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Odds and Picks at Belmont Park June 20: Grade 1 Acorn, Jaipur, Woody Stephens & More

Dave Friedman

by Dave Friedman in Horse Racing News

Jun 18, 2020 · 10:21 AM PDT

Southwest Stakes
Jockey Luis Saez rides Essential Quality to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile horse race at Keeneland Race Course, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
  • Saturday’s Belmont Stakes card in New York is loaded with high-quality races
  • It is possible the best three-year-old in the country is running in the Acorn Stakes, not the Belmont
  • Where is the best betting throughout the day Saturday in New York?

The feature race on Saturday, and the biggest race thus far in 2020 is the Belmont Stakes. However, as tends to be the case in horse racing, when there is a huge feature event, the undercard is very strong too. The Grade 1 Acorn Stakes features Kentucky Oaks favorite Gamine, while The Jaipur Stakes and Woody Stephens Stakes are also excellent.

It is a Belmont Stakes unlike any other. Because of COVID-19 the timing and distance has changed, and no fans are allowed. However, the day is equally as grand with good racing from 11:45 am Eastern until almost 7:00 pm.

Gamine is a heavy favorite in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes. Twice in the last three years the Kentucky Oaks winner has won the Acorn, and both Abel Tasman and Monomoy Girl turned into terrific older mares. Because of the timing this year, the Acorn in June and Kentucky Oaks in September, if Gamine continues to impress, could she pass on the Oaks and run in the Derby?

Let’s look at the Acorn field and see who can make things difficult on Gamine, and while we’re at it take a glance at some other strong events on the slate.

2020 Acorn Stakes Odds

Horse Odds
Gamine +100
Casual +250
Perfect Alibi +400
Lucrezia +600
Glass Ceiling +2000
Pleasant Orb +2000
Water White +2000

Odds taken June 18

Top Candidates

While it is true that Gamine has never faced upper echelon competition, her two races have been ultra-impressive.

As a huge favorite in her debut at Santa Anita, she overwhelmed her competition, and then put together a gutty win digging in down the stretch to beat a solid field at Oaklawn Park on May 2. A $1.8 million purchase, she is trained by Bob Baffert and has all the makings of the next great filly.

If you think that Gamine needs to prove something against a tougher class of horse before plunking down your money at short odds, perhaps Perfect Alibi is more your style. She has been off since the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies in November, but last year won two grade one races.

With three wins in six career races, Perfect Alibi could be rusty since she hasn’t raced since November, but she also should be stronger making her three-year-old debut. She needs to run faster than she has to beat Gamine, but her races as a two-year-old suggest that is possible.

In the same vein as Gamine is the lightly raced Casual. She is two for two in her career and has posted solid speed figures in each race. Trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Rafael Santana, there will be some value available on this pretty good looking but nearly as hyped lightly raced filly.

The Bet

Gamine is far and away the most likely winner, but earning pennies on the dollar isn’t great fun or a great bet. If you single her in a Daily Double or Pick 3, 4, 5 sure, but betting to win, we’re going with Perfect Alibi. She had a strong two-year-old season and Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse is good with horses off of long layoffs.

Sunday’s Other Stakes Races

Jaipur Stakes — Eight older horses sprinting on the turf and Stubbins seems well situated to run a strong race. He was fourth in the Breeders Cup Turf Sprint in November and came back to run well, finishing third in the Grade 3 Daytona at Santa Anita last month.

Trainer Doug O’Neill has the four-year-old second off a layoff and Stubbins should appreciate the extra half-furlong today. Texas Wedge also is coming out of the Daytona where he finished fourth, and if he likes the increased distance could be a factor. Classy Pure Sensation will be near the lead and someone will have to run down the 14-time winner who can top $2 million in career earnings in this race.

Woody Stephens Stakes — Usually this seven-furlong race for three-year-olds is for those who decided the Triple Crown distances are too far, or the horses were a step below that caliber. This year it could be used as a Kentucky Derby prep race. Of the five horses entered Mischevious Alex looks strong as he seeks a fourth straight win and third in a graded stakes race. Asmussen and Santana step up in class with the impressive Echo Town who may offer value.

Wonder Again Stakes — Sweet Melania headlines a field of five three-year-old fillies going a mile on the turf. Sweet Melania finished third in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf in November and is making her three-year-old debut in this one. Selflessly was fifth in the same race and has not run since.

Antoinette and Highland Glory are the two freshest horses, and though Antoinette hasn’t won this year, her third-place finish on Arkansas Derby Day in a stakes race at Oaklawn Park is pretty strong following a solid effort in Grade 2 event in New Orleans.

Pennine Ridge Stakes — Decorated Invader is the only one of the seven three-year-olds going a mile on the turf to win a graded stakes race. He captured the Grade 1 Summer Handicap at Woodbine in September, turned around and finished fourth in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf, and this year won his debut in a stakes race at Gulfstream Park. Among the other contenders, Proven Strategies is running well, should be near the lead, and was impressive finishing second behind Gufo at Gulfstream Park last time out.

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