Jason Beem's Thursday Column for June 8, 2023

June 8th, 2023

A good Thursday morning to you all! Writing today from Vinton, Louisiana, which I believe is most known as the home of Delta Downs! I got to stop by and watch a few Quarter Horse races at Delta from down on the apron on Wednesday night and then went upstairs to visit with my friend and colleague Don Stevens for a bit.

Fun fact about Don and I, we both grew up in the south end of the Seattle area, maybe 10 miles apart or so. Go Seahawks! But I always love when I get to see Don; he’s truly a good guy and over the years has been a phenomenal ambassador for racing and racing at Delta Downs.

Hoping that the smoky skies that have plagued the Northeast will begin to clear up for everyone up there, including, of course, for racing at Belmont Park this weekend. We went through a few cancellations because of wildfire smoke when I was announcing at Grants Pass Downs and when the air is like that, it’s just gross to be out in, let alone running races in.

The Belmont Stakes is one of the coolest races of the year for a number of reasons. Obviously, when a Triple Crown is on the line it takes on added significance, but its sheer uniqueness is part of what makes it so fun for me. I always forget until they start running just how long that run to the first turn is.

I’ve been to Belmont Park a few times and while the track looks big, it seems to look bigger once the horses are actually running and they look as small as they do. I imagine it’s a race where it’s good to have some experience riding in that race just because the mile-and-a-half distance is so rarely run there, or anywhere on dirt.

The pace of this year’s Belmont is what was giving me some fits. I can’t imagine any of the riders want a repeat of the Preakness S. (G1) and allowing National Treasure to just coast up front. We’ve seen that story with Bob Baffert runners too many times before. Seeing as Brad Cox has three entrants in the race and his best chances are both closers, I have to imagine Tapit Shoes from the inside goes for the early lead. I just don’t see what he’s doing in the race if their plan is to just take him back off the pace. Throw in the fact that Il Miracolo also seems to only win when on the lead, and I think there’s a chance that National Treasure doesn’t get away with the easy lead he had in the Preakness.

So I’m hoping for a bit of a fall-apart race, which I know isn’t exactly how the Belmont is generally talked about playing. But outside of the two Triple Crown-winning Baffert runners, most of the last 10 runnings have been won from horses who came from off of the early pace.

I think Forte is the most likely winner of the race, but I’m most intrigued by Arcangelo. We had his trainer, Jena Antonucci, on the show the other week, and her confidence in her horse was contagious.

I really thought his win in the Peter Pan (G3) was impressive, and I also thought he had a very subtle not-great trip. Certainly not as good as the horse he battled with, Bishops Bay. He was kind of in a spot between horses down the backstretch and then was geared out to the outside, where he stayed for most of the run around the big turn. His grit down the lane showed me a lot and since he’s going to be a much bigger price than Forte, let’s go with him on top.

Best of luck to everyone on Saturday! 

Jason’s Belmont Stakes Picks: 

  1. Arcangelo
  2. Forte
  3. Hit Show
  4. Angel of Empire