(3) Out of Trouble returns from a December layoff for trainer Brad Cox and looks to extend her win streak to 3 after posting consecutive wire to wire scores at Aqueduct. While she steps up in class here, Out of Trouble, has worked out well for her return and should be able to control things on the front end once again. Luis Saez rides her for the first time.
(6) War Canoe makes her 4th start of the year after finishing well to just miss at a big price when 3rdbeaten a half length in the Mount Vernon a couple weeks ago. Today she will get a rider switch from Dylan Davis to Joel Rosario who has ridden her in the past. She is the likely favorite in this spot.
(9) Table for Six was a well beaten 6th in the aforementioned Mount Vernon, but she was making her first start of the year in that race and is eligible to improve 2nd time out. She will likely sit off the pace and look to make a late run under jockey Junior Alvarado for trainer Ralph Nicks.
(1) La Moneda returns to the turf after fading in an off the turn event in her 2018 debut for trainer Tom Morley and can improve returning to her preferred surface. It should be noted that Javier Castellano takes the call here rather than on our top pick Out of Trouble. La Moneda is 2 for 2 over the widener turf course at Belmont Park.
RACE 2 THE EASY GOER
By: Jeff O’Reilly (@Jeff_Boyardee)
(1) Lunar Beauty seems well overmatched in here. Would be shocked if he ran in the top four. Only positive is that he is lightly raced and has a license to improve.
(2) Mask is the class of the race. Last out he was off a layoff due to injury. You can make the argument he didn’t like the slop and needed the race. If he brings his A game everyone in here is running for second. Now that is the big question of what Mask is going to show up. Mask is a front running horse and there is only one other speed horse signed on. If he can get good position early I think he should win rather easily. However I am not sure he is up to the task and at the price he will be, I will take a shot against on top. Will use underneath but that is it.
(3) Rugbyman absolutely blitzed the field last out. He set blazing fractions and just drew off easily. Now it is tough to say if he is that good or is just a slop monster. I question whether he beat very much last out. He is 3/1 on the ML but I expect him to drift up a bit. He will be on the engine early but I am dubious that he can repeat that effort. I will try and beat him across the board and is a complete toss altogether.
(4) Soutache has good tactical speed. He will sit mid pack and try to get first run on the closers. I don’t think he cared much for the slop last out at Pimilico, If you draw a line through that effort, he would be a much shorter price than he will be Saturday. I do not think he can win but one that I will use underneath. The quick wheel back after the poor effort also gives me confidence that this horse is sound and ready to run a big race.
(5) Prince Lucky hasn’t run a step in the last three efforts. I don’t see how he can improve enough to hit the board in here. Toss.
(6) Breaking the Rules will be my top selection in here. Shug is known for not having his horses necessarily ready to give top effort first out. This horse was very impressive in his maiden score. This horse has immense talent and is a classic progression horse. He will sit a good trip just off the speed and should take over at the top of the lane. There isn’t a ton of pace in here so it should only benefit him to sit forward early.
(7) Dark Vader has some curious running lines in his PPS. If he doesn’t break well and is forwardly placed, he folds and does not run. If he is not up close early, his race is effectively over. I don’t see a reason why he shouldn’t be up close to the pace. I will let him transfer his form outside of California and limit his use to underneath.
(8) High North was well bet last out in the Peter Pan. He was in a 4 wide duel and had nothing in the lane. This spot isn’t much class relief and I am not sure what happened last out. This field, like the Peter Pan, wasn’t spectacular. If he can run his race two back from Oaklawn he becomes a serious player. Geroux should put him in the race and give him a shot turning for home.
RACE 3 THE OGDEN PHIPPS (GRADE 1)
By: Paul Hundley (@virginiaslim67)
A field of 8 set for this renewal won last year by the ever popular Songbird. Also features last year’s Champion 3 Year Old Filly Abel Tasman.
