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October 21, 2014

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Vegas Play of the Day: Belmont Stakes

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Garry Jones / AP

California Chrome, with exercise rider Willie Delgado in the saddle, gallops in the rain at Belmont Park race track in Elmont, NY., Thursday, June 5, 2014.

The ideal response after losing a baseball game by more than 11 runs in the Play of the Day, which features odds from the South Point and starting $10,000 bankrolls, probably isn’t turning to horse racing.

It’s a sport where I’m mostly ignorant, but the head-to-head matchup proposition wagers are just so much fun. And since Saturday’s Belmont Stakes will be the last race of the year where the Vegas-centric options are available, I’ll fire away.

Commissioner plus-120 over Tonalist: $300 to win $360

Commissioner is my horse in the 2014 Belmont Stakes. I was hoping the option for a better matchup — perhaps against Kentucky Derby-overachiever Commanding Curve — presented itself but alas I must take what’s given.

That’s fine, because there’s value here too. Tonalist is presumably this big of a favorite because he beat Commissioner last month in the Peter Pan Stakes on this same Belmont track.

But the Belmont Stakes is bound to look much different from the Peter Pan, in which Commissioner ran second by the way. Tonalist led nearly box to wire in the Peter Pan and won’t have that luxury against the speedy field today.

He’s also stuck with the No. 11 post, which everyone in the race hoped to avoid. Commissioner projects to manage the long mile-and-a-half distance better, partly because of his lineage.

Commissioner’s bloodlines are littered with horses that won the Belmont, including a couple names even a novice would recognize like Secretariat and Seattle Slew.

Todd Pletcher, who won last year’s Belmont with Palace Malice, might be the best trainer in horseracing and counts Commissioner among his stable. Javier Castellano might be the hottest jockey in horseracing and he’s riding Commissioner.

With a bet like this, I can still root for California Chrome to pull off history. I just hope Commissioner is the first horse behind him.

Standings: Bern (29-21-1, $11,429), Keefer (24-29, $8,368), Brewer (18-27-3, $4,450)

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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