RACE 3 BED o’ ROSES GRADE 3
By: Trent Ledbetter (@23ledbetter)
1-Ivy Bell: Daughter of Archarcharch comes into this one off a second in the G1 Humana Distaff on Derby day. Trained by Todd Pletcher she gets Castellano here and she’s really just a consistent filly, 5-7-1 on 17 career starts. Her only finish outside the top two in last two years was one in which she lost her rider. She’s up against the toughest competition she’s faced up to date, but expect a good run and she could steal the show money.
2-American Gal: IF SHE STAYS. Lightly raced filly out of Concord Point runs for Simon Callaghan/Jose Ortiz under Kaleem Shah’s contingent. She’s dual entered with here and the Phipps and they’re leaning Phipps. She comes in off a win in the Humana Distaff and even in only a few races she’s shown immense talent. She’ll be up near the front and is a major contender IF she stays here.
3-Chalon: Paco Lopez gets the mount on this daughter of Dialed In. She’s a true work horse with ten starts stretching from coast to coast. She’ll vie for the lead early, but I don’t think she has what it takes to wire the field.
4-Union Strike: Mick Ruis and Corey Nakatani team up on a daughter of Union Rags. She’s had some trouble in her past two, but the key here is the cut back in distance. She’s shown she wants seven furlongs or less and at this distance she is live. She’s had some issues starting that she has to get over here, but at this distance she demands respect.
5-Divine Miss Grey: This is a filly who has been absolutely lighting up the New York Circuit. She’s got three wins on this dirt track as well as a second on the turf here. She’s another gritty horse and this is the race they’ve been waiting on for her. She’ll be tough, but she steps up in competition here with Kendrick Carmouche getting the mount.
6-Lewis Bay: Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz Jr. will look to guide this mare to eclipse one million dollars in earnings. She’s only finished out of the money once and she’s proven to be very versatile. Wins ranging from seven furlongs up to a mile and an eighth. She’s a multiple graded stakes winner almost won the KY Oaks, she finished third in the Humana Distaff, but she was bumped at the start in that one. She’d like to be on the lead and I believe she has the talent to wire this field.
7-Cairenn: Graham Motion brings this filly and she’s taking a step up in class. She switches barns coming into this one, but this is a horse who hasn’t shown she can compete at this level.
8-Highway Star: Rodrigo Ubillo and Luis Saez team up on the only New York bred in the field. She comes into this one off a short break of just eleven days. She was second by a nose then and before that a second in the Grade 2 Ruffian. She’s shown she loves the track and distance, but does step up in competition after her last. The millionaire mare has to be respected here, because of her love for this track and could take this one.
RACE 5 THE TREMONT STAKES
RACE 8 TRUE NORTH GRADE 2
By: Brian Leckie (@bleck1022)
(1) Recruiting Ready ran the biggest BRIS number of his career last out in a high-level optional claimer where he led all the way. When he doesn’t get the lead, he folds. He’s also never won a graded stakes race. He’s unlikely to get the lead today as this is a pretty salty field with another speedball present in Imperial Hint. Pass.
(2) Joking hasn’t run in a very long time- October 2016 was his last race. This is a really difficult race to be making a comeback off a year and a half layoff. Also, why were there 13 days between his last two works? Sure he has a G1 win to his credit (and that was a huge win in the Vosburgh), and has only finished out of the exacta at Belmont once in 9 starts, but this is asking a lot of a horse to come off such a long layoff.
(3) Imperial Hint is the star of the field. He rattled off 5 straight wins heading into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, where he ran second. But after winning by open lengths in a restricted stakes at Tampa in his first start since the BC, Imperial Hint ran a total headscratcher in the Churchill Downs on KY Derby day. Maybe it was due to the slop, but he didn’t have his usual strong finish, though he was still in front at the 6f mark. He has also never run two bad races in a row in his career. I expect him to bounce back here.
(4) Bobby Abu Dhabi comes in here off of a victory in the G2 Kona Gold and a game, gallant second place finish to City of Light in the Triple Bend (and we know how good he is). He had a solid final drill for this race, running 59 from the gate at San Luis Rey. He doesn’t need the lead either- he’s proven several times that he can sit off, which he will need to do against a speedball like Imperial Hint. Hopefully he ships well. Because if he does, and Imperial Hint doesn’t fire again for some reason, he’s a legitimate win contender.
(5) Limousine Liberal is not expected to run and will instead start in the Met Mile on Saturday.
(6) Westwood is another horse that likes to be up close to the pace. He hasn’t really beat anyone of note, is far below the class level of some others in here, and hasn’t run a fast enough race to prove he can contend. Pass.
(7) Always Sunshine was in this race last year, placing fifth behind Joking. Problem is this is a much tougher field than last year’s event, and his recent speed figures and company lines show that he would have to run the race of his life to even contend. Pass.
