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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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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