June 7, 2008

WILL THE SLEEPING GODS LIE?:

Big Brown: Not a gods-on favorite: History suggests brash Dutrow will be foiled somehow (JIM O'DONNELL, 6/06/08, suntimes.com )

[G]onsider the last three Triple Crown winners: Secretariat (1973) was chestnut Camelot, a living, breathing Rx for a nation on the threshold of a foundation-shaking Watergate summer. Seattle Slew (1977) was a majestic blur -- wondrous fanfare for and from the common man. One year later, Affirmed (1978) streamed resolute and invincible, a whatever-it-takes descendant of American high from John Wayne to ''Rocky'' to Ditka-at-the-gate.

Now comes Big Brown. On paper, on video, he eminently deserves his morning-line status as 2-5 favorite in Saturday's dance with history. Thus, the public choices at point of punch are very simple:

• • Does a Belmont watcher bet $2 to win on Big Brown and keep the souvenir ticket?

• • Or does a Belmont pirate trawl deep and try to beat him?

All recent Belmont history suggests Big Brown will be beaten. How it will happen and who will do it will be unveiled by the gods on Saturday. The logical choices to pop the upset are Macho Again, Denis of Cork, Casino Drive, Tale of Ekati and Anak Nakal. All five possess one or more of the three basic characteristics of most contemporary Belmont upsetters: 1. They won their last race; 2. They ran powerfully in the Preakness; and/or 3. They ran respectably in the Kentucky Derby.

Of the five, the two most compelling are Casino Drive and Tale of Ekati. Casino Drive is the Japanese-based colt who made a smashing debut in the United States four weeks ago when he blasted to victory in the Peter Pan at Belmont. But he also benefitted from superb inside stalking position in that prep, made possible by speedball stablemate Spark Candle. He will attempt to become the first 3-year-old to win the Belmont off fewer than three career starts since 1895.

The greatest plus of Casino Drive may be his dam, the Deputy Minister mare Better Than Honour. She has produced the last two Belmont winners: the filly Rags to Riches last year and Jazil in 2006.

As for Tale of Ekati, he finished a well-beaten fourth after a bothered trip inside in the Kentucky Derby. But he was also 2-for-2 at Belmont as a 2-year-old and is the only starter with multiple scores at the Long Island oval. Additionally, he is trained by the canny and conservative Barclay Tagg, whose Funny Cide was denied a Triple Crown in a sloppy 2003 Belmont by Empire Maker.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 7, 2008 9:03 AM
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