont Stakes is upon us, but in Saratoga Springs this time around at a mile and a quarter. It will be different, but it will most certainly be a lot of fun come Saturday.

As part of the fun, 1/ST BET and Xpressbet as always have a couple of promotions associated with the big day of racing, including an All-Stakes Pick 5 “Hit & Split” for 2.5 million 1/ST Rewards Points. The sequence gets started in Race 8 with a relatively wide-open edition of the Woody Stephens (G1) and concludes with the final leg of the Triple Crown.  

Grade Descriptions: Grade A=Highest degree of confidence; Grade B=Solid Play. Grade C=Least preferred or pass; Grade X=probable winner but likely at odds too short to play.

Race 8: Woody Stephens (G1)
Grade: B-
Main Ticket: 1 Book’em Danno; 7 Prince of Monaco
Backups: 12 Be You; 8 Vlahos; 6 Reasoned Analysis

Forecast: This year’s Woody Stephens is one the more challenging analytical puzzles on the Belmont Stakes Day card with a lukewarm 7-2-morning line favorite, but it does seem like a contentious first half-mile is extremely likely. This should bode well for #1 Book’em Danno who has done very little wrong through six starts. The New Jersey bred son of Bucchero rattled off 4 of 5 to start his career, including a dominant win in the Pasco at Tampa Bay before heading overseas for the Saudi Derby (G3). In that one-mile event, Book’em Danno was barely unable to hold off eventual Kentucky Derby third-place finisher, Forever Young. Trainer Derek Ryan opted to give his gelding time after the huge effort across the world and brings him back in a tough, but favorable spot. The rail draw is tricky, but with plenty of speed signed on, the field should separate early. Hopefully, this allows Irad Ortiz Jr. to find a comfortable spot along the inside. If he does, I love his chances to best this group. If not, it appears #7 Prince of Monaco’s race to lose. The Speightstown colt earned victories in his first three starts before trying two turns in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where he finished a disappointing fifth. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert opted to give him plenty of rest after the off the board finish at Santa Anita, but he must be doing well if he is being shipped cross-country off the layoff for a Grade 1 event.

#12 Be You will have to run faster to beat this group, but I love the cutback to a sprint. His career best efforts have both come at one-turn and the outside draw should allow John Velazquez to find a comfortable mid-pack spot in the clear. #8 Vlahos is unlikely to have things easy on the front end, but he draws outside the other main speeds and still has as much upside as anyone in this field. #6 Reasoned Analysis needs to take a big step forward to be there at the wire, but he did just that last out in the Bay Shore. Another move forward off of a lively early pace puts him there late at a big price.

Race 9: Jaipur (G1)
Grade: B-
Main Ticket: 2 Arzak; 8 Cogburn
Backups: 6 Star of Mystery; 10 Alogon; 11 Filo Di Arianna

Forecast: There is not a ton of early speed signed on in this year’s Jaipur, so I will lean mostly on horses that should be up close to the early pace. This includes morning line favorite #8 Cogburn. The son of Not This Time was very good early in his career sprinting over the main track, but has found a new home on the lawn. Since the surface switch by North America’s all-time leading trainer Steve Asmussen, the 5YO has been awesome. He has won 4 of 5, including a dominant victory last out in the Turf Sprint (G2) on the Derby Day undercard. He is the clear one to beat, but he did have everything his way in his stakes victory last month breaking on top and having a completely stressless voyage on the outside. Now, he draws in between runners so his job might be tougher at a pretty short price. #2 Arzak is also coming off of one of his career best efforts. He sat a comfortable mid-pack trip in his first try as a 6YO and has been given time since the victory in the Shakertown (G2) at Keeneland. If Jaime Torres can avoid leaving the Michael Trombetta trainee too much to do in the lane, he has a huge shot to earn his ninth lifetime score.

#6 Star of Mystery is the wild card. She takes on the boys and attracts Flavien Prat in her first Stateside start. I will include her, as well as a couple of big prices in #10 Alogon and #11 Filo Di Arianna. Alogon makes his second start off the bench after a solid third in the Elusive Quality S. The California Chome gelding should be ready for his best after shaking off the rust last time out. Filo Di Arianna makes his third start off the layoff for Mark Casse. The 8YO has only raced 14 times, but he has made the most of the starts crossing the wire first in half of those tries. He should get a favorable voyage with Tyler Gaffalione taking over riding duties.

