Here are stakes picks for Friday’s Belmont Stakes-eve card. Announced scratches haven’t changed any picks.
Race 5 | Tremont Stakes | 5 1/2 furlongs
1. Direct Dial
3. Analyze the Odds
4. Admiral Jimmy
Comment: Going against the odds (a little) by picking against Todd Pletcher, who has half the eight-horse field. Direct Dial and Salamanzar are the likely exacta combination, but giving the narrowest of edges to Direct Dial because of an authoritative win at Keeneland where he went three wide and drew off. Much of the same could be said — winning authoritatively — for Salamanzar — even quicker — but will operate on the assumption that he won it at the break.
Race 8 | Grade II True North Stakes | 6 furlongs
2. Stallwalkin’ Dude
3. Roy H
4. Noholdingback Bear
Comment: Whitmore is on a five race win streak since exiting last year’s Kentucky Derby. This is his toughest test of that run and, as such, all the wagering eggs will not be in that basket for the pick 4 that starts here. Stallwalkin’ Dude is consistently fast and would be no surprise, having a Grade I place here last year. Roy H ships from the west and showed newfound ability on the dirt — most likely an exotics contender.
Race 9 | Grade II New York Stakes | 1 1/4 miles turf
1. Sea Calisi
Comment: A fascinating matchup of veteran campaigners. Sea Calisi was my pick last year — finishing second to Dacita, who is entered here again — and shouldn’t be hurt by the shorter distance. Dacita should improve from her second in the Beaugay in her second race of the year. Hawksmoor is one of several that could be included in multi-race wagers in a great race.
Race 10 | Belmont Gold Cup Invitational Stakes | 2 miles turf
1. Now We Can
2. Clondaw Warrior
3. Wicklow Brave
4. St Michel
Comment: Now We Can finished second in this uber-marathon last year and had a respectable Group III marathon prep for this. Clondaw Warrior has graded stakes stateside experience and merits consideration on that alone.
Race 11 | Grade III Bed ‘o Roses Invitational | 7 furlongs
1. By the Moon
4. High Ridge Road
Comment: The top two probably would cut it for a pick 4 ticket — possibly even singling (if you have to). By the Moon is a deserving favorite, three for four at Belmont and never worse than second at Big Sandy.