Richly Deserved: Handicapping the 139th Belmont Stakes

First of all, was that Preakness good or what? Curlin, wide trip the whole way and seemingly beat, makes a desperate charge in the final eighth to nose Street Sense on the wire. It was the gutsiest comeback I’ve seen since the Colts erased a large deficit against New England in the AFC Championship game.

Street Sense is getting a well-deserved rest and should have the Haskell Invitational and Travers in his sights. This leaves Curlin with a clear path to Belmont glory … maybe.

Here is the group of seven that will take the 1 1/2-mile journey at Belmont Park.

1. IMAWILDANDCRAZYGUY: Anyone who bet him in the Derby could have been called that but lo and behold, he ended fourth just a half-length behind Curlin. A live longshot perhaps?

2. TIAGO: I wrote that I thought he had run his “A” race in the Santa Anita Derby. I was right. His Kentucky Derby was ordinary and he merely passed tired horses in the stretch. He might like the distance but is not nearly fast enough.

3. CURLIN: He had a rough trip in the Derby, and despite his inexperience, ended third. He had a less than perfect route in the Preakness and won. THIS IS A SUPERSTAR. I almost wish he wasn’t run here and instead pointed towards a fall campaign and a possible Breeders’ Cup Classic showdown with Invasor. Nonetheless, he is in New York and should have that town wrapped around his left front hoof by 6:40 on Saturday.

4. C P WEST: Was best of the rest at Pimlico. Still only has one win here. I think he’s a class below the best.

5. SLEW’S TIZZY: Certainly has talent. His wins at Keeneland and Lone Star were impressive. Like others better, though.

6. HARD SPUN: This is a tough nut. He trained ridiculously fast for the Derby and had enough left to finish second. He tried rating tactics early in the Preakness and had enough to keep third. In a Belmont with very little early speed, this guy is a real danger.

7. RAGS TO RICHES: Trying to become the first filly in 102 years to win the Belmont. Her Kentucky Oaks victory was every bit as impressive as Street Sense’s Derby the next day. If she’s good enough for these and can find a good stalking position outside of Hard Spun, she could make Curlin’s job a lot more difficult.

PICKS: Curlin, Rags To Riches, Hard Spun