Race 10: Met Mile (G1)
Grade: C+
Main Ticket: 6 White Abarrio
Backups: 2 National Treasure

Forecast: The Met Mile has long been my favorite non -Triple Crown race on the calendar, but unfortunately it is not what it once was. It only drew a field of six this year and in many ways it appears a two-horse race on paper between #2 National Treasure and #6 White Abarrio. I prefer White Abarrio who put in a clunker in the Saudi Cup (G1) and has been given time since by trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. The son of Race Day put forth a career best performance in his lone start over this racetrack last year in the Whitney (G1) and gets a favorable outside draw in this compact group.

National Treasure is also highly capable shipping in from the west coast for Bob Baffert. The 2023 Preakness Stakes (G1) winner has been at his best going a bit longer thus far in his career, but he too has been freshened up since the Saudi Cup and should get the jump on his main rival. That said, I would only use both of these horses on the same ticket if I have multiple prices elsewhere. If not, take a stand against at least one when building your wagers.

Race 11: Manhattan (G1)
Grade: B
Main Ticket: 1 I’m Very Busy
Backups: 9 Measured Time; 6 Al Riffa; 7 Nations Pride

Forecast: Simply put, #1 I’m Very Busy failed to fire in the Turf Classic (G1) last month. After back-to-back huge efforts to kick off his 2024 campaign, the Cloud Computing colt was restless in the gate and was flat throughout. Perhaps it was regression off of the two huge performances or maybe it was the crowd and the turf condition in Louisville, but either way I expect a huge bounce back effort on Saturday.

#9 Measured Time and #6 Al Riffa both make their Stateside debuts in the Manhattan. Measured Time looks to be the colt with the bigger chance, but the price is likely to reflect that. The son of Frankel has been freshened up after a fourth-place effort in Dubai. Al Riffa has not won since 2022, but he ran a good fourth off the bench in late April at Longchamp and appears poised for a big run first time in North America. #7 Nations Pride is a more known commodity to American horseplayers. The Godolphin runner comes off a stalk and fade in the Man O’ War (G2) in a race dominated by those coming from off the pace. Frankie Dettori sticking around is an obvious positive.

Race 12: Belmont Stakes (G1)
Grade: B
Main Ticket: 2 Resilience; 9 Sierra Leone
Backups: 8 Honor Marie; 10 Mindframe

Forecast: This year’s Belmont may not be run at its traditional 1-1/2 mile distance, but I am really excited for it nonetheless. We get the Derby winner, the Preakness winner, and plenty of others with equal or better chances to earn the biggest victory of their young careers.

One would expect an honest to contentious pace in the 2024 Belmont with #1 Seize the Grey, #6 Dornoch, and #10 Mindframe all likely to be sent aggressively out of the starting gate. This may not lead to a complete collapse, but at the very least it should give all runners a fair chance. #2 Resilience projects to get a favorable voyage after his sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. In Louisville, jockey Junior Alvarado did a tremendous job of angling over from the far outside to avoid significant ground loss into the first turn. Unfortunately, Alvarado had no real choice but to swing five-wide into the lane. This should not be the case in Saratoga where the Into Mischief colt is down on the inside in a 10 not 20-horse field. Not sure we get the 10-1-morning line offering, but he should be a square price nonetheless. #9 Sierra Leone is definitely the likeliest to hit the board in this year’s Belmont. The son of Gun Runner has only lost twice, both by a nose, and comes in off his strong late rally in Kentucky. I am slightly concerned about his ability to win a battle in the lane, but I would be extremely surprised if the Chad Brown trainee did not run his race.

#8 Honor Marie had major trouble at the start of the Derby, but rallied well albeit with a favorable race shape to finish a mid-pack eighth. I am not in love with the fit of Florent Geroux on this Honor Code colt, but at the likely price he is worth including. #10 Mindframe has done nothing wrong through two starts earning big figures and crushing his inferior competition with little effort. His talent is obvious, but this is a big ask between the rise in competition and the stretch out to 10-furlongs. I will use in horizontals since he has an extremely high ceiling but he is an underlay if he goes off at his 7-2-morning line price.

Good luck in Saratoga!