Belmont Friday 2018 picks

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The Belmont Stakes Festival kicked into gear Thursday with a trio of stakes and continues Friday with a five-pack of stakes to hopefully pad the bankroll for Saturday’s monster main event at Belmont Park.

The Belmont Friday card is always one of our favorites, a mix of stamina tests on the grass and dirt sprints for youngsters and older horses. The Grade 2 New York and Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational anchor the strong 11-race card that starts at 12:50 p.m. EDT. The first stakes of the day is the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses at 1:52.

Our merry band of five handicappers – the usual regular trio that make up the ST Handicappers, crack Kentucky correspondent John Cox and The Saratoga Special’s John Shapazian make up the group and they were unfazed by the wet weather three weeks ago in Maryland and for the most part bring decent records to the final jewel of the Triple Crown.

Shapazian leads the way with 14 winners over the first two weekends of the Triple Crown – the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs and Black-Eyed Susan and Preakness at Pimlico. Joe Clancy is second with 11 winners, three ahead of John Cox. Tom Law is fourth with seven wins and Sean Clancy trails with six.

Here are their picks for the five stakes Friday. Good luck and don’t forget to check back for Belmont Stakes Day picks. Enjoy.

Bed o’ Roses Invitational (G3). $250,000, fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, 7 furlongs. 1:52 p.m. EDT.

American Gal, Ivy Bell and Lewis Back – the first three under the wire in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff – are back with Chalon, Divine Miss Grey and Highway Star in with a chance. American Gal won last year’s Test and the Humana Distaff at the 7-furlong trip and is a neck away from being unbeaten in her four starts for Simon Callaghan.

Sean: American Gal, Lewis Bay, Ivy Bell.
Joe: American Gal, Highway Star, Chalon.
Tom: American Gal, Lewis Bay, Chalon.
John Shapazian: American Gal, Divine Miss Grey, Lewis Bay.
John Cox: Lewis Bay, Ivy Bell, American Gal

Tremont. $150,000, 2-year-olds, 5 1/2 furlongs. 2:56 p.m.

Field of seven for the first open juvenile stakes of the year on the NYRA circuit Wesley Ward – surprise, surprise – sends out the favorite in the filly Mae Never No. Daughter of No Nay Never broke her maiden at Belmont May 3, returning an amazing $17. She draws outside against first-out maiden winners for Steve Asmussen (Sir Truebadour) and Todd Pletcher (Outshine and Sombeyay). Pletcher also sends out Social Fan, who won at odds-on in his second start May 4 at Belmont.

Sean: Mae Never No, Outshine, Sir Truebadour.
Joe: Outshine, Sir Truebadour, Mae Never No.
Tom: Outshine, Mae Never No, Sombeyay.
John Shapazian: Sir Truebadour, Outshine, Mae Never No.
John Cox: Mae Never Know, Sir Truebadour, Social Fan.

True North (G2). $250,000, 4-year-olds and up, 6 1/2 furlongs. 4:42 p.m.

Amazing to think it was two years ago that Joking on the True North and then four months later he won the Grade 1 Vosburgh before going to the sidelines. He returns in this year’s very strong edition that also includes Bobby Abu Dhabi, Whitmore, Limousine Liberal, Imperial Hint and Recruiting Ready. Limousine Liberal is also entered in Saturday’s Grade 1 Met Mile and it looks like he’ll go in that spot.

Sean: Limousine Liberal, Bobby Abu Dhabi, Whitmore.
Joe: Whitmore, Imperial Hint, Bobby Abu Dhabi.
Tom: Whitmore, Bobby Abu Dhabi, Joking.
John Shapazian: Bobby Abu Dhabi, Imperial Hint, Recruiting Ready.
John Cox: Joking, Limousine Liberal, Recruiting Ready.

New York (G2). $600,000, fillies and mares 4-year-olds and up, 1 1/4 miles, turf. 5:14 p.m.

Holy Helena has thrived since switching from the main track to the grass and brings three-race win streak into the biggest test of her career against the likes of Sistercharlie, Fourstar Crook, Daddys Lil Darling and Snowy Winter. Sistercharlie ran huge off the layoff to win the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley last time out and comes in with perfect spacing of almost eight weeks. Fourstar Crook loves Belmont, she’s 5-for-6 here, and reunites with Irad Ortiz Jr.

Sean: Holy Helena, Sistercharlie, Fourstar Crook.
Joe: Holy Helena, Fourstar Crook, Sistercharlie.
Tom: Sistercharlie, Fourstar Crook, Holy Helena.
John Shapazian: Sistercharlie, Fourstar Crook, Fahan Mura.
John Cox: Fourstar Crook, Sistercharlie, Mom’s On Strike

Belmont Gold Cup Invitational (G2). $400,000, 4-year-olds and up, 2 miles, turf. 5:46 p.m.

Europeans dominated this race last year and another strong group lines up for the 2018 edition, a trio led by Call To Mind. Owned by Queen Elizabeth II, Call To Mind comes off two solid races in England going 1 1/2 miles and 1 3/4 miles. French invader Funny Kid rides two-race win streak, including last time going 1 15/16 miles in a Group 3 at Longchamp. Nessy carries the flag for the U.S., fresh off a victory in the 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano.

Sean: Funny Kid, Nessy, Rocketry.
Joe: Postulation, Call To Mind, Nessy.
Tom: Funny Kid, Nessy, Canessar.
John Shapazian: Funny Kid, Nessy, Call To Mind.
John Cox: Rocketry, Nessy, Call To Mind