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Ahh, the Belmont Stakes!

Since I first started going to the races at lowly Waterford Park back in the 60’s, the main thing all the grizzled daily bettors would talk about is pace makes the race.

It is as true today as it has always been – except for very tough horses that can stand the heat and very good ones that can close into a soft or no pace.

So how will the pace affect this year’s running of the Belmont Stakes?

In the era between the late 70’s and the early 90’s the horse that was leading after the first mile had the best shot at winning this 1½ mile race. Since then things have taken a little change.

Only two of the last 19 winners have had the lead after a mile. One of those winners was the great Point Given. The other, Da’Tara, basically won by default, getting an easy lead after the odds on Big Brown went bad and going wire-to-wire at a big price.

In this, the 143rd edition of the Belmont Stakes, we have the outstanding speed horse Shackleford and Animal Kingdom – winners of the first two jewels in the Triple Crown.

Shackleford almost pulled a wire-to-wire job in the Kentucky Derby and won the Preakness sitting just off the pace and getting the jump to hold off Derby winner Animal Kingdom half a length.

The only other horse with any early speed in the Belmont is Stay Thirsty who’s gone backwards after his win in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. His main rider Robert Dominguez is out; hot riding Javier Castellano is in, but the early foot speed of Shackleford can’t be matched.

Mucho Macho Man who again lost a shoe in the Preakness will get new ones and pick up Dominguez who knows Belmont as good as anyone, having once won six races in a day at the famed New York track.

If this horse still has anything left after a tough season, Dominguez will squeeze every bit of it out of him, but I don’t think so. Macho has shown some early speed in the past but that was against lesser animals.

The only other horse in here with any kind of early speed is Harlan’s Hello and he has not been confirmed. If he does run, he has little or no shot at keeping up with Shackleford.

So the pace says turning for home Shack will be on top and the other main contenders will try to run him down.

This race is a replay of the Kentucky Derby with the same main contenders. I believe if you bet the Belmont like the Derby you will cash!

Brilliant Speed will have no problem getting this distance with jockey Joel Rosario, who will be heading over the pond to ride in the Royal Ascot meet for trainer Wesley Ward.

Rosario will give this guy a good ride and I think he has a shot at a piece, especially if the track is not playing to the speed. How the track comes up is another thing we must watch.

Animal Kingdom is one tough colt, who has three wins and three seconds from six lifetime starts. AK is a must use first and second. I see him laying a little closer to the pace this time as he can’t let the Shack get too big a jump turning for home.

The colt I will be taking my shot on at what I think will be a good price is Master Of Hounds who we haven’t heard a whisper about since his fifth place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Aidan O’Brien would not fly him back here from Ireland thinking he didn’t have a big shot at winning.

I will be using the Master in the first and second spots also.

Nehro, second in the Kentucky Derby, took a needed breather after that race as that was his fourth straight big effort. He will again make his run and is a must use in the exotics.

So here is how I will be betting this race. I’ll use Animal Kingdom and Master Of Hounds first and second with Shackleford, Nehro and Brilliant Speed. I will make a six-horse dime super box and toss in Mucho Macho Man as he could pick up a piece.

I will then make a tri box with Shackleford, Animal Kingdom, Nehro and Master Of Hounds. I will key Animal Kingdom first and second with my top three, key Master Of Hounds first and second with my top three and make an exacta and tri box with Shack, Animal Kingdom and Master of Hounds.

The good news in this year’s running of the Belmont is Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” returns after last year’s debacle. Also the great Sam the Bugler will perform “God Bless America” and we thank the Lord for that.

Get all my official picks for the Belmont this Friday on and don’t forget to subscribe to

I will be covering the entire Del Mar meet, which is right around the corner, and also doing some Saratoga selections this summer.

Good racing and good luck on the Belmont.

Saber’s strategy

Six horse dime super box: Animal Kingdom, Master Of Hounds first and second with Shackleford, Nehro, Brilliant Speed and Mucho Macho Man.

Tri box: Shackleford, Animal Kingdom, Nehro and Master Of Hounds. Key Animal Kingdom first and second with my top three. Key Master Of Hounds first and second with my top three.

Exacta and tri box: Shackleford, Animal Kingdom, Master of Hounds.

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