(8) Whitmore is the horse you’d want to take if you think Joking is vulnerable off the layoff and the speed will duel into submission. He’s a patented sprint closer who always seems to come with his run. Whitmore was nearly unstoppable last year until this race, where he ran third as the favorite to eventual Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Roy H. A similar effort to the Hot Springs at Oaklawn will put him in win contention.
I think the speed is too good in this race. I expect Imperial Hint to bounce back from the Churchill Downs, head right to the lead, and last to the wire. Bobby Abu Dhabi is in great form right now, is versatile, and has proved he will fight in the stretch. Whitmore has as good a chance as any in here. If you think the speed will come back (I don’t)- he’s the horse you’ll want to use. Joking would be placed higher if he at least had a prep race coming in. This is a very ambitious spot to point a horse off of a 1 ½ year layoff. I picked him for fourth solely off of class alone, but I would be very surprised if he was to contend in the stretch off of such a long layoff.
#3 Imperial Hint
#4 Bobby Abu Dhabi
RACE 9 THE NEW YORK STAKES GRADE 2
By: Joesph Wulffe (@whtnbourbonguy
(8) Fourstar Crook: The barn of trainer Chad Brown will send out this six year old daughter of Freud to race against a very competitive field of eight other runners Friday in this year’s edition of the New York Stakes. Fourstar Crook has absolutely relished racing at Belmont throughout her career as she has won five of her six starts over its turf course. Furthermore, this mare is no stranger to success while racing on the grass as she has only finished out of the money twice in 16 lifetime starts on turf and moreover she won 10 of those 16 tries. However, she has only raced once at today’s 10 furlong distance yet in that effort in the E.P. Taylor Stakes (G1T) last October at Woodbine she did finish a game third, beaten by two and a half lengths.
In her last outing, in the eight and a half furlong Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1T) at Keeneland on April 14th, Fourstar Crook broke alertly under the guidance of jockey Javier Castellano, was immediately taken back to the rear of the field and sat there comfortably while chasing a very quick initial pace. It was not until the field rounded the final turn and began heading down the stretch that Castellano began to move Fourstar Crook. He angled her in towards the rail and although she was flying late her effort was not quite good enough to pass her stablemate, Sistercharlie, and she had to settle for second. Fourstar Crook’s running style is that of a deep closer and she definitely prefers to do her best running very late, hoping to pass her rivals with an excellent closing kick. However, it appears that such tactics may be ill-suited for racing in this year’s edition of the New York.
Normally in a race where there are several early speed type horses entered, thus ensuring a fast early pace, closers are at an advantage as the pace creates the possibility that some horses will fade or weaken turning for home thereby allowing the closers to drive past them with their powerful kicks. However, in a race where a single early speed horse is entered and the rest of the field is either mid-pack stalkers or deep closers, the tempo of the pace is much more uncertain. If the pace turns up slow, then the closers are at a distinct disadvantage as their rivals could still be fresh when turning for home. This scenario may be the case for the New York on Friday as the lone speed horse, Fahan Mura, may be unlikely to set fast fractions unless one or more horses move up to pressure her. However, those closers who have recent experience in chasing fast paces from far back in the field may fare well on Friday because they may be more forwardly placed than normal due to the projected slow pace. Such is the hope for the connections of Fourstar Crook.
As stated earlier, Chad Brown trains Fourstar Crook. Brown has been absolutely phenomenal as a trainer thus far this year. He is currently winning with 26% of his runners that have shipped in to race. Additionally, he wins 27% of his starts when racing a horse coming in off of a layoff of 46-90 days. Furthermore, over the past five years, with four year olds and up that are coming in off layoffs of 45-60 days and are going turf routes in graded stakes races at Belmont, Brown has won 28% of those races and boasts a positive R.O.I. of $2.50. Moreover, Fourstar Crook will once again be reunited with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr with whom she won the nine furlong Hillsborough Stakes (G2T) two starts back on March 10th at Tampa Bay Downs. Ortiz does quite well when racing on turf as he is currently winning at a 24% clip and he also does very well when hooking up with Brown. Over the past 60 days, over 39 races, Ortiz has won a staggering 38% of those starts when riding for Brown.
Fourstar Crook has been training well leading up to this race as her last two workouts over both the Belmont turf course and main track indicate that she is in good form. While she has been very consistent throughout her career, there are several issues to consider regarding her chances for success on Friday. Although she has raced at 10 furlongs before and managed to hit the board, the distance may be a little too far for her as her pedigree suggests she would prefer slightly shorter races. However, the major question to consider is the pace or lack thereof for Friday’s race. For Fourstar Crook to be able to hit the board one of two scenarios needs to play out. Either some of her rivals need to move up and press the pace set by Fahan Mura thus ensuring quick fractions which would set up well for her to come flying late or Ortiz needs to have her more forwardly placed and not trailing the field so that she doesn’t have as many horses to try and pass as the field turns for home. Should either one of these situations occur, then there is a very good chance that Fourstar Crook will at the very least hit the board if not win this race.
