Shapazian’s Belmont picks – June 16

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A successful Belmont Stakes Racing Festival in the books and now it’s time to transition into the meat of the summer with five weekends of racing remaining at Belmont Park until the circuit shifts north to Saratoga Race Course.

The Saratoga Special’s John Shapazian took in the action last week and pointed out Tapwrit’s “gutty win over a very game Irish War Cry in the Belmont Stakes,” Mike Smith’s education of the young “whipper snappers” and his “brilliant ride on Abel Tasman in the Acorn” as highlights.

Overall John went 14-for-34 for the Friday-Saturday-Sunday cards at Belmont, giving him a 79-for-212 record and 37.2 strike rate on the season.

“I’m looking forward to the weekend, but have to check out the advance weather forecast and say, ‘rain, rain, stay away,’ ” John said.

Here are John’s picks for Friday; and remember a later post time of 3:05 p.m. EDT. Good luck.

Race 1
WILDCAT BELLE drops from starter allowance company, will try to take them gate to wire.  MAMA JOYCE also takes a drop to a more realistic level, should be stalking the early leader, as will LITTLEMISSBUSINESS, going out for the Robertino Diodoro barn.  2-4-1

Race 2
FIRST APPEAL looks well spotted trying the lawn for the first time.  PAZ THE WINE figures close, Jose Ortiz riding for Graham Motion.  GRASSARLA goes for a tag, may show some improvement.  9-5-8

Race 3
THIS BIRD CAN SING showed improvement over the Belmont strip, afforded an edge.  TAPCEPTIONAL makes her second career start, steps up a notch.  FASHIONONTHESURGE takes on younger rivals in her debut.  7-2-8

Race 4
AUSSIE PRAYER was blocked in the lane in her first attempt since last summer, stretches out to 7 furlongs.  STATWITHSILVER was impressive in her last, must avoid a speed duel with WILBURNMONEY trying the turf for the first time.  4-7-8

Race 5
PREZIOSA disappointed in her last effort, timid vote in a weak field.  SPIRIT LETS HEARIT picks up apprentice Hector Diaz, would be no surprise.  PARTY MINT STAR should be part of the mix.  3-7-5

Race 6
If moved to the main track, RADIANT BEAUTY debuts for Rudy Rodriguez, sharp work June 4.  On the turf, AMAZING BELLE ran well in South Florida, makes her first attempt on the weeds.  CUCCIDATI is a well-bred filly going out for Christophe Clement.  ESCAPADE goes out for Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano up.  10-8-7-2

Race 7
Paul Pompa may have them over a barrel with an entry.  CARBON DATA, 4-year-old son of Birdstone, has lots of upside potential.  Entry mate Portando has been sharp in last few efforts, will go well if moved off the turf.  SHAMCAT and PRIZE FIGHT have to step up their game to contest for the top spot.  1A-1-10-11

Race 8
If moved off the lawn, JOSEPHINE’S MOMENT is the obvious horse to beat.  Otherwise, ACHNAHA did not take to the soft going in her last, takes on easier foes.  CHICADORO is second off the bench, figures close.  QUEEN BLOSSOM ships in from Santa Anita, draws the hedge.  9-4-6-1

Race 9
If the finale is run over the main track, SONG FOR THE SOUL has a clear advantage.  On the sod, TRES CHARMANT could not of found a softer spot for her first attempt.  ZENNA has not been seen in 10 months, may take to the grass.  HOPE’S ROAR is a career maiden making her 13th try to find the winner’s circle.  14-7-12-3