Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Belmont Gold Cup Preview and Belmont Thursday-Friday Stakes Selections

Though the top racing story leading into the weekend is Justify’s bid for a Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival ensures that it is not the only one worth following.  With top-class stakes races across all ages and divisions, the weekend has established itself as American racing’s top midyear showcase, and the action begins this Thursday.

Picks and Ponderings will tackle both Friday and Saturday at Belmont this week.  In addition to fully previewing the Belmont Gold Cup here, Nicolle Neulist also provides selections and longshots for all three stakes at Belmont Park on Thursday, and all five on Friday.  A separate piece takes a horse-by-horse look at the Belmont field, and also provides stakes selections for Saturday at Belmont.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, and let’s dive into one of the precious few two-milers we have!

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Belmont Gold Cup Preview

Friday’s card at Belmont features the fourth edition one of my favourite races of the year: the Belmont Gold Cup (G3).

It’s graded for the first time this year, and it drew a deep field of 13: seven Americans, and six international horses.  It’s exciting to see how far this race has come in just four years.  The race has more proven stayers than ever before, and classier contestants as well.

In addition to a full preview of the Belmont Gold Cup, I also share my picks for all of Friday’s stakes races.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Belmont Gold Cup, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

2016 Belmont Gold Cup Preview

It’s that time of the year again — the Belmont Gold Cup.  This year marks the third running of Belmont’s two-mile turf race.  The race offers its biggest purse yet, $300,000.  It also drew its biggest field to date, thirteen horses.

A two-mile race on these shores will always be an interesting event.  We so rarely have them; as a result, few horses actually have form at the distance.  A few do, but most have to be evaluated on pace, class, and form at far tamer turf route distances like eleven or twelve furlongs.

Pace, particularly, is where this race seems quite interesting — or, more appropriately, the lack of pace.  With that preface, here are my thoughts on each horse in the field.

Selections:  My Afleet (10), Da Big Hoss (5), Now We Can (13)

Longshot:  Belisaurius (1)

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2015 Belmont Gold Cup

The Belmont Gold Cup is one of my favourite races of the year.  Though this year will only be its second incarnation, I am thrilled that it is returning to the schedule, and thrilled that it drew an eleven-horse field.  For a two-mile race, such an uncommon distance here, it is always fun to see who it draws.  This year’s field has a bit more runners with two-mile experience than last year, especially with the advent of the H. Allen Jerkens, another two-mile grass stakes at Gulfstream.  Hopefully this trend continues, and a few more classy two-milers will pop up on the calendar.

Selections:  Innovation Economy (2), Unitarian (3), Reflecting (11)

Longshot:  Morning Calm (8)

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Picks and Ponderings: Belmont weekend stakes picks!

Between me and Paul, we have the stakes races covered at Belmont this weekend at Picks and Ponderings!  I tackled the True North (GII), Belmont Gold Cup, Easy Goer, Brooklyn Handicap (GII), Jaipur Invitational (GIII), and Woody Stephens (GII).  Paul wrote about the Acorn (GI), Ogden Phipps (GI), Just a Game (GI), Met Mile (GI), and Manhattan (GI).  We both did a point/counterpoint about the Belmont Stakes, going in depth about every horse in the race.

I will have my own picks posted here for the rest of the Belmont weekend stakes sometime tomorrow.  However, head on over there, and take a look at our Belmont weekend analysis!

hooray, Belmont!

Today, the NYRA announced an expanded day of stakes races built around Belmont Stakes day.  Despite the deviation from tradition with respect to when the Met Mile is run, I can’t help but be excited about what just might be a Breeders’ Cup caliber day of racing at Belmont in early June.

However, the most surprising – and exciting – change being made isn’t happening on the day of the Belmont, but the day before.  Just last week, I had a brief conversation on Twitter with @heylaserbeam in response to Illinois horsemen’s complaints about the American St. Leger.  For those who may not be familiar, the American St. Leger is a relatively new race run at Arlington Park on International Festival of Racing day (or, maybe more familiarly, Arlington Million day).  It is a 1 11/16 mile race on the turf, first run in 2012.  Illinois horsemen were complaining, rather obviously because there are not a lot of local (or even American) horses bred to run such a distance.  As a fan, however, I was excited to see the race renewed for another year.  I enjoy watching long horse races, both because of the strategy involved and because I marvel at the stamina required to run them well.  At one point, I commented, “…though i know how absurd and unlikely this sounds, i would love to see more rich distance races, so people would consider breeding distance horses here.”  I hashtagged this comment “#pipedream”.

This year, Belmont is running a new race on Friday, June 6.  It is the $200,000 Belmont Gold Cup, being run at a distance of two miles on the turf.

Between the Brooklyn Invitational and the Belmont Stakes (both a mile and a half on the dirt), and now this, the first weekend in June is shaping up to be a bonanza for fans who enjoy long distance races.  This is exactly the thing I want to see: more major tracks hosting more long-distance races for significant purses.  The addition of the Gold Cup alone, of course, is not going to make my pipe dream a reality, but it’s a step in the right direction.

More than anything, I want the Belmont Gold Cup to be enough of a success this year that more tracks decide to card some marathon-length races.  Then, and only then, will it start occurring to more breeders on this side of the pond that breeding true distance horses might be a good idea.