Shapazian’s Belmont picks – June 30

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The extended Independence Day weekend kicks into gear with a nine-race twilight card Friday at Belmont Park.

The Saratoga Special’s John Shapazian took some time after last weekend to be reflective upon hearing the news of trainer Mike Hushion’s pending retirement this summer.

“Most sports fan remember when Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter retired,” Shapazian said. “I’ll remember when Mike Hushion retires at the close of the Belmont meet. He’ll probably never make it to the Hall of Fame on Union Avenue, but he is in my Hall of Fame. A blue-collar trainer who packed his lunch in a brown paper bag, wore a hard hat helmet and will be missed by many at the track.”

Shapazian, who went 8-for-29 last weekend and is 92-for-261 (35.2 percent) on the season, also plans to dabble on the opening jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown this weekend.

“I almost never play Woodbine, but next Sunday is the Queen’s Plate,” he said. “Take a look at Jimmy Jerkens filly running against the boys, Holy Helena.”

So there you go. But before that here are John’s picks for Friday at Belmont, and remember, 3:05 p.m. first post. Good luck.

Race 1
STRAIGHTAWAY MAY ships in from Keeneland for Wesley Ward, has little to beat.  THIRSTY ACTOR improved in his last effort.  READ MY LIPS, newly gelded, must do better to contend.  5-1-4

Race 2
STORMY ALEXIS drops in for a tag, looks well spotted for George Weaver.  WAR CANOE draws the hedge, improved in her last with blinkers added.  PATIENCE LOVE will be the early pace setter.  7-1-3

Race 3
VASILIKA is afforded an edge, may be better than her rivals.  WONDERFUL SAVVY disappointed in an off the turf event, returns to the lawn.  WOUNDWITHHEREYES shows some breaks in her work tab.  1-7-6

Race 4
GOING STRONG was caught wide on a muddy Belmont track, drops to a new claiming low, needs to be more forwardly placed today.  PLAY BIG was sharp in his last, stretches out, will try and take them all the way.  FIELDING GOLD should be around for a minor award.  3-4-6

Race 5 
DOVECOTE flashed some promise in her debut, goes out for Juddmonte/Chad Brown, can boss these with any improvement.  FURTIVE GLANCE also makes her second start, could go well for Bill Mott.  SUBIC BAY comes off a 10-month hiatus, draws the hedge.  2-9-1

Race 6
In a wide-open scramble, ITSINTHESTARS, draws an inside post, may be closing in a field with lots of pace.   MO PROMISE makes her 2017 debut, shows a series of steady works at Saratoga, should run well today.  PINCHBECK faces winners after her maiden score.  1-12-4

Race 7
DANCING ALL NIGHT faced only four others in her maiden win but sparkled in that effort for Phipps-McGaughey.  STROMY’S SONG takes on older foes, stretches out to 8 furlongs.  DIVINE MISS GREY loved the Belmont slop in her last.  2-7-6

Race 8
HELLO DON JULIO gets a narrow margin, Michael Dilger give Jose Ortiz a leg up.  CONVERGE and uncoupled stablemate CALL PROVISION figure close for Chad Brown.  7-3-9

Race 9
LION IN WAIT missed by a neck for her initial win, attracts Javier Castellano for Tom Morley.  RAIN IN SPAIN makes her second start off the bench.  FINAL FLURRY would be no surprise.  5-9-3