Belmont Stakes on Saturday – at Saratoga!

The Belmont Stakes at Saratoga.

It doesn’t sound right but you better get used to it for a couple of years.

With major renovations going on at Belmont Park that seem to cover just about everything on the property, the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown, will be held at Saratoga this year and next.

The traditional 1.5-mile race that is the Belmont will shorten up at Saratoga to 1.25 miles, the same distance as the Kentucky Derby.

Most of the time when there is no Triple Crown on the line, the Belmont Stakes is anticlimactic, and many times sports a weak field.

Not this year.

You’ve got the Kentucky Derby winner in Mystik Dan, the Preakness winner in Seize the Grey, and the second-place finisher from the Derby, Sierra Leone.

And Sierra Leone is your morning line favorite.

The race is 12th on an amazing Saratoga card with a scheduled post of 3:41 p.m. PDT.

Ten horses are slated to go to the post and let’s take a look at the field. The horses are listed in post-position order.

1) Seize the Grey (D Wayne Lukas trainer, Jaime Thomas jockey, 8-1): This will be the third race in five weeks, a heavy workload in this day. Won the Pat Day Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard, then wheeled back to win the Preakness two weeks later. He got an easy lead in the Preakness, and they couldn’t run him down in the mud at Pimlico that day. Doesn’t need the lead to win which is good as he won’t get it his way this go around.

2) Resilience (Bill Mott, Junior Alvarado, 10-1): Worked himself into contention mid-way through the Derby but didn’t have it when the turned for home finishing sixth, beaten seventh lengths. Showed potential with a fourth in the Risen Star, then a win in the Wood Memorial. Even his sixth in the Derby was not a bad run. Will look to sit close to the pace and get first run when they turn for home.

3) Mystik Dan (Kenny McPeak, Brian Hernandez Jr., 5-1): The Derby winner nearly pulled off the second leg of the Triple Crown but just couldn’t catch the leader in the sloppy Pimlico stretch. It is also his third race in five weeks with the question – will have enough left in the tank for the stretch run? If the Derby was five yards longer, he doesn’t win the race. Even a little less in the tank in the lane will cost him a chance to win.

4) The Wine Steward (Michael Maker, Manny Franco, 15-1): He has six career starts, winning three times and running second the other three. This is by far the toughest field he has faced but he could be a pace factor that helps set up the closers.

5) Antiquarian (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 12-1): The sixth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby ended the Derby trail but he rebounded with a close from just off the pace to win the Peter Pan May 11, beating The Wine Steward in the process. Will be a pace factor as well.

6) Dornoch (Danny Gargan, Luis Saez, 15-1): Gave this a horse a chance to hit the board in the Derby but he got shuffled back and never got there, finishing a badly beaten 10th. With half the size of the field in this start, there’s less chance for trouble, and he could be in the mix when they are heading for home.

7) Protective (Todd Pletcher, Tyler Gaffalione, 20-1): Ran third in the Wood Memorial, then in the Peter Pan. Did run second over the Saratoga dirt against straight maidens last July. Does pick up Sierra Leone’s Derby jockey, so that’s a plus. Still, will be a tremendous leap to expect anything here.

8) Honor Marie (Whitworth Beckman, Florent Geroux, 12-1): A deep closer that had a shot in the Derby but found nothing but trouble throughout the race and ended up eighth, beaten by 13-lengths. The works have been pedestrian so I’m going to have to see it in a race before I get back on the bandwagon.

9) Sierra Leone (Chad Brown, Flavian Prat, 9-5): I said right after the Derby that this would be the Belmont winner, and nothing has changed. Wound his way through most of the field in the Derby and nearly got there, losing by a nose hair. Now he will half the number of horses to pass at the same distance in the Derby. His works have been good and the one who closes from the parking lot should get an honest pace to run at here. If you get 9-5 be happy and cash your ticket.

10) Mindframe (Todd Pletcher, Irad Ortiz, 7-2): Will be an interesting one to see run. Two starts – a straight maiden and an optional claimer – had results in 13 and seven length wins. The horse he buried by 13 lengths in her first start, came back to win his next start. The connections scream contender but this is a monster step up.

Great card of stakes races

In all there are nine grade stakes race at Saratoga on Saturday, including six Grade I races with the Belmont Stakes capping off the day.

The Grade II True North kicks off the stakes run as the 4th race and a 9:31 a.m. PDT post time.

Gun Pilot, who won the Churchill Downs on Derby Day is the overwhelming favorite at 1-1.  The horse got a 101 Beyer in the race.

Next up is the Grade III Poker, a mile test on the Saratoga Turf. The morning line favorite is Casa Creed at 9-5 but right behind is Carl Spackler at 2-1.

Carl Spackler will get the support of Caddyshack fans – IYKYK!

The 6th race – 10:51 a.m. post – a 1.25-mile journey for 4-year-olds and up, is The Suburban.

Bendoog, who had been running in the Middle East until November of last year, is now in the Bill Mott barn and is the 2-1 favorite.

Todd Pletcher’s Charge It is 5-2, and Crupi – another Pletcher horse is 3-1.

The 7th race starts the procession of Grade I events with The Ogden Phipps set for a 11:36 a.m. start. Idiomatic – a Brad Cox runner – is the monster favorite in the 1-1/8-mile race at 3-5 odds. Perhaps it’s the six consecutive wins in graded stakes – the last four have all been Grade I – that has her so heavily favored.

The 8th race (12:22 p.m. post) brings The Woody Stephens, a 7-furlong sprint on the main track.

Prince of Monaco – a Bob Baffert runner that will be making his first start since early November – is the lukewarm favorite at 7-2 in what looks to be a contentious field.

The Jaipur (9th race, 1:08 p.m.) is a 5.5-furlong shootout on the turf.

There will be a field of 12 going to post with Steve Asmussen’s Cogburn the favorite at 2-1. The horse has crossed the 100 Beyer mark twice in his last three starts, including easily win in the Turf Sprint on the Derby undercard at 8-1.

A win here would make Cogburn a millionaire as he enters the race with $962,730 in career earnings.

The Met Mile is up next and is set for a 1:52 p.m. post.

At one mile for 3-year-olds and up always attracts some top runners. Last year he was third in this spot.

White Abarrio – Richard Dutrow trainer – is your 6-5 favorite. His last three starts in the United States, has produced Beyers of 106, 110, 106.

National Treasure – out of the Bob Baffert barn – is the 8-5 second choice but the horse has yet to win at the distance with a second and a third in two starts at a mile.

The penultimate stakes race is the 11ththe Manhattan – and is a 1-3/16 mile-race on the turf that draws a field of nine runners.

Chad Brown’s Program Trading, who won the Turf Classic on Derby Day, is your morning line favorite at 5-2.

By Dennis Miller