A LOOK AT the important races at Belmont Park today:

True North Handicap

Belmont Park (Race 6) - post 2:56, Grade II, $250,000, 6 furlongs, 3YOs and up

1. Saint Daimon, jockey Jeffrey Sanchez, odds 30-1

2. Thor's Echo, jockey Garrett Gomez, odds 7-2

3. Storm in May, jockey Javier Castellano, odds 50-1

4. Abraaj, jockey Alan Garcia, odds 5-1

5. Suave Jazz, jockey Ramon Dominguez, odds 12-1

6. Council Member, jockey Jorge Chavez, odds 20-1

7. Benny the Bull, jockey Edgar Prado, odds 4-5

8. Man of Danger, jockey John Velazquez, odds 10-1

Benny the Bull was another of those great private purchases that ended up in Rick Dutrow's barn. Has won two Grade I stakes in his last three starts and will roll in the stretch. Thor's Echo was the sprint champ in 2006, but has not raced in 14 months. Man of Danger may be lone speed, but will have to hold off some big-time closers.

DJ's picks: 1. Benny the Bull, 2. Thor's Echo. 3. Man of Danger.

The Just a Game

Belmont Park (Race 7) - post 3:36, Grade I, $400,000, 1 mile (turf), 3YOs and up, fillies and mares

1. Lady of Venice, jockey Edgar Prado, odds 4-1

2. Spenditallbaby, jockey Julien Leparoux, odds 30-1

3. Bit of Whimsy, jockey Javier Castellano, odds 4-1

4. Ventura, jockey Garrett Gomez, odds 10-1

5. Criminologist, jockey John Velazquez, odds 9-2

6. Forever Together, jockey Ramon Dominguez, odds 30-1

7. Bayou's Lassie, jockey Robby Albarado, odds 5-1

8. Sharp Susan, jockey Kent Desormeaux, odds 15-1

9. Them There Eyes, jockey Jose Espinonza, odds 20-1

10. Vacare, jockey Corey Nakatani, odds 3-1

Vacare has raced eight times with six wins, a second and a third. She has not run since October, but came off the bench last spring with a winning effort. Criminologist has won five of six, coming with a strong run every time. Bayou's Lassie caught a race with no pace on Derby Day and held off the terrific Dreaming of Anna. Might get loose in tepid fractions again.

DJ's picks: 1. Vacare. 2. Criminologist. 3. Bayou's Lassie

The Acorn

Belmont Park (Race 8) - 4:16, Grade I, $250,000 1 mile, 3YO fillies

1. Zaftig, jockey John Velazquez, odds 3-1

2. Indian Blessing, jockey Garrett Gomez, odds 1-1

3. Game Face, jockey Eibar Coa, odds 5-2

4. Dance Gal Dance, jockey Rajiv Maragh, odds 20-1

5. Golden Doc A, jockey Kent Desormeaux, odds 6-1

Indian Blessing finally got caught after winning her first five starts, but the filly that caught her (Proud Spell) came back to win the Kentucky Oaks. After a 3-month layoff, with blinkers off, Indian Blessing may not bust out of the gate and lead all the way. But she will run hard. Game Face has never been worse than third in six starts and gets her biggest test so far. Zaftig's last out was so much better than anything she had done before, you wonder if it was real. This race will tell.

DJ's picks: 1. Indian Blessing. 2. Game Face. 3. Zaftig.

The Woody Stephens

Belmont Park (Race 9) - post 4:56, Grade II, $250,000, 7 furlongs, 3YOs

1. True Quality, jockey Cornelio Velasquez, odds 12-1

2. Ready's Image, jockey John Velazquez, odds 2-1

3. Silver Edition, jockey Ramon Dominguez, odds 5-1

4. Groomedforvictory, jockey Javier Castellano, odds 8-1

5. J Be K, jockey Garrett Gomez, odds 3-1

6. Fatal Bullet, jockey Edgar Prado, odds 8-1

7. Ling Ling Qi, jockey Robby Albarado, odds 15-1

8. Run With Me, jockey Alan Garcia, odds 30-1

9. Majestic Warrior, jockey Kent Desormeaux, odds 12-1

Groomedforvictory may get overlooked in the betting, but looks like the improving horse that could benefit by a hot pace and run by them in the stretch. Ready's Image is a very nice colt, but will almost certainly get overbet, based on a terrific 2-year-old season and a big reputation. J Be K will be part of a very hot pace and likely won't get much of a breather at any stage.