(2) Holy Helena: Trainer Jimmy Jerkens will enter this four year old daughter of Ghostzapper to compete on Friday. Prior to 2018, Holy Helena raced over dirt and all weather tracks, yet this year her connections decided to test her on the grass and it has paid off in spades for them. Holy Helena has won all three of her tries on turf, ranging from a mile to 11 furlongs, including her last effort which was over Belmont’s inner turf course. In that race, the 11 furlong Sheepshead Bay (G2T) on May 5th, Holy Helena broke well from the gates and was positioned towards the middle of the field by jockey Manuel Franco early on. She sat in fifth throughout much of the race, before being guided from off the rail towards the middle of the track as the field came out of the final turn. With a powerful closing kick, she was able to move past her rivals and ended up winning by half a length.
While Holy Helena has yet to be tested over the ten furlong distance of the New York on turf, she has competed at the distance both on dirt and on all weather and in fact convincingly won the prestigious $1000k Queen’s Plate at Woodbine last July. So there certainly is hope that her form over the all weather will translate to success on the grass at ten furlongs. Moreover, her last two workouts over both the Belmont main track and the turf course appear to indicate that she is in great form and should be ready to fire off a good effort on Friday. Additionally, her preferred running style is that of a mid-pack stalker which with a good pace set up further increases her chances for success. Holy Helena has shown versatility throughout her career in that, depending upon the initial pace fractions, she can either be up close to the lead and pressing the pace or she can be taken further back and allowed to sit a good stalking trip. In a race that appears to have very little early speed entered, this kind of adaptability that allows Holy Helena to adjust to pace conditions should be of a great advantage to her.
As a trainer this year, Jimmy Jerkens has been fairly consistent. He is currently winning 21% of his races with runners making their second start off of a layoff. He also boasts a 22% win rate with runners that won their last race. Furthermore, Holy Helena will once again have Manny Franco in the irons on Friday. Franco has been fairly good this year with turf races as he is winning 14% of those starts. Franco also does well when riding pace stalking type horses as he has been winning at an 18% clip. Finally, Franco has won 19% of his 113 starts and in fact has finished in the money 54 times thus far in the Belmont meet this year. If Franco can work another good stalking trip, regardless of the initial tempo of the pace, he should have Holy Helena in a great position to be running late. While a fourth straight win on the grass might be a bit much to ask of her, an on the board finish certainly is a distinct possibility.
(5) Sistercharlie: The barn of Chad Brown will also send out this four year old daughter of Myboycharlie, as an uncoupled entry to her stablemate Fourstar Crook. Prior to July of last year, Sistercharlie had been raced in France and had competed and done quite well against Group 1 and Group 3 company. In six lifetime starts over the grass, she has finished out of the money only once and has raced over the Belmont grass once as well, when she finished second in the ten furlong Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1T) last July. In her only start so far this year, in the eight and a half furlong Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1T) in April at Keeneland, Sistercharlie broke alertly with veteran jockey John Velazquez aboard and was immediately taken back to mid-pack where she settled into a stalking role. She sat in that position for much of the race before finally making her move coming out of the final turn where she split horses and with a powerful closing kick moved clear past her rivals down the stretch.
Sistercharlie’s preferred running style, like that of her stablemate Fourstar Crook, is that of a deep closer with a very powerful kick that allows her to get up and close late down the stretch. However, unlike her stablemate, both of Sistercharlie’s races here on turf in the United States have been contested with fast initial fractions. This is significant because there is only a single horse entered into Friday’s field that has displayed a front running style in previous races. Depending upon what pace the early speed horse, Fahan Mura, decides to set, one of two scenarios can play out. In the first scenario, if Fahan Mura is allowed to get out to an easy uncontested lead and sets quick fractions early on, the field could be strung out heading for home and the closers may have a lot of ground to make up and a lot of possibly tired horses to pass coming down the stretch. In the second scenario, if Fahan Mura goes out to the lead but sets more modest fractions, the field could become more compact with the closers still near the rear. Yet with a more pedestrian tempo, the entire field may still be fresh when turning for home thus making it harder for the closers to move past rivals that still have closing kicks of their own to unleash. Neither of these scenarios is ideal for a horse like Sistercharlie; however, there is an upside for her should either scenario occur. If the pace turns out to be quick, then Sistercharlie’s prior experience running at such fractions will come into play. Conversely, if Velazquez can have Sistercharlie more forwardly placed in the field, while running slower than normal fractions, then as the field turns for home she will be in a better position to unleash her closing kick without having to contend with trying to pass the entire field from far back.
