Shapazian’s Belmont picks – June 2

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The serious countdown is on and there’s only one weekend to go until the final jewel of the 2017 Triple Crown goes down at Belmont Park.

John Shapazian continues to sharpen his pencil and hone his handicapping skills in advance of the big weekend – and Saratoga down the road – and presents his selections for the first of three weekend cards below. First post Friday is 3:05 p.m. EDT.

The Saratoga Special’s leading handicapper looked at last weekend’s near washout as survival and still managed to pick 15 winners from the 38 races, a strike rate of 39 percent. Overall for his Belmont picks this year John is 57-for-150, a 38 percent win rate.

“Let’s hope for a fast/firm racetrack this weekend,” Shapazian said this week. The forecast looks somewhat cooperative, with thunderstorms in the mix Friday, mostly sunny skies Saturday and a chance for showers Sunday. But enough with the weather, here are John’s picks for Friday, June 2. Good luck.

Race 1
WHAT A CATCH debuts for Todd Pletcher, shows a series of steady drills.  FREUDIAN FLIP flashed speed, draws Javier Castellano for Mike Maker.  MENTALITY goes for Wesley Ward, adds Lasix.  6-3-7

Race 2
SUNSET RIDGE stretches out after her maidens score, sharp works at Saratoga.  THREE EIGHTY EIGHT appeared to wake up over the Belmont strip after several dull efforts at Aqueduct.  SHIMMERING MOON goes turf to dirt for Mike Hushion, also stretches out, the one to catch.  4-3-6

Race 3
FULL BATTLE ships in from South Florida and moves to the Linda Rice barn, gets a seven-pound weight allowance, will be closing.  THE DONALD PROBLEM has shown modest improvement in his prior races, goes out for underrated connections and might light up the tote board.  DOUBLE RAINBOW adds Javier Castellano, adds blinkers, goes turf to dirt, drops in class.  9-2-4

Race 4
HOLIDAYS SARATOGA comes off two dull efforts, drops in for a tag, slight edge.  CITY SECTION just missed at this level in last ,would be no surprise.  THRICE must overcome a tough outside post position, has shown some ability.  4-3-12

Race 5
THEATERINTHEROUND, a well-bred filly goes out for Chad Brown, could be better than these.  PIQUET adds Lasix after a near miss in debut.  SUGARILLE had an adventurous trip in last, makes her second start after a year’s layoff.  2-6-7

Race 6
GET JETS is the obvious horse to beat, can boss these.  POSHSKY always puts in a strong performance.  PERFORMANCE BONUS disappointed in his last effort, must improve.  7-1-9

Race 7
CONQUEST SO TRUE ships in from the west coast, looks well spotted.  JCS AMERICAN DREAM had traffic problems in her last race, figures close.  FLICK OF AN EYE goes out for Danny Gargan, will be an early pace factor.  7-1-4

Race 8
GLORY TO KITTEN draws the rail, gets Irad Ortiz Jr., is the one to beat in an 11-furlong marathon.  FLATTERMEFABULOUS has shown speed at times, maybe the pace setter is she gets an aggressive ride from Manny Franco.  GRATEFUL takes on older, has to improve to be a factor.  1-5-4

Race 9
O CAPTAINMYCAPTAIN, a firster by Honor and Serve, faces a weak group of state breds.  WONDERMEISTER showed improvement on the lawn.  HONOR AND PLEASURE will set the pace and may not look back.  10-3-5