The Belmont Stakes is merely a day away, and the race is shaping up as one of the most intriguing non-Triple Crown chance races we've had in decades, rivaled only by Calvin Borel's personal Triple Crown chance in 2009.
With the top seven horses from the Kentucky Derby all back and a legitimate argument for each of them to win, I've decided to make a few predictions for the race.
These 10 things absolutely, positively will happen on Saturday in the 143rd Belmont Stakes. There's no possible way they won't.
Other than the fact that, most likely, most of them won't occur.
(Follow me on Twitter throughout the weekend for all the latest Belmont Stakes updates.)
Let's get this one out of the way.
You are only reading this article because you are well aware that I correctly picked Comma to the Top to run last in the Kentucky Derby and Flashpoint to run last in the Preakness. You want to know who you should not bet on, because let's be honest, I'm not going to be wrong.
So I'll tell you: Prime Cut will not win the Belmont. He won't be second, third or fourth either, unless 10 or nine or eight horses scratch.
In fact, there's only three ways Prime Cut doesn't run 12th.
First is if he scratches, because he can't run last if he doesn't run.
Second is if someone else scratches, because he can't run 12th if there are only 11 horses in the race.
Third is if I'm wrong.
And the third one most certainly won't be the case.
There are many things I like on ice, like a nice glass of Mount Gay Extra Old rum, or a nice glass of Santa Teresa 1796 rum, or a nice glass of Zafra 21-Year-Old Master Reserve rum.
But I don't like Ruler on Ice, not in a 1 1/2-mile race, not against horses who are much better than he can ever dream of being.
Lucky for him, Prime Cut is in the field, and Prime Cut is even more unlikely to get the distance than Ruler on Ice.
But Ruler on Ice can't get the distance, and he'll run second-last, beating only Prime Cut.
The two aforementioned horses, Prime Cut and Ruler on Ice, are the only horses likely to challenge Shackleford for the lead, and even then, they're not prone to desperately want to be up front.
Especially considered how long the race is, expect Jesus Castanon to slow down Shackleford and run a much more moderate first half mile than they did in the Preakness. Shackleford and Flashpoint dueled through a blazing opening quarter-mile in 22 3/5 seconds and a pretty fast half mile of 46 and 4/5 seconds.
This race will be nowhere near as quick, barring something entirely unforeseen.
Since we all know that I am never incorrect, we can safely bet that nothing unforeseen will occur.
The pace will be desperately slow.
A lot of people are saying the distance is too long for Shackleford, and it is. I won't bore you with the details for the 3,000th time.
But the distance is also too long for Belmont second-choice Nehro, who had the perfect trip in the Kentucky Derby and still could not hold on against a charging Animal Kingdom.
Nehro is bred for a 1 1/4-mile race, and the extra quarter-mile will likely be too much.
I would consider him for a lower place in the exotic wagers, but I can't see any situation where he or Shackleford could win.
In the last slide, I said the distance will prove too long for Shackleford, and that is almost universally considered the case.
But while a lot of people think he'll start to fade as they turn for home, I actually think Shackleford will show himself to have a lot more than anyone is giving him credit for.
Shackleford is rapidly improving. Just two months ago, the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Florida Derby was a bit too long. Now he probably could make it that extra sixteenth of a mile that did him in a 1 1/4 miles in the Kentucky Derby.
I expect Shackleford to remain on the lead into the final furlong on Saturday, tiring only in that final eighth of a mile. Even still, he'll remain game, and no more than four or five horses will pass him.
Expect Shackleford to yet again surprise with his tenacity and willingness to fight on much longer than anyone gives him credit for.
Of course, NBC and the horse racing industry have a vested interest to advertise the Belmont as much as possible, but call it a gut feeling that even during the broadcast, the NBC talent will continue to try to draw excitement.
There should be excitement, because this is a great, historic race with a talented field.
But there is not a Triple Crown chance, and the excitement is and should be lower.
Seriously, this is a tremendous article by Claire Novak about Tom Durkin, the former voice of the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup.
You absolutely should read it.
It won't get enough hits because it needs, I don't know, everyone in the world to read it for it to have enough hits.
There are quite a few sleeper picks, namely Master of Hounds, Santiva and Brilliant Speed, and although I like all of them, I think at least one will underperform.
The sleeper pick for the Preakness was Sway Away, and he ran a non-competitive 12th.
Of the three, I'm going to put my money on Santiva to underperform.
Santiva was my Kentucky Derby pick, and although he didn't embarrass himself, finishing sixth despite extremely long odds, he didn't completely distinguish himself either.
I think the distance will be just a bit too long for him, and although he'll be game, I think he'll finish in the back half of the field.
Yup, you read that correctly. Overwhelming and deserved favorite Animal Kingdom will not win, even though on paper he is much the best horse for this distance and with his breeding could kick away and win this race by a dozen lengths.
The reason Animal Kingdom will not win the Belmont is twofold.
First, if he wins, all of the, "oh, what could have beens" will be too loud to tolerate, and I don't want to think about that.
Second, I need him to lose, because I want to make a lot of money and I won't be able to make as much if Animal Kingdom takes the spoils.
So for those two irrefutable reasons, Animal Kingdom certainly will not win the Belmont Stakes.
I thought about making this article 10 guarantees for the Belmont. It would have been as follows:
1. Brilliant Speed will win
2. Brilliant Speed will win
3. Brilliant Speed will win
4. Brilliant Speed will win
5. Brilliant Speed will win
6. Brilliant Speed will win
7. Brilliant Speed will win
8. Brilliant Speed will win
9. Brilliant Speed will win
10. Brilliant Speed will win
After all the trouble he caught in the Kentucky Derby, Brilliant Speed is poised to take that next step up. He is bred to run forever, and even though he won't be given the opportunity to run forever, 1 1/2 miles is a pretty long way to go.
Moreover, he was quickly closing in at the end of the Derby and could have conceivably hit the board had he not been forced to go eight-wide.
Brilliant Speed was my pick before the Derby to win the Belmont, after the Derby to win the Belmont, before the Preakness to win the Belmont, after the Preakness to win the Belmont and now before the Belmont to win the Belmont.
And when he wins the Belmont Saturday afternoon, I will be vindicated.
Because he will win. I guarantee it.
(But I refuse to take any responsibility for any money you lose when he doesn't.)