1-Unbridled Mo(4/1): Todd Pletcher trainee won her first Grade 1 two months ago in Apple Blossom at Oaklawn when last seen. Has been hit and miss in 10 race career; either wins or off the board. Has shown ability to come off the pace or lay close to it. Concern is both races around 1 turn she has run have been 2 of her 3 out of money finishes. Mixed feelings.
2-Ivy Bell(12/1): The “other” Pletcher in here was cross-entered in Friday’s Bed o’ Roses, as were American Gal and Highway Star. Won Grade 2 Inside Information two races back at Gulfstream. Will be first try beyond 7 furlongs, though the one turn here helps alleviate the distance a bit in my opinion. Her pedigree suggests the added distance will not necessarily benefit her. Believe Castellano will have her in stalking position, if she runs. Morning line and ability make her interesting.
3-Highway Star(20/1): SCRATCHED
4-Pacific Wind(7/2): 2 for 2 since Chad Brown took over, including win in Grade 2 Ruffian last race by 1 length over “Star”, which was her only try at Belmont and 1 turn. Will probably be 2nd choice here today. Obvoiusly a serious contender.
5-American Gal: SCRATCHED
6-Abel Tasman(8/5): The favorite returned 36 days ago in La Troienne at Churchill for a dull 4th place effort but didn’t have the best of trips. If she runs back to her peak last year, everyone else is running for 2nd, but that’s a big IF. Won the Acorn here last year on Belmont Stakes Day.
7-Unchained Melody(12/1): Made 4 year old debut last month in Ruffian and di very little, finishing last of 5. Had Blinkers On that race for first time, takes them back off today wisely. Before the Ruffian, had never finished worse than 2nd except for the Alabama where she was pulled up early while still in contention. Scratch of American Gal is huge because it’s possible she may be on the lead early. Won the Grade 2 Mother Goose last year. If the last race was just a fluke or it was the blinkers that messed her up, a very interesting one here.
8-Berned(30-1): Closer hasn’t faced the foes the others in here have, and appears a bit outclassed. Still, Graham Motion knows how to get them ready. Does have a win here early in career.
I’m not sure if scratching Ivy Bell out of Bed o’ Roses for this means Pletcher is confident in her today or just trying to avoid American Gal, but at 12-1 ML I will take the risk of being wrong to find out. Will play here on top of Unchained Melody who if she returns to form is right there. Obviously Pacific Wind and Abel Tasman are the main threats to the upsetters.
RACE 4 ACORN STAKES (GRADE 1)
By: Paul Hundley
Seven 3 year old Fillies do battle here in a race won by last year’s Champion 3 year old Abel Tasman. It also features this year’s Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Girl.
3-Monomy Girl is the heavy favorite, will probably be on the lead early again today. She showed her heart as well as talent in the Oaks by not giving in to Wonder Gadot in the stretch. Has also shown an ability to come from off the pace. Not much into picking favorites but she stands out.
7-Talk Veuve to Me makes first attempt at a route distance in her 4th career start for Rodolphe Brisset. Did finish 2nd last time out in 8 Belle’s but believe she still has plenty of room to improve and her BRIS pace figures suggest she has a good speed .
5-Caledonia Road returned in late April to win easily in an OC here. Speed figure was low considering but if she runs back to her Breeders Cup win, she will give Monomoy Girl everything she wants. Will be interesting to see if Smith rides her from off the pace again as she may need to be closer to pace today.
RACE 5 BROOKLYN INVITATIONAL (GRADE 2)
By: Aaron Hayes(@ahaze24)
(3) Hard Study has been on a mission of late winning his last 3 races in a row and 6 of his last 7. His last victory came at 1 3/8 mile over the Belmont surface where he romped by 5 ½ lengths. He also has 3 wins with a 2nd place at Belmont, so there is comfort and a familiarity with the track. All of Hard Study’s wins have been no doubters with his shortest margin of victory being only 1 ¼ lengths. Jockey Manuel Franco climbs back aboard where he has 2 dominating wins on him. In 166 route races, Manny Franco is winning at a 26% clip and in the money 55%. He sat of the leaders in 5th until he cruised up in between his foes and pulled away. Little was asked from him and he was easily the best. He had a bullet workout on June 1st going 4f in 48.3. Not to mention this is his 3rd start of the season for Todd Pletcher. He’s winning at 27% with horses 3rd of a layoff and 26% with in their last race. Expect Hard Study to sit no further than 4 lengths from the leader until they hit the top of the stretch. Distance will not be an issue and he has an outstanding kick coming down the lane. Don’t expect to get any value for him though. He’s been the favorite in 6 of his last 8 races.
