War or Will, Tacitus could be vulnerable at Belmont

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There are reasons to believe the likely favorites for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes — War of Will and Tacitus — could be vulnerable.

Preakness Stakes winner War of Will had the benefit of a strong track bias (the inside was the place to be) and a perfect trip at Pimlico. Tacitus, who was placed third via disqualification in the Kentucky Derby, finished off the board in his only start at Belmont Park.

If the logical favorites fail to fire their best shots, who can pull the upset? Here are two pricey options worth considering.

Spinoff finished ahead of eventual Kentucky Derby winner Country House and War of Will when he was beaten just a half-length in the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds in March. The Todd Pletcher trainee was then parked extremely wide from post 17 in the Kentucky Derby while pressing very fast early fractions before fading over a sloppy track he may not have enjoyed. The pace scenario in the Belmont will be much softer, and getting back on dry land should help. He could be tough to catch if the others jockeys let Javier Castellano dictate the pace.

As much as the strong inside bias at Pimlico aided War of Will in the Preakness, it hurt the chances of deep closer Bourbon War. Trained by Mark Hennig, Bourbon War was outrun early as usual and was moved to the far outside to try to rally entering the far turn. He simply spun his wheels racing against the bias, while the blinkers that were added for the Preakness did not keep him closer to the early pace as hoped. For the Belmont, Hennig will remove the blinkers and has engaged Mike Smith to ride Bourbon War. If he rebounds to his winter Florida form he could be a big late threat.

Without a Triple Crown on the line, the Belmont Stakes loses some of its luster. It does appear to be another good opportunity for the horseplayers to cash a nice bet, however.

More Santa Anita changes

It has become a weekly ritual keeping up with the changes at Santa Anita during this winter and spring of discontent. Here are the developments in the last week:

• California Governor Gavin Newsom announced his support for Senate bill 469 (SB 469), a bill that authorizes the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) to suspend horse racing licenses to protect the safety of horses and riders. Under the current rules, the CHRB has to give a 10-day notice if they deem necessary the need to shut down a current race meet.

•Starting with the entries taken for this Friday at Santa Anita, trainers are now required to have their vets sign a pre-race exam form stating the horses listed on the entry sheets “are sound to the trot and I am unaware of any issues that would preclude it from safely racing.” This new requirement is in addition to pre-race exams on race day mornings by the state veterinarian.

• Director of racing Daniel Eidson was fired by Santa Anita last Thursday. Eidson, who worked for the late trainer Eddie Gregson some 30 years ago, has had a good rapport with the local horsemen and jockey agents for many years and was responsible for helping to write the condition books during the current Santa Anita meet. He was hired by Rick Hammerle, Santa Anita’s former racing secretary who was let go about a month prior to the start of the current Santa Anita winter/spring meet.

• With the current horse population in Southern California dipping from 3,200 to approximately 2,600 horses, Los Alamitos announced they would run 10 days at their upcoming thoroughbred meet instead of the scheduled 12 days. Opening day of the Los Alamitos summer thoroughbred meet will now be Saturday June 29 instead of Thursday June 27.

• As for the Breeders’ Cup staying at Santa Anita this November, this bit of news from John Cherwa’s Los Angeles Times Horse Racing Newsletter: Craig Fravel, President and C.E.O. of Breeders Cup Ltd., testified before a California assembly special meeting that the Breeders Cup was “scheduled” to be at Santa Anita.

•Not exactly a rock solid confirmation, is it?

Illinois gambling bill

On Sunday, the Illinois state senate passed a bill that would allow Arlington Park and Hawthorne in the Chicago area to operate as many as 1,200 slot machines, take betting on sporting events and operate table gaming. The bill easily passed the House of Representatives Saturday night.

No revenue from the sports betting would go into horse racing purses, but the casino opportunities could leads to purse increases that could more than double the current levels if estimations are fulfilled. The bill would also allow for a new harness track to be built within Cook County, which includes Chicago and the Northern Illinois tracks.

For a Chicago-area track to be issued a casino license, there will be stipulations that require a minimum number of racing dates, starting with 110 days the first year, 115 racing days in year two, and 120 racing days thereafter. Purses awarded to Illinois-breds would also be increased and awards would be paid to breeders of Illinois-bred runners.

Both Arlington Park and Hawthorne have struggled in recent years due to competition from tracks with slots-infused purses in nearby states. A level playing field could help revitalize horse racing in a state with a long history in the industry.

Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Santa Anita Friday Race 3: Twirling Apples (No. 3). Trainer Vladimir Cerin excels with horses coming off layoffs, and this mare has shown she runs very well fresh. She drops into a restricted claimer (non-winners of three races lifetime) and should be up close in a race with very little early pace. She looks like an early Pick Five single. 

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About the Author

Jon Lindo

Jon Lindo is a syndicated handicapper, long-time thoroughbred owner, and publisher of the Lindo Report. Jon is also a regular contributor to Race Day Las Vegas Radio show on KSHP 1400 in Las Vegas and Thoroughbred Los Angeles Radio show, heard in Las Vegas at thoroughbredla.com.

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