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Blog - GAMBLING

Tonalist spoiled the Triple Crown when he won the Belmont Stakes. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

In the years to come, the 2014 Belmont Stakes figures to be remembered for adding another “what if” to the list of Triple Crown near-misses.

Since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, horses bidding to join him in racing’s most exclusive club have been thwarted for reasons that include a blistering pace, premature moves by a jockey, medication, injury, and, of course, a safety pin.

On Saturday, a grabbed quarter entered the mix as California Chrome suffered a cut coming of the starting gate that surely had to play some role in the two lengths that separated the Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner from the victorious Tonalist.

A larger role in the disappointing setback may have belonged to the fatigue generated by three Triple Crown races in five weeks and a total of six races overall in 2014. Yet whatever the cause, the California Chrome who finished in a dead-heat for fourth in the Belmont was a far cry from the runner who performed so brilliantly at Churchill Downs and Pimlico.

In his place, Tonalist took home top honors. His margin of victory was only a head over Commissioner, but considering it was just his fifth career start and that he was coming off a four-length win in a Grade 2 stakes at the more routine distance of a mile and an eighth, the hard-earned triumph indicates he’s a horse with a bright future who figures to get even better in the coming months.

The final time of 2:28.52 wasn’t memorable - especially since older horses ran the same distance in 2:27.13 in the Grade 2 Brooklyn earlier in the card - which raises the possibility that someone who is not in the picture now might later emerge as the star of the crop, much like Will Take Charge did a year ago. For that reason, we’ll give Tonalist only a “B” on the Hot List, hedging our bets a bit as we await the summer classics like Haskell and Travers.

Commissioner turned in a gutty effort on the front end at 28-1 odds, losing in the final strides in a tough beat for his backers. Yet in this instance the distance and pace may have worked to his benefit as he showed early speed for the first time. Back at a nine- or 10-furlong distance in his next start, he figures to have to run harder in the opening stages and may not be as effective as he was in the Belmont, so we’ll pass on assigning him a letter.

Medal Count also turned in a surprisingly strong effort in finishing third at 24.75-to-1 odds, but he, too, may have been suited by the distance and we’ll await another solid effort from him before including him on the Hot List.

Wicked Strong, who dead-heated with California Chrome for fourth, earned a spot on the Hot List in his previous two starts, but did little to impress in the Belmont. On the backstretch, it seemed as if jockey Rajiv Maragh asked for some for speed from the Centennial Farms runner to keep California Chrome pinned on the inside, but the colt was unable to provide it. He only lost by two lengths at the end with a mild late rally during his wide trip, but with five weeks rest he should have been much more competitive and we’ll wait for a vastly improved performance before jumping back on the bandwagon.

The only other horse to receive a letter was the 4-5 favorite California Chrome. Given the circumstances, he did not turn in a bad effort. With some rest and a return home to California, he should be a fresh and fit horse when he returns to the races later in the year and should be primed for a good effort in whatever West Coast stakes he targets. We’ll give him a “B.”

Elsewhere, Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve was a no-factor eighth, while Preakness runner-up Ride On Curlin bled and was pulled up.

As for betting, Tonalist dropped the most in the final three minutes as he went from 11-1 to 9.20-to-1, but since he was above 10-1 that did not qualify for a letter under the Hot List’s criteria. Instead, he earned his letter the hard way, with a victory.

Hot List horses: Tonalist (B), California Chrome (B)

Belmont Stakes Late Wagering Report

Horse No.

Odds – 3 min. to post

Final Odds

1

25

24                             

2              

4/5

4/5

3

39

40

4

8

8

5

8

8

6

33           

34

7

20           

19           

8

27           

28

9

5

5              

10           

34

34           

11

11

9

The Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap                         

The Horse of the Year may have been on display during Saturday’s extravagant $8-million day of racing at Belmont Park, and we’re not talking about a 3-year-old or a filly.

Palace Malice was simply sensational in taking the Met Mile as a heavy favorite. The winner of last year’s Belmont Stakes, a mile is not his optimal distance, yet his class showed as he rallied strongly along the inside to nail a quality rival in 2013 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents in the final sixteenth and win by a length in a quick 1:33.56.

Now No. 1 in the latest National Thoroughbred Racing Association poll and 4-for-4 this year, Palace Malice is being pointed to the Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 2, and off the “A” he received on the Hot List for his performance in the Met Mile, he’s very much the horse to beat in that $1.5-million test.

Goldencents turned in a solid effort in defeat. He looked like a winner in the stretch until Palace Malice kicked into top gear. But we’ll pass on the temptation to give him a letter because he probably will not provide much wagering value in his next race.

Instead, Romansh gets a “C” for a surprisingly strong showing while taking a big drop at the betting windows. After falling from 27-1 to 19-1, he raced just behind Goldencents most of the way and was gaining on him in the final yards, missing second by a half-length. Grade 1 company may be a bit too steep for him, but with a resume that shows Grade 3 wins in two of his three previous starts, we’ll happily back him if he faces weaker company next time.

The big disappointment was Normandy Invasion, who was 10th as the 7-2 second choice and is still searching for his first stakes win after six tries.

Metropolitan Handicap Late Wagering Report

Horse No.

Odds – 3 min. to post

Final Odds

1              

6/5

6/5                           

2

25

31

3

50

69

4

6

6

5

10

10

6

Scratched

 

7

39

48           

8

43

52

9

4              

7/2         

10           

13

10

11

50

57           

12

27

19

13

9

9

The Hot List, founded by turf writer/handicapper Bob Ehalt in 2011, blends a detailed analysis of a race with late wagering trends to pick out the horses with the best chance of running a winning race in their next start. Hot List horses are rated in four lettered categories:

A : A preferred horse to watch off his effort in the race                   
B : A secondary horse to watch off his effort in the race                                   
*C: Went down 2 or more betting notches in the final minutes of wagering and finished 1st through 3rd
*D: Went down 2 or more betting notches in the final minutes of wagering and finished 4th or worse
* - 4 or more betting notches if 11-1 or more.

For questions on the Hot List, email: nyhotlist@gmail.com

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

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