(4) Take Your Guns is 2 for 2 this year after a 10 month layoff. He’s lightly raced and doesn’t have the class as his rivals but will be a formidable foe. Jockey Joel Rosario has ridden him for all 3 of his victories, with his shortest winning distance coming at 1 ¼ lengths. Chad Brown is winning at 27% and in the money at 61% with a winner in their last race. He also does well with horses 3rd off a layoff, winning at 24%. I fully expect Chad Brown to have him well prepared. He does have a win at Belmont in 2 starts.
(9) War Story won this race last year with Javier Castellano aboard. Since that win, he’s lost to Gun Runner four straight times. He won his next race out at Tampa Bay, and then finished 2nd by a neck last out in the Charles Town classic. Jorge Narvarro has given him 49 days off and ships him into Belmont. With 500 shippers this year, Navarro is winning at 29% and in the money 58%. He’s been working out at Monmouth and recorded a bullet on June 2nd going 5f in 1.00.2. He’ll be stalking right behind the leader and could be the first one to move on the pace setter Outplay.
(1) Carlino has alternated decent efforts with some head scratchers in his 2018 campaign. I look for him to rebound with a better effort than his last. That was his only race off the board at Belmont where he has 2 wins and a 2nd place in 4 starts. Even with his best performance, it wont be enough to win, however I believe has the potential to hit the board with some big odds. He’ll be far behind early and should pass some of his tiring rivals
$20 Win (3) Hard Story
$1 Super 3/1,4,9/1,4,9/All
RACE 6 JAIPUR INVITATIONAL (GRADE 2)
By: Joesph Wulffe(@whtnbourbonguy)
(1) Stormy Liberal: The barn of trainer Peter Miller sends out this six year old son of Stormy Atlantic looking to avenge a less than remarkable performance in last year’s edition of this race, where he finished a well-beaten eighth. Despite finishing second in both of his attempts in graded stakes this year, all indications point towards Stormy Liberal being in good form coming into today’s race. Two starts back, in the Daytona Stakes (G3T) over the downhill turf course at Santa Anita, Stormy Liberal was simply unable to catch Conquest Tsunami, as his rival was allowed to get out to a comfortable early lead without ever being challenged by the rest of the field. Although Stormy Liberal was gaining ground down the stretch, Conquest Tsunami’s advantage was insurmountable to overcome and Stormy Liberal had to settle for second, beaten by two and a half lengths. His performance in that race did earn him a 96 Bris Speed Rating which is very competitive when compared to the rest of the field. However, Stormy Liberal was able to turn the tables on his rival in his most recent outing, the six furlong Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan, when he sat back early on in the middle of the pack before surging late on the far outside and was narrowly beaten by half a length by Jungle Cat.
Stormy Liberal’s preferred running style is that of a pace stalker and he should get an ideal pace set up in today’s race. In addition to Conquest Tsunami, the projected early pace setter, there appears to be several other runners that will likely be forwardly placed pressing the pace. Moreover, Stormy Liberal has drawn the rail for the Jaipur and under the guidance of jockey Joel Rosario he should be able to get a great trip along the pine saving ground behind the early frontrunners. Additionally, his last two workouts over five furlongs at the training track at San Luis Rey Downs have been fairly sharp and should serve notice that he is ready to fire off another great effort despite the 70 day layoff.
