<
>

Crowning Belmont picks

Every spring, horse racing is presented by mainstream media members, most of whom probably don't know which end of a horse goes around the track first, as a sport in trouble.

How's this for trouble:

1. Record Kentucky Derby crowd.

2. Gigantic Preakness crowd in the rain.

3. Huge Derby TV ratings that relegate the top games of most other sports to hindsight.

Judged from the top, horse racing is in great shape. And what sport isn't measured by its best effort? How many people are at a D-League basketball game, 75? So few that you can hear everybody cuss?

It's the lowest minor leagues of horse racing that some see as a premonition of the end of the world. The bottom of horse racing often features old jockeys riding slow horses around empty seats in rusty facilities.

Here's why: At the lowest level of horse racing, the tracks have tapped into slot machine money and don't need large crowds. People equal maintenance expense. So stay home during the live season. We'll see you on Triple Crown and Breeder's Cup days. And the horse players don't need to go to the cheap live races. Online bookie joints give you money to play through your computer. So why go? Minor league horse racing probably looks slightly worse than it is. Look at the purses: pets routinely running for $20,000.

The minors are about what you would expect of any sport, lucky to be up and running.

The 147th Belmont Stakes field

1. Mubtaahij (10-1): Ten-to-one to run third?
2. Tale of Verve (15-1): Just filler.
3. Madefromlucky (12-1): Just beat Frammento here.
4. Frammento (30-1): A Nick Zito sighting.
5. American Pharoah (3-5): Has been blamed for winning.
6. Frosted (5-1): Odd second morning line choice.
7. Keen Ice (20-1): Caboose contender.
8. Materiality (6-1): A trendy horse who can run.

This looks like a two-horse race, Pharoah and Materiality. Frosted will draw some money because he finished ahead of Materiality in the Kentucky Derby, and because gamblers need money.

It's official: The entire 2015 Triple Crown series has lacked early speed.

Only the three bigs can move it out of the gate here. It's possible to break bad in an eight-horse field at a mile and a half. So Pharoah can't sleep on the start. Position A would be staying second most of the way around the track.

Pharoah is the only one who can just bust it out of the gate and win.

Belmont picks

1. American Pharoah
2. Materiality
3. Frosted
4. Madefromlucky