Epicharis adds international intrigue to Belmont Stakes

The Grade I, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes failed to attract both the Derby and Preakness winners, but the 2017 cast for the oldest jewel in the Triple Crown is a solid one. There are several interesting runners in this field of 12, many of whom will make their Triple Crown series debut, or in the case of EPICHARIS, their United States debut. Post time for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, the 11th race of the day, is 6:37 p.m. EST. This is just one of many big races at Belmont this Saturday, so be sure to study carefully if you’re playing FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!

#11 EPICHARIS (4-1), a Japanese-bred, figures prominently in this year’s Belmont as he makes his stateside debut. His latest effort was a game runner-up finish in the UAE Derby, and prior to that he won Japan’s prestigious Hyacinth Stakes (his fourth victory in four career starts to that point). He’s expected to flash early speed, which could give him a tactical advantage against a field of mostly mid-pack and late-closing runners. Christophe Lemaire, who’s piloted EPICHARIS in all five of his career starts, will ship in to ride. There have been reports that he’s battling lameness, but he’s passed all veterinary examinations thus far.

#12 PATCH (12-1) has recent history and pedigree on his side. Six of the last 12 winners of the Belmont ran in the Kentucky Derby and skipped the Preakness, as PATCH did this year. His trainer, Todd Pletcher, has two Belmont wins on his résumé and jockey John Velazquez has two as well. PATCH is bred to get the distance as he’s by Union Rags, the winner of the 2012 Belmont, and is fast enough based on his two efforts prior to the Derby (a Gulfstream maiden win and a runner-up effort in the Louisiana Derby). PATCH is likely to be an underlay due to the attention he’s gained from having only one eye, but he has a legitimate chance to win the Triple Crown’s final jewel.

#8 SENIOR INVESTMENT (12-1) burst onto the Triple Crown scene when he flew home for third in the Preakness. That finish came despite a six-wide trip and a steady on the far turn. Senior Investment seems to get better each time he adds ground, so this late-runner looks well-spotted here. Channing Hill will have the assignment for Ken McPeek, who has won the Belmont once before (Sarava, 2002).

Favored IRISH WAR CRY (7-2) had no obvious excuse to fade as he did in the Kentucky Derby. He’ll probably attract the local money having won New York’s biggest Derby prep, the Wood Memorial, two starts ago as well as the money of those trying to recoup their losses from the “Run for the Roses.” He is not for me.

The play: $2 exacta box 8/11/12, $4 win 12 ($16)

DFJ analysis: Paco Lopez doesn’t have a mount in the Belmont but he’ll be active on a stakes-laden undercard. He rides a live longshot in Florida Fabulous in the Acorn, then gets aboard 5-1 Stormy Liberal in the Jaipur. His best mounts of the day include Dickinson in the Just A Game and Sharp Azteca in the Met Mile.

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