So far this year, Peter Miller has done alright when entering runners coming in off of 46-90 day layoffs as he has won 14% of 229 starts. Miller has also done well when racing on turf this year having won 17% of the 679 races he’s entered. Moreover, Stormy Liberal will once again have veteran jockey Joel Rosario, with whom he has finished either first or second in all three recent starts, onboard again on Saturday. Although, Rosario currently is winning only 11% of his turf starts this year, he has done quite well at Belmont so far. He has won 20% of his 71 starts thus far and finished in the money a staggering 54% of the time. Stormy Liberal possesses excellent late running speed (his most recent 95 Brisnet Late Pace Figure from the Daytona is tied for the highest in the field) and should Rosario give him a quality ride early on, look for him to be among the contenders flying late down the stretch.
(5) Disco Partner: This six year old son of Disco Rico, trained by Christophe Clement, comes into Saturday’s race looking to repeat his 2017 Jaipur performance in which he set a world record time of 1:05.67 for six furlongs. While this year’s edition of the race does appear to set up very well for Disco Partner to once again win, it would be very surprising if he breaks his own world record for the distance as the projected pace may not be quite as sharp as last year’s. In his only start so far in 2018, in the five and a half furlong Shakertown Stakes (G2T) at Keeneland, Disco Partner simply did not fire and finished a well beaten third in the race, passing tired horses down the stretch. His poor effort in that race can most likely be attributed to the soft turf course at Keeneland that he struggled to adapt to. However, the grass at Belmont is much more to his liking. Disco Partner has finished either first or second in nine of eleven lifetime starts at Belmont, including seven wins. Furthermore, he has relished racing at the six furlong distance of the Jaipur having finished either first or second in six of seven tries.
Disco Partner’s preferred running style is that of a closer with an incredibly powerful late closing kick that helps propel him down the stretch. The TimeForm Pace Projector has indicated that while the pace of the race won’t be torrid it won’t be glacial either and still should set up very well for Disco Partner as he will likely be taken towards the rear of the field early on and will hope to do his best running late as the field turns into the stretch. Furthermore, Disco Partner’s two most recent works over the Belmont turf course have been quite sharp and suggest that he is getting back into his prime form. Additionally, if he can come even fairly close to some of the speed figures that he was running last year, not only on turf but also at the distance, then Disco Partner could be very hard to beat.
Christophe Clement has done very well with getting runners to fire coming into races off of layoffs of 46-90 days as he has won 18% of his 349 starts under those conditions this year. Clement has also done quite well with turf starters having won an impressive 19% of 1373 starts thus far. Moreover, Disco Partner will have his primary jockey, Irad Ortiz Jr, back in the irons again on Saturday. Ortiz has been one of the top turf jockeys in the U.S. this year winning 24% of his starts. He also does well with closer type horses and has been winning at a 20% clip (from 425 mounts). While Disco Partner has not yet returned to his prime form, he should still give a good account of himself with Ortiz aboard. Disco Partner should be considered the top candidate to win this race but will likely go off at very short odds so take that into consideration when wagering.
(7) Blind Ambition: The barn of trainer Todd Pletcher looks to send out this four year old son of Tapit to face off against a very competitive field of seven others in what appears to be a major step up in class. While his first two turf starts this year weren’t anything to write home about, it was Blind Ambition’s performance in the $125k Elusive Quality Stakes over a good rated turf course at seven furlongs at Belmont that was particularly impressive. In that race, he ran gate to wire all the while setting swift fractions and despite being heavily pressured early on was able to draw clear and put away his rivals with a furlong to go. Blind Ambition’s effort in that race earned him a 100 Bris Speed Rating, which not only tied his career high (set back in October of last year in a six furlong race at Belmont) but also tied for the fastest speed rating amongst the entire field’s performances this year. Although Blind Ambition has only raced twice over six furlongs, he has won one of those two tries, albeit in a $100k Claiming race at Belmont last year. Thus he should have no problem cutting back in distance and may even relish it.