DJ's picks: 1. Groomedforvictory 2. Ready's Image. 3. J Be K

The Manhattan Handicap

Belmont Park (Race 10) - post 5:36, Grade I, $400,000 1 1/4 miles (turf), 3YOs and up

2. Interpatation, jockey Jose Espinoza, odds 30-1

3. Shakis, jockey Alan Garcia, odds 10-1

4. Stalingrad, jockey Channing Hill, odds 20-1

5. Out of Control, jockey Garrett Gomez, odds 4-1

1. Better Talk Now, jockey Ramon Dominguez, odds 8-1

6. Strike a Deal, jockey Javier Castellano, odds 12-1

7. Cougar Bay, jockey Eibar Coa, odds 12-1

8. Pays to Dream, jockey Edgar Prado, odds 8-1

9. Proudinsky, jockey John Velazquez, odds 7-2

10. Dancing Forever, jockey Rene Douglas, odds 5-1

1-a. Shake the Bank, jockey Jeremy Rose, odds 8-1

11. Stream of Gold, jockey Robby Albarado, odds 8-1

Strike a Deal will be a decent price, get good position early and should get first run on a very good group of closers. Out of Control has run against all the best grass courses and rarely run a bad race. Pays to Dream loved the ground in the Dixie at Pimlico and ran like a wild horse.

DJ's picks: 1. Strike a Deal. 2. Out of Control. 3. Pays to Dream

The Belmont Stakes

Belmont Park (Race 11) - post 5:36, Grade I, 1 1/2 miles, 3YOs

1. Big Brown, jockey Kent Desormeaux, odds 2-5

2. Guadalcanal, jockey Javier Castellano, odds 50-1

3. Macho Again, jockey Garrett Gomez, odds 20-1

4. Denis of Cork, jockey Robby Albarado, odds 12-1

5. Casino Drive, jockey Edgar Prado, odds 7-2

6. Da'Tara, jockey A Garcia, odds 30-1

7. Tale of Ekati, jockey Ebiar Coa, odds 20-1

8. Anak Nakal, jockey Julien Leparoux, odds 30-1

9. Ready's Echo, jockey John Velazquez, odds 30-1

10. Icabad Crane, jockey Jeremy Rose, odds 20-1

Even after his win in the Peter Pan, Casino Drive is still mysterious. The talent is obvious, but the training has been strange. And that took a bizarre twist yesterday morning when the colt was favoring his left rear hoof and did not go to the track for training. Supposedly, the problem with a bruise got better during the day, but it does not inspire confidence. There is nothing mysterious about Big Brown. He has crushed everything he has run against. But I can't take 2-5, given some of the issues surrounding the colt since the Preakness. BB is surely the most likely winner, but I don't see him as the lock he was in the Preakness. Denis of Cork got some time after his 20th to third run in the Derby. No reason to think he won't come with a nice run again. Just to complicate the issue more, this will be the first really hot day of the year, with temperatures in the 90s. Some horses do not handle heat well. So, we have a mile and a half, heat and a Triple Crown on the line.

DJ's picks: 1. Casino Drive. 2. Big Brown. 3. Denis of Cork. 4. Tale of Ekati.

Other staff picks:

* Ed Barkowitz: 1. Casino Drive. 2. Denis of Cork. 3. Big Brown. 4. Icabad Crane.

* Stan Hochman: 1. Casino Drive. 2. Big Brown. 3. Macho Again. 4. Denis of Cork.