Esquire Network's HORSEPLAYERS Picks: Met Mile and Belmont Stakes

Rotondo, Sr. shown here after 2008 Belmont Stakes Superfecta score!

Met Mile and Belmont Stakes analysis from the "King of the Belmont," Peter Rotondo, Sr.:

THERE'S ENOUGH EARLY PACE IN HERE INCLUDING GOLDENCENTS, MORENO, BROADWAY EMPIRE, AND MEGA LONGSHOT SCARLY CHARLY TO SET IT UP FOR A CLOSER IN THIS GR 1 EVENT. MY CHOICE IS LISTED ON THE ML @ 30-1 #7) CAPO BASTONE: LAST YEAR HE WON THE VERY PRESTIGIOUS 7F GRI, KINGS BISHOP @ SARATOGA GOING AWAY FROM WAY OFF THE PACE. HE IS CAPABLE ON ANY GIVEN DAY TO RUN A HUGE ONE AND WITH HIS FAVORABLE POST AND AT HUGE ODDS, I WILL TAKE A SHOT FOR HIM TO UPSET THIS VERY GOOD FIELD.

9) NORMANDY INVASION: HE IS 2 FOR 2 LIFETIME GOING A ONE MILE TURN. IN HIS 4YR OLD DEBUT @ GP HE DREW AWAY FROM HIS OPPONENTS HANDILY IN A VERY BRISK 1:33 FLAT ALBEIT VS MUCH LESSER COMPETITION. IN HIS LATEST START, HE FINISHED 2ND BEST TO THE HEAVILY FAVORED PALICE MALICE IN A ROUTE RACE WHILE RECEIVING 6 LBS IN HIS FAVOR. GETS 8 LBS TODAY WHILE BEING FAVORABLY POSTED HERE AND ALWAYS RUNS EXTREMELY WELL FRESH. BEEN TRAINING ON THE DEEP OKLAHOMA TRACK @ THE SPA AND WILL BE A DANGEROUS FOE.

1) PALICE MALICE: OBVIOUSLY HARD TO FAULT AS HE HAS WON ALL 3 OF HIS 2014 STARTS WITH BEYERS OF 103, 114, AND 113 RESPECTIVELY. HE LOVES THE BELMONT MAIN TRACK AND THE ONE TURN MILE YET HE DRAWS THE DREADED RAIL IN THIS 12 HORSE FIELD AND TOTES HIGHWEIGHT OF 124 LBS. THIS JUST MIGHT BE ENOUGH TO COMPROMISE HIS CHANCES AT ODDS OF PROBABLY 3-5.

8) DECLAN'S WARRIOR: LISTED AT 30-1, HE FINISHED ALMOST 10 LENGTHS BEHIND PALICE MALICE ON 5/14. HE USUALLY PROVIDES AN HONEST EFFORT AND WITH HIS FONDNESS FOR THE COURSE HAVING 2 WINS AND 2 SECONDS IN 4 CAREER STARTS @ BELMONT, IS CAPABLE OF EARNING A MINOR AWARD.

BELMONT STAKES

9) WICKED STRONG: 2 RACES BACK WICKED STRONG EARNED A CAREER HIGH BEYER OF 104 BY WINNING THE WOOD MEMORIAL GOING 1 1/8 MILES @ THE BIG A. THE COLT DIDN'T FARE TOO WELL IN THE DERBY FINISHING 4TH BY 5 3/4 TO CALIFORNIA CHROME BUT WAS HAMPERED BY AN EXTREMELY WIDE POST (19), STUMBLED @THE START, WAS INVOLVED IN BUMPING INCIDENTS AND ENCOUNTERED TRAFFIC BUT NONETHELESS DID FINISHING WILLINGLY. THE COLT HAS HAD 5 WEEKS TO RECOVER AND HAS BEEN TRAINING BRILLIANTLY ON HIS HOME TRACK. WICKED STRONG IS ALSO BRED VERY WELL BEING SIRED BY HARD SPUN AND BEING OUT OF A CHARISMATIC MARE. JIMMY JERKENS IS HIS CONDITIONER AND IS THE SON OF HALL OF FAMER ALLEN JERKENS. WOULD BE A GREAT FATHER'S DAY GIFT TO HIS 85 YR OLD DAD!!

8) COMMISSIONER: HE IS THE HORSE I FEAR THE MOST. THIS HORSE HAS THE LOOK OF YOUR TYPICAL ' GRINDER.' THOSE TYPES USUALLY WIN THE BELMONT STAKES, THEY ARE NOT BLESSED WITH EARLY SPEED NOR DO THEY COME FROM FAR BACK IN A RACE. THEY STALK AND SLOWLY WEAR THEIR OPPONENTS DOWN WHICH IS A MAJOR PLUS IN SUCH A LONG RACE. HE IS ROYALLY BRED FOR A 1 1/2 AS HIS SIRE AP INDY, HIS GRANDSIRE, SEATTLE SLEW, AND HIS DAM'S SIRE TOUCH GOLD ARE FORMER BELMONT STAKES WINNERS. THE 3 YR OLD IS TRAINED BY TODD PLETCHER AND RIDDEN BY LAST YEAR'S ECLIPSE AWARD WINNING JOCKEY JAVIER CASTELLANO.

2) CALIFORNIA CHROME; THIS COLT IS ON A 6 RACE WIN STREAK DATING BACK TO DEC, 2013 INCLUDING OF COURSE THE DERBY AND PREAKNESS. NOTE THAT 4 OF THOSE 6 WINS WERE WON WITH RELATIVE EASE YET BOTH IN THE DERBY AND PREAKNESS ALTHOUGH A CLEAR CUT WINNER WAS ACCOMPLISHED BY A DRIVING FINISH IN THE STRETCH TO THE WIRE.

1 1/2 MILES IS UNKNOWN TERRITORY FOR ALL THE ENTRANTS BUT 11 HORSES OF EQUAL CALIBER OF CALIFORNIA CHROME COULDN'T SEAL THE DEAL IN THE PAST 36 YEARS SO MY QUESTION IS THIS: IS CALIFORNIA CHROME IS AS GOOD AS THE LAST 3 TRIPLE CROWN WINNERS: SECRETARIAT, SEATTLE SLEW AND AFFIRMED? LET'S SEE IF HE IS WORTHY TO JOIN THESE AFOREMENTIONED AND THE 8 OTHERS.

Peter Rotondo, Sr. is a lifelong racing and horseplayer. He retired from the "real world" in 1997 to become a full-time horseplayer. In 2014, he was a cast member of Esquire Network's reality series, HORSEPLAYERS. Sr. likes italian food, Fox News, and winning photo finishes! Peter has also picked 20 of the last 45 Belmont Stakes winners. He is the self proclaimed "King of the Belmont Stakes!" and prefers to write all CAPS.