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The Belmont Stakes is Saturday, and last Monday I had this race figured out. It just looked so easy at first glance, but now one thing still confuses me.

First, the weather forecast says rain all day for the Belmont, but we know how those seven day forecasts can turn out. But if it does rain, the mud-and-slop-loving Exaggerator will be one tough horse to handle.

My concern is his jockey Kent Desormeaux, who has been in alcohol rehab the past two weeks in Utah, will come back late on Thursday to New York. Will he be ready to ride in this grueling race – mentally and physically? That’s the question and we will get the answer on Saturday.

As of Monday there are 13 entered, but we think only 10 will go to post.  Let’s take a quick look at those 10.

The always dangerous Dale Romans sends out two runners. First, Brody’s Cause with the hot riding Luis Saez in the irons who won the Blue Grass Stakes and was seventh in the Kentucky Derby. He is a deep closer and has never run fast enough to beat the likes of Exaggerator.

Romans also sends out another deep closer in Cherry Wine with Corey Lanerie riding. He finished a close third in the Blue Grass and was a fast closing second at 17-1 in the Preakness but has never run fast enough to beat Exaggerator. Both of these will need a fast early pace to set up their late run.

The man in New York, Irad Ortiz Jr., gets the ride on Creator for Steven Asmussen. This colt won the Arkansas Derby and was 13th in the Kentucky Derby; if he can run back to his Arkansas Derby victory he has a shot for a piece of the pie.

We must give respect to the connections and this bettor will never leave Ortiz out of a wager. The drawback on Creator is he is also another deep closer and will need some fast fractions up front to have a shot at the win.

Javier Castellano rides the lightly raced Destin for his main man Todd Pletcher. He was a good sixth in the Kentucky Derby and Castellano is another jock we will not toss at this track. Destin can show some very good tracking speed and will be part of the front four turning for no man’s land at the top of the stretch. He is a must use.

Joel Rosario will ride Governor Malibu for the respected trainer Christophe Clement. He was a fast closing second in the Peter Pan, has some good tracking speed, but just doesn’t look fast enough. We will respect his early speed in a race void of any. He has run three times at Belmont with two seconds and a third.

Lani, the Japanese runner who has been a terror on the track, has calmed down and has been a perfect trainee of late. He finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness. He has never won here in the States but will be making a late run with the other deep closers. He has no early speed.

Big race Mike Smith gets the call on just another deep closer, Suddenbreakingnews, whose claim to fame was winning the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park beating no one. He finished second behind Creator in the Arkansas Derby and was a fast closing fifth in the Kentucky Derby despite much trouble. He has never run fast enough to beat Exaggerator but with Mike riding we must use.

My question is why? Why a very sharp trainer like Phil D’Amato would send a horse like Wild About Deb to this race? Trevor McCarthy rides and he was on him when finishing third in the Peter Pan. He did win for fun on the slop when breaking his maiden at Santa Anita but there was little behind him. We will not be using him

Stradivari is the stablemate of Destin. This colt has some huge upside. He can show good early speed and has the best shot at beating Exaggerator, rain or shine. And we get J.R. Velaquez riding. He has been on him in all four of his starts, including his fourth place finish in the Preakness.

Exaggerator is the one to beat. In his last six starts he beat all of these and is bred to get the distance. If it rains he will be very hard to beat. The only question mark will be his jock. My thoughts are, if there were any problems he would not take a chance in a race like this riding for his brother Keith.

So how do we make our tickets out? I will use Exaggerator first and second with Stradivari and then underneath in the trifectas and superfectas. Don’t forget those dime supers, using Creator, Destin, after that it will be a free for all. Our take: 1: Exaggerator; 2: Stradivari; 3: Creator/Destin.

You can hit the “all” button in the fourth spot when punching those dime superfectas. Belmont also has 50-cent trifectas so you can go deep and toss in who you like. The racing card will be great this Saturday at Belmont so if it does rain let’s hope it’s just light as to get those turf races in.

Make those supers and as my dad “Broadway Bennie” would say, bet those lucky numbers. You never know, you could be walking around lucky and not even know it.

Richard Saber, a former director of race and sports at the famed Stardust book, is GT’s horse racing and sports handicapper. Twitter: @SabesBet. Email: [email protected]

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