Blind Ambition’s preferred running style thus far in his career is either that of a pace setter or a pace presser. However, with several other horses entered into this race that can show early speed, it may not be in Blind Ambition’s best interest to try and go to the front immediately and get caught up in a stamina sapping speed duel. Rather, it appears that his best chance for success (the Pace Projector indicates this as well) is for Velazquez to take him back just a bit early on and rate just off the frontrunners. Such a strategy should allow him to conserve his speed and be in a better position to not only challenge for the lead but also repel bids from the closers as the field heads down the stretch.
Todd Pletcher has done exceptionally well when entering runners coming in off of a win in their last race as he has won 26% of 830 starts this year. Furthermore, over the past two years when entering horses that were at least four years old into turf races and that have won their last start, Pletcher has won 5 of 11 starts (45%) and boasts an impressive $5.88 R.O.I. Pletcher has also done well with turf runners thus far and has been winning at a 19% rate from 1318 starts. Moreover, Blind Ambition will once again have jockey John Velazquez onboard. When hooking up with Pletcher over the past 60 days, Velazquez has won 29% of his 42 starts. Additionally, Velazquez has done quite well when racing on turf, winning 27% of 154 starts so far.
Blind Ambition’s last two works over the Belmont main track have been particularly sharp and hopefully can serve as a fine indicator that he is in top form right now. Although Blind Ambition’s Brisnet Late Pace Figures and closing kick are not quite as good as those of some of his rivals (particularly the closers that will be charging late down the stretch behind him), he is a good turf sprinter and can certainly improve off his last effort. Furthermore, if Velazquez can give him a good ride without engaging in an unnecessary speed duel and if he can handle the test against a much tougher field on Saturday, then there is ample reason to believe that Blind Ambition should garner an on the board finish in the Jaipur.
RACE 7 WOODY STEPHENS (GRADE 2)
By: Spencer Luginbuhl (@handi_capper)
Woody Stevens Race 7
#8 Kanthaka: I love when horses have won at the extended sprint distances, and this son of Jimmy Creed is a perfect 3-3. He has already won back to back in his career, and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is a good 20% with last out winners. I also believe that the sprinters out west are better than the eastern side counterparts.
#6 Still Having fun: I had to pick this colt second as he ran a good second against the monster Mitole and he closed into slow fractions which to me is a big positive as he should get a considerable pace in front of him today. He is also definitely going to need to show he can make the class jump as he has only won overnight stakes compared to some graded stake sprinters in this race.
#3 Engage: Kind of hard to not leave Chad Brown out of my analysis 2-2 at Belmont, and he should get the right stalking trip in here. He is a graded stake winner sprinting and ran huge after being floated very wide in the latest race at Pimlico. Brown and jockey Jose Ortiz have a positive 2$ R.O.I with a 58 horse sample that is also winning at 28%. Jose has been aboard for all three wins.
RACE 8 JUST A GAME(GRADE 1)
By: Paul Hundley
3-OFF LIMITS was 3rd in Jenny Wiley last out and before that 5th in Hillsborough at Tampa. Before that won the Grade 1 Matriarch at Del Mar last November and has done her best running at Belmont. Record at the track 5-3-1-0, her record at the 1 mile distance 7-4-1-0. Chad Brown and Javier Castellano team up.
1-On Leave has just as impressive records at both the track and distance, 5-4-0-1 and 8-4-2-2 respectively. Ran 2nd to Proctors Ledge last out in Distaff Mile. Manny Franco rides for 1st time but should still sit right behind leader early on.
5-Proctor’s Ledge has been on an on/off pattern here in last 5 races. Unfortunately today it lines up for an off performance. Still is a 3 time Graded Stakes winner and will probably be coming late.
RACE 9 METROPOLITAN HANDICAP (GRADE 1)
The Metropolitan Handicap. Grade 1. $1.2 Million at 1 mile on the dirt.
(1) Mind Your Biscuits returns off a triumphant trip to Dubai where he rallied strongly to win the 6 furlong Dubai Golden Shaheen under Joel Rosario for trainer Chad Summers who team up again today. While he is stretching back out today, Mind Your Biscuits, ability to sit off the pace and make a sustained run makes him dangerous in here over a track he likes (4-2-1-1 at Belmont). Three starts back he finished 2nd in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct behind runaway winner Sharp Azteca.
