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Jun 02, 2006

Process of elimination for the Belmont Stakes

By: by Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor, Sports Network

Elmont, NY (Sports Network) - No Kentucky Derby winner. No Preakness Stakes winner. No Santa Anita Derby winner. And no Blue Grass Stakes winners. Even though a nice size field will run in the Belmont Stakes, most of the best known three-year-olds are missing.

Skipping the third jewel in racing's Triple Crown will be the first finishers in the Preakness Stakes. Hemingway's Key is the highest placed horse from the Baltimore race. He finished more than 11 lengths behind Bernardini.

The fact that Bernardini is being held out of the Belmont is a disgrace. His connections have a chance at securing the top spot among this year's three- year-olds. A win by Bernardini in the Belmont Stakes would have given the colt the inside track to eventually being named division champion.

The top colts and geldings set to run in the Belmont Stakes are Wood Memorial winner Bob and John, the Wood runner-up Jazil, Kentucky Derby second place horse Bluegrass Cat and the Steppenwolfer who was third in the Run for the Roses.

While the Belmont Stakes is the longest of the Triple Crown events at 1 1/2 miles, speed is a key component in winning. Of the those expected to start Bob and John appears to be the only true speed horse.

Bob and John came into the Kentucky Derby off a solid victory in the Wood Memorial where he stalked the leader took the lead at the top of the stretch and won handily.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Bob and John should be able to control the pace in the Belmont. Veteran jockey Garrett Gomez guided the colt to the win in the Wood Memorial. Let's throw out the Kentucky Derby as simply a bad race.

Jazil finished second to Bob and John in the Wood Memorial with a late rush. He also finished in a dead-heat with Brother Derek for fourth place in the Kentucky Derby. His late running style doesn't normally work in the Belmont Stakes.

Bluegrass Cat disappointed a lot of people when he was fourth in the Blue Grass Stakes and went off at 30-1 in the Kentucky Derby. Before Churchill Downs, he was favored to win four straight starts and five of his first six starts. Because finished a well beaten second to Barbaro it is difficult to know if he woke up in that race.

Steppenwolfer has been in the money in all but one of his nine career starts. He is also a late running thoroughbred who has shown more ability than Jazil. Steppenwolfer is still trying for his first stakes victory. He is the type of horse that can get the 1 1/2 miles if Bob and John is engaged in a speed duel.

Without any of the big names running in the Belmont Stakes casual horseplayers will either stay away from the race or bet lightly. Good prices should be available from a less than stellar field.

Bob and John should go off at odds between 5-1 and 8-1. He will be the horse to beat.

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