FALCON POINTS

Get your gamble on: A look at the contenders for Saturday's Belmont Stakes and the undercard

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Saturday marks an unusual running of the Belmont Stakes. Usually the final leg of the Triple Crown and run at a mile and a half, this year it will be the first of the Crown Jewels and will be run at a mile and an eighth.

While that should have resulted in a stellar field, this group is pretty lackluster, with the exception of morning-line favorite Tiz The Law, who was impressive with two big wins in Florida.

The question will be if a horse wins all three races, will it be considered a true Triple Crown? Most pundits say no. Most pundits are wrong. (Yes, asterisk guy, that means you).

If a horse can win all three of those races spread out over five months with races in between, it will have accomplished a feat arguably more difficult than the standard Triple Crown. Of the horses in the field, only Tiz The Law looks even remotely capable of that, although many have room for significant improvement.

My premium plays on the card will be available at pregame.com, but here is a look at some potential wagers:

THE UNDERCARD

The second race on the card is the Grade I Woody Stephens, which is a race we hammered last year with 18-1 shot Hog Creek Hustle. There is a horse that fits the exact same profile; turning back in distance after chasing some solid Triple Crown hopefuls at Oaklawn. He is the only true closer in a race filled with front-running burners, and the price will be right. No. 5 Shoplifted will be our play in this one. He is 8-1 morning line but it is only a five-horse field so he will likely be bet down.

In Race 4, the Pennine Ridge, I like the No. 1 horse Decorated Invader, but he will be a short price.

In Race 6, the Wonder Again, I will play the No. 1 Speaktomeofsummer, an 8-1 shot.

In Race 8, the Grade I Acorn, the No. 2 Lucrezia is the play at 9-2.

In Race 9, Stubbins is the key horse at 3-1.

THE BIG RACE

It will be hard to get around No. 8 Tiz the Law. He is four for five lifetime, with his only loss coming by less than a length at Churchill Downs. He is the only horse in the field with a 100 Beyer for his win in the Holy Bull, and he dominated the Florida Derby.

But if you want to take a stand against him, he hasn't raced since March, his Beyers other than the Holy Bull are not that impressive, and the horses he beat there don't appear to be much. That said, he should be very tough here. The horses that could improve enough to get him include No.1 Tap It To Win, who has been much better as a 3 year old than as a juvenile; Sole Volante (2), Max Player (3), Modernist (4) and Dr. Post (9). The intriguing horse, however, is No. 5 Farmington Road. He has been stuck in outside posts at Oaklawn and Fair Grounds, which is darn near impossible to overcome, and still ran credible races. His last race he raced wide against an inside, speed favoring track in a race won by Nadal, who would be favored here if he had not retired. He is probably more likely to run second or third, but an exacta or trifecta with him in it could be very profitable, even with the Tiz the Law on top. He is 15-1 morning line and will be every bit that price. He will have to close, but the race should set up for him, he has a recency edge and has faced top runners.

Tap it To Win could be real trouble if he makes the early lead. He has a wire-to-wire recent win over the surface, which is a big advantage. The others are all horses that could hit the board and should be used in exactas and trifectas.

So good luck with Saturday's races, and keep your asterisks to yourself.

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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