As mentioned previously, Chad Brown trains Sistercharlie. Brown has been doing quite well so far at the Belmont meet as he has won 28% of the 67 races he’s entered into and in fact has finished in the money in 52% (35/67) of them. Brown has also done well when racing horses using Lasix for the second time as he is winning 19% of those starts. Moreover, Brown is winning at a 27% clip when entering runners that are coming in off of layoffs of 46-90 days. Additionally, Sistercharlie will once again have John Velazquez onboard on Friday. Velazquez has been absolutely phenomenal on turf this year, winning 27% of 153 starts thus far. Furthermore, he does very well when riding on closer type horses, winning with 24% of those mounts. It is possible that Sistercharlie may not get an ideal pace setup in the New York on Friday, as none of the other runners are likely to be very forwardly placed pressing the pace set by Fahan Mura. However, if she can be given a good ride under the guidance of Velazquez and tactically placed depending upon the pace scenario that does unfold, she certainly merits strong consideration for an on the board finish and possibly could be given a shot at winning on Friday.
RACE 10 BELMONT GOLD CUP GRADE 2
By: Trent Ledbetter
1-Call to Mind: The Queen (yes THE Queen) brings this son of Galileo across the pond under trainer William Haggas. Lightly raced and comes into this one off a good third in the G2 Yorkshire Cup. Castellano gets the mount on a horse who is a contender, but needs to step up off past efforts.
2-Cooptado: Tom Morley and Dylan Davis team up on this millionaire with forty career starts. With only one turf win and a distance I’m not positive he wants, I’ll pass. He seems just a little in over his head against this field.
3-Prince of Arran: One of three who ship in from overseas for this one. He comes into this race with only one turf win, though it was at this distance. However, gets Irad Ortiz Jr and first time Lasix which definitely improves his chances. Overall, needs to step up big time to defeat this field.
4-Funny Kid: Ships over and brings his French connections in trainer Christophe Ferland and jockey Maxime Guyon. Comes in off a Grade 3 win and hasn’t finished outside the money in nearly a year. He steps up a bit, but he’s a proven horse who has the potential to win it here. He’s my fourth selection, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he were to win here.
5-Canessar: Arnaud Delacour and Feargal Lynch team up on this five year old that comes into this one from the Grade 3 Elkhorn at Keeneland. He was sixth, but he showed some gain towards the end. This is a horse who should appreciate the extra half mile he gets after his last effort. He does need to improve off his last, but I feel that area of improvement is in that added distance. He’s my top selection in here and also 6-1 on the morning line.
6-Nessy: Arrives off a big Grade 3 win at Santa Anita at a mile and three fourths. He’s another who seems to lavish the extra distance and should have the gas to go two miles. Mike Smith and Ian Wilkes are the combination here as they look to repeat that last out effort. Showed some versatility two back coming up the rail, throw in a great six furlong workout, and there’s a reason this horse is the morning line favorite.
7-Run Time: This horse was simply overmatched in his last racing in the Grade 2 Dubai Gold Cup. Finished a distant thirteenth and never seemed interested or competitive in that field. Luis Saez picks up the mount for trainer Mike Maker who is 20% when his horses have at 46-90 days between starts. He’d have to run a career best effort to beat this field, but he’s definitely worth a look underneath.
8-Postulation: Third off the layoff and I’m high on this horse especially if he’s near his morning line of 10-1. He had a little bit of a troubled trip in the Man of War and not an ideal trip in his 2018 debut either. He’s shown he has the talent with a near miss to Oscar Nominated in the Kentucky Turf Cup and he showed he can handle longer distances with his win at Arlington. He has to improve off his last two starts, but he’s primed to do so third off the layoff. Florent Geroux is a major upgrade and can give this horse the trip he needs.
9-Focus Group-Steps up to stakes company for the first time, BUT this is almost an identical path Chad Brown used with Innovation Economy who won this race in 2015. He has to keep improving, but you can never count out the Chad Brown/Jose Ortiz combinations. This son of Kitten’s Joy is 10-1 on the morning line, but considering the connections, should be lower come post time. I like him here, and I trust the step up, but I’ll use others on top.
10-Rocketry: Rounding out this field is Rocketry, a four year old 450K purchase at Keeneland September. He’s started off his 2018 campaign with a few against optional claiming company after finishing 2017 against stakes runners. He’s another who should enjoy the distance as he’s won his two longest races to date. (Both at 1 3/8 miles) He’s got two wins on this turf course and the outside post doesn’t hinder him as much in a two mile race. Could definitely snag a bottom piece of the money.
Thanks for reading and good luck to all!