(2) Bolt d’Oro drops out of the triple crown trail to take on older while cutting back to one mile for trainer Mick Ruiz, and while the distance should be more to his liking than the 1 ¼ mile Kentucky Derby he might find this field of hard knocking veterans equally as tough. Florent Geroux will ride Bolt d’Oro for the first time, and he comes in showing a pair of sharp workouts for this race.
(3) Limousine Liberal makes his third start of the year after getting up to win the Churchill Downs sprint at 7 furlongs last time out on his favorite track. He has struggled outside of Kentucky, but the son of Successful Appeal is not without a chance for trainer Ben Colebrook and jockey Javier Castellano. His recent workouts show that he still in sharp form as well.
(4) McCraken makes his 2nd start of the year shipping up from Churchill off an impressive victory in a $100K optional claimer on derby day. The son of Ghostzapper should be well suited to today’s one mile distance, and he should be able to sit mid pack or near the back before making his run under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. McCraken is trained by Ian Wilkes for Whitham Thoroughbreds LLC.
(5) Good Samaritan makes his 3rd start of the year for trainer Bill Mott after finishing 3rd in last months Alysheba stakes at Churchill Downs. Prior to that, Good Samaritan, won the New Orleans Handicap at the Fair Grounds. While I can see him coming late to get a share, I do think Good Samaritan would prefer a bit more ground than today’s 1 mile distance.
(6) One Liner goes out for Todd Pletcher after finishing 2nd in the Pimlico Special a few weeks ago and is eligible to improve today, especially if the track is fast. He will need to improve upon his career speed figures to beat this group today. Irad Ortiz, JR who won on him two starts back is aboard today.
(7) Discreet Lover is likely to go off as the longest short on the board in this race and rightfully so. While he has kept good company throughout his career this will be a difficult spot for the Uriah St. Lewis trainee. Discreet Lover is coming off a 4thplace finish in the Pimlico Special, and won the Excelsior at Aqueduct three start back.
(8) Ransom the Moon ships across the country from Santa Anita to make his 2nd start of the year after finishing 2nd to Bobby Abu Dhabi in the Kona Gold. He stretches out today for trainer Phil D’Amato and jockey Flavien Prat, but should be one of the ones sitting right off the early lead and could get a nice set up in here.
(9) Warrior’s Club just missed when beaten a head by Limousine Liberal last time out, and stretches to 1 mile today. The consistent son of Warrior’s Reward would need to run a career best figure to factor in here for hall of fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
(10) Bee Jersey is our top pick in this race as he looks to win his 4th consecutive start for trainer Steve Asmussen. The son of Jersey Town should find himself on the lead once again, and could be tough to track down in a race that doesn’t have another confirmed front runner. This race will mark a step up in class for Bee Jersey, but his figures have been improving race by race, and he has won his last 3 at this 1 mile distance with relative ease. Jockey Ricardo Santana, JR. rides the Charles Fipkie owned and trained horse.
(11) Awesome Slew makes his 3rd start of the year after rallying to finish 3rd a neck behind Limousine Liberal and Warrior’s Club in last months Churchill Downs stakes. Prior to that Awesome Slew finished 2nd in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap to the ultra impressive Army Mule. Awesome Slew is an ultra consistent sort who has hit the board in 15 of his 19 career starts, and it wouldn’t surprise us if the Mark Casse trainee did so once again.
RACE 10 MANHATTAN STAKES(GRADE 1)
By: Jeff O’Reilly
(1) Robert Bruce made his US debut in the Fort Marcy Stakes last out. He won pretty easily as the 8/5 favorite. For me in this spot I am going to play against. He’s a Chilean bred horse who got a dream ground saving trip. He stalked a slow pace and held off the closers. This is a big step up in class and he will have to prove to me he can handle it. He has tactical speed which will work to his advantage but I think this pace will be a little hotter than last out and when the real running starts, I don’t believe he will hang on for a piece. At the price he will likely be, I will gladly take a shot against in here.
