Noel’s Weekend Winners: ‘Belmont at the Big A’ Exacta Plays

Welcome to Noel Michaels’ Weekend Winners, the place to go for weekend best bets and spot plays from veteran handicapper and tournament-play pioneer Noel Michaels. Check back every week for a couple of highlighted selections designed to help you cash a few bets and make some money.

Noel’s selections have been featured just about everywhere horse racing picks can be found, including in print in the Daily Racing Form, The HorsePlayer Magazine and American Turf Monthly, online at, and, from the paddock on-track at Arlington International Racecourse, and on the air on HRTV, TVG, NYC OTB Extra, NYRA’s Talking Horses, and on broadcast TV on WAVE-3 Louisville, ABC KOLO-8 in Reno, Nevada, and channel 72 Long Island Cablevision.

Belmont at the Big A, Race 6, $95,000 maiden special weight, post time 3:35 p.m. ET

In this maiden race for 2-year-old filles, #3 Padma had the best-looking career debut of any of the horses in this race who’ve already run, finishing second in a seven-horse field at Saratoga. In a race ruled by a runaway winner. Padma was clearly second best, six lengths ahead of the third-place horse for trainer Bill Mott. These Godolphin-owned youngsters are often not asked for their best until their second time out, and it wouldn’t take a lot, if any, improvement for Padma to beat this bunch based on her speed figure, which was already tops of the horses in this race.

With Padma sitting at 9-5 on the morning line, you will have to look elsewhere for value in the exactas, and that value can be found with #6 Royal Poppy who is 12-1 odds on the morning line and can certainly bump up the payout when used with the favorite. Royal Poppy made her debut last time with a sixth-place finish at Saratoga but has a lot of room for improvement here with a better start. In her debut, Royal Poppy stumbled her way out of the gate to break last when wanting to show speed, then was used to rush up to press the pace and was emptied out late due to those early efforts. With a better start, Royal Poppy will go much faster and much further today.

The Play: Box #3 Padma and #6 Royal Poppy in the exacta. Also, make a side bet on Royal Poppy to win.

Belmont at the Big A, Race 10, $1,000,000 Caesars Jockey Club Derby Invitational Stakes, post time 5:45 p.m. ET

After a tough trip cost #3 Nations Pride the win in the Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational, he wasted no time coming back to make amends in the Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational with a 1 ¾-length win over a comparable field. The stretch from 1 ¼ miles at Belmont Park to 1 3/8 miles at Saratoga also worked in this horse’s favor, and the stretch to 1 ½ miles here at Aqueduct should only help matters even more as Nations Pride projects to be a legitimate favorite with Frankie Dettori crossing the pond to take the mount for trainer Charlie Appleby.

Many bettors will go toward #1 Classic Causeway to round-out the exactas after that horse scored the upset win over Nations Pride in the Belmont Derby, as the distances get longer it gets unlikelier that Classic Causeway will pull-off another upset. Instead, the horse with the best upset chance in this race, or at least the best chance to land in the exactas along with the favorite, may be #4 The Grey Wizard, trained by Graham Motion, who will be making his third start stateside after arriving from Ireland. Bad starts have hindered The Grey Wizard in both outings so far, but the fourth-place finish as a new gelding last time out at Saratoga is what points this horse out as an upset threat. In that race, he broke poorly to trail in a 12-horse field and then rallied despite a slow pace to lose by only 2 ¼ lengths. More distance, more pace, and perhaps a better start could all result in a better result for The Grey Wizard.

The Play:  Bet an exacta box in the Caesars Jockey Club Invitational with #3 Nations Pride and #4 The Grey Wizard.