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TrackNotes: A Highly Bettable Belmont

It's Belmont Stakes weekend and not only won't we have a Triple Crown winner again but this year Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and Preakness Stakes winner Lookin At Lucky will both skip the race.

This should make it a highly bettable Belmont.

But remember: when looking at the past performances, that tap you keep feeling on your shoulder comes from the gods of handicapping reminding you that "it's a mile-and-a-half, a mile-and-a-half, a mile-and-a-half . . . "

Twelve furlongs is as long as any of these horses have ever run or will ever run.

From the one post out:

* Dave in Dixie is going downhill, capped by a bad fifth and 72 Beyer Speed Figure in the Illinois Derby on April 3. His best, if you can call it that, is on synthetic surfaces and I don't like Calvin Borel in the saddle at Belmont. Nope.

* Spangled Star, big shock, improved 13 Beyer points in the Withers April 24 in his first race under Richard Dutrow, but still finished third. That's what Dutrow does. But his only win was a maiden special weight on the inferior Maryland circuit. Nope again.

* Uptowncharleybrown's up-down Beyer pattern says down for this race. An early buzz horse on the Triple Crown trail, he flinches when facing the class, with his last win on January 10 in a small stakes at Tampa. His 10-1 morning line odds reflects name recognition, but he should be more like 15- or 20-1.

* Make Music for Me was not in my shuffle for the Derby, but he took a big step forward, finishing a strong fourth with a 97 Beyer. That puts him in this. Still, that was some huge slop on Derby Day and he's only won one out of nine and that was on the Santa Anita turf. These three-year-olds can improve greatly this time of year and he should be fresh after skipping the Preakness. 6-1 or better would be sweet and you just may get it. Contender.

* Fly Down is the 9-2 third favorite on the morning line. He crushed Drosselmeyer in the Grade II Dwyer May 8, earning a 99 Beyer, the third-best career figure in the field. Trainer Nick Zito lives for this race, Fly Down's the son of Mineshaft and Belmont veteran Johnny Velazquez is up. He'll have to stay close to the front in an expected middling-to-slow pace, but if he cooperates, JV will know how to parcel him out.

* Ice Box, the Pulpit colt who almost won the Derby, is the 3-1 morning line favorite. A 99 Beyer in the Florida Derby and 100 in Kentucky suggest he may bounce. He's the favorite because of the way he closed in the Derby after an eventful trip, but deep closers getting up in the long Belmont is pretty much a myth. Zito trains here, but I wouldn't be surprised if Old Nick likes his chances with Fly Down better. He probably won't get the blow-to-smithereens fast pace to close in to, but you can't ignore this one.

* Drosselmeyer was a $600,000 purchase at the 2008 Keeneland September sale and that's where he gets his respect. His "biggest" win was in a mere $37K allowance, but he still takes the money. Has he plateaued with 91-92-89 Beyers in his Risen Star-Louisiana Derby-Dwyer string? Trainer Bill Mott has switched jocks from Kent Desormeaux to Mike Smith and that should help. He'll run his one-note race and hope to get up at the wire. 12-1 or better? I'll take it.

* Game On Dude pairs trainer Bob Baffert and rider Martin Garcia, who teamed to take Lookin At Lucky all the way in the Preakness. They have a phenomenal 33 percent winning record in 142 races in 2010. But the horse has little if any back class, recording a jump-up 95 Beyer and the win in the weak Lone Star Derby. Morning line is 10-1, but he may be more like 18- or 20-1. An unknown in the Belmont at big odds? Can you say Da' Tara?

* Stately Victor is probably a turf/synthetic specialist who isn't really that special. He romped in the Poly Track Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, but that race has lost most of its credibility. He'll need some miracles in front of him. The only good thing I can say is that he's got Belmont-savvy Alan Garcia aboard.

* Stay Put is 20-1 on the morning line but I think he'll get bet down from there. He's never run at anything less than a mile and has a 410 Tomlinson rating for wet conditions if there's rain. He won a $100K race on Derby Day. Two fifth-place finishes in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby suggest he's in over his head, but he may finish in the money. Should be a value play as a flyer or underneath in the exotics.

* First Dude is the second choice at 7-2 on the morning line. He'll take money, based on a great performance in finishing less than a length back to Lucky in the Preakness. While Lookin At Lucky is a professional race horse, you could argue that 'Dude should have won the race. This bounce candidate doesn't have a ton to like. I'm going to go against conventional wisdom and play the angle that he's wheeling back in three weeks off a difficult Preakness and that he won't get the distance. But because he likes to be in the thick of things, 10-1 or better might get a flyer from me.

* Interacif is a puzzling, talented horse. His best performances have come on turf or synthetic, but he won his first race on the dirt at Monmouth. He was also a fine third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. His top Beyer is 94, but he's more like an 86. He'll be banking on a nice second to Sidney's Candy in the San Felipe in March. He's another unknown quantity at a price.

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My likely suspects will be Fly Down, Ice Box, Make Music for Me, Drosselmeyer and Interactif. Cover bets on Game On Dude, Stay Put and First Dude at a price.

Also on the card, the Grade I Manhattan Handicap will feature the stars Gio Ponti, Take the Points, Court vision, Grand Couturier and Just as Well.

Space cadet Eightyfiveinafifty and D' Funnybone square off in the short-field Woody Stephens Stakes.

Tidal Pool, Amen Hallelujah and Tanda lead the Grade I Acorn Stakes for three-year-old fillies.

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Thomas Chambers is our man on the rail. He brings you TrackNotes (nearly) every Friday. He welcomes your comments.

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