(2) One Go All Go is a hard hitting horse who will give you his best effort every time out. You cant help but admire this type of horse. He will attempt to wire this field. There isn’t a ton of other pace signed on so he could get an easy lead. If the other jockeys grab, and this is New York so don’t be surprised if it happens, this one could just steal this race. Now, despite having said that, I do think there will be enough pace pressers in here to keep him honest. He should be a generous price but I will limit his use to underneath.
(3) You can make the argument that Hi Happy is in the best form of any turf horse in the US so far in 2018. He showed he can run well outside of Gulfstream as he did in the Grade 1 Man O War last out. He has good tactical speed and will be sitting on the flank of One Go All Go. There isn’t much to knock about this horses’ form this year and he should be right there on the wire. The only real hole is that he has had nearly three straight dream trips and we will see what happens if this horse faces any adversity. He was right off a slow pace and did barely hold off Sadler’s Joy last out. He is not my top pick but one that I will use in all horizontal and vertical wagers.
(4) Alexios Komneos raced at Newbury last out and got absolutely buried. Now this was his first start off a layoff so one could forgive that effort. He does pick up Lasix and Geroux here. However, I just cant see this horse making much, if any, impact here. Toss.
(5) Catcho En Die had a dream trip in the pocket last out and was simply no match in the Man O War. Would need something fluky to happen to hit the board. Could use some class relief. Toss.
(6) Hello Don Julio has good early speed and will be on the engine early. He is the serious threat to One Go All Go as far as pace pressure. For me he is only that, pace pressure. Off the 8 month layoff in this spot is a tall ask. He is light on seed figures and would need to improve to hit the board. Pass.
(7) Fashion Business comes in second off the layoff and picks up Flavien Prat. In a lesser spot I would think he live considering he has some back class and I Love Prat as a rider. However, there too many other horses I prefer to take a shot on this horse. Has a chance to light up the tote underneath but I will toss.
(8) Sadler’s Joy is my top pick. I have been begging the connections to get someone other than Leparoux to ride this horse. Sadler’s Joy has always been a favorite horse of mine. He always comes with a big run down the lane but it is often too little too late. That is primarily due to lack of pace in the race and maybe the jockey’s doing of taking him too far back. JJ should, hopefully, put this horse into the race a bit more and that will make the difference Saturday. There is more pace than he used to signed on in here with One Go All Go and Hello Don Julio. I don’t think 8/1 is likely to hold but anything over 5/1 and I am taking a big swing on him.
(9) Channel Maker is my longshot play in here. I don’t think he can win but I can definitely see him grabbing a piece underneath at a big price. He didn’t seem to take to the yielding turf last out. If you put a line through that his form holds up pretty well. He will likely sit mid pack and try to get the jump on the deep closers. He should be able to work out a decent trip from the 9 hole and hopefully hit the board at a price.
(10) Beach Patrol is a very classy horse. If he comes with his best run everyone is running for second. He was in off the layoff last out and still ran a good race. His speed figure came back a little lighter than usual but that can be excused as he probably needed the race. HE should improve here second time out. He is likely going to be very close to even money or around 7/5 in my opinion. I will be using him in all vertical and horizontal wagers but am just weary of him getting bet off the board a bit. I am really banking on the Chad horse on the rail taking money and inflating the others prices.
(11) Manitoulin is a classic plodder. He just runs mid pack and doesn’t really have that burst that you like to see on the turf. HE will sit mid pack and just grind the race out. I think there are too many classy horses in here and he would need to improve greatly to make an impact. He could improve second off the layoff but not enough in my eyes to warrant being on my tickets.
(12) Multiplier seems in way over his head in terms of class. Toss.
(13) Spring Quality is a hard trying horse who will give an honest effort every time. Last out in the fort Marcy he has a good trip and was simply no match for Robert Bruce. He will run his race and it wil be around the same speed figure in the high 90’s but that just isn’t enough in here. I don’t see a scenario where he can hit the board and with his running style, being parked this wide only hurts.
RACE 11: THE BELMONT STAKES (GRADE 1)
By: Brian Leckie (@bleck1022)
(1) Justify looks to follow in the footsteps of American Pharoah to become racing’s 13th Triple Crown winner. The horse is a certifiable monster, but we all know that. His chances of winning it are pretty damn good. But at 4/5, I think he can be beaten. Notice how his winning margin has decreased in each of his five starts this year. The Derby and the Preakness were brutal races, and now he comes into the longest and toughest of them all. Mike Smith will likely have to send for the lead from the 1 hole. Unlike American Pharoah, who got almost no pace pressure, Noble Indy will try to keep things honest up front. If Justify wins this race, he will most definitely have earned the Crown the hard way. He’s been training awesome leading into this race. But a horseplayer, and given the history of seemingly indomitable TC hopefuls in this race, it doesn’t hurt to take a stand. We’ll all be rooting for him, though.
(2) Free Drop Billy is still searching for his first win since the Breeders’ Futurity last year. He hasn’t been the same horse at 3, but he had consistently earned checks up until the Derby, which was run over muck and can be considered a total throwout race for FDB. His sire, Union Rags, won this race in 2012, and Giants Causeway has always been known for passing on stamina. The breeding is there, and his staying ability and propensity to steadily make up ground in the stretch are positives in the Belmont. But he’s also a dead closer, which is a disadvantage in the Belmont. At this point, I just don’t think he’s as good as some of the other top contenders in here. If he was to contend in the stretch, I think his absolute ceiling is third. Remember that the Romans-trained closer Keen Ice ran third in this race 2015.
(3) Bravazo is the only other horse besides Justify to start in all three Triple Crown races this year. He’s a horse that likes to press the pace or sit just off. I expect him to be behind Justify and Noble Indy alongside Restoring Hope in the early stages. Someone pointed out to me earlier this week that the Awesome Again-Cee’s Tizzy cross produced Paynter and Oxbow, who ran second and third in this race in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Bravazo does have the right running style to contend, but I feel that he may have peaked in the Preakness, and I just think that there are so many well-bred horses in this year’s Belmont field that the pedigree cross may not matter much for Bravazo.
(4) Hofburg looks to be the main threat to Justify’s bid for the Triple Crown. Hard to believe he’s still only a maiden winner for all the talk he’s gotten. Tapits have won three of the last four runnings of the Belmont, and the lone loss was a second place finish from Frosted in 2015. Hofburg was really rolling late after having a tough trip in the Kentucky Derby. But he will have to avoid coming from too far back- closers rarely finish in the exacta in this race. Hofburg reminds me of a better version of Creator, and think Irad “Mr. Belmont” Ortiz will ride Hofburg similarly to how he rode Creator to victory in the 2016 Belmont by putting him within 4-5 lengths of the lead heading into the turn. He trained very sharply at Saratoga in preparation and has looked solid in his gallops in the mornings at Belmont. He will be a main player on all of my tickets, but 9/2 is still an underlay for a horse with only one career win.
(5) Restoring Hope is the other Baffert in this race. Throwout the Pat Day Mile- he stumbled a bit at the start, then never seemed to get a hold of the track, slipping and sliding over the muddy surface while having to be placed six wide the entire way around. He never had a chance. He’s the other maiden-only winner in the field besides Hofburg. His pedigree is solid- by Giant’s Causeway out of a Tapit mare. In fact, Restoring Hope has the lowest Dosage Index (DI) in the field with a 1.72, which bodes very well for his ability to stay the 1 ½ distance. There are positives to be seen here at 30-1, but I can’t see him seriously contending for the win spot when Baffert has a Triple Crown on the line, plus I don’t think he’s good enough. But at 30-1 and given his pedigree, I could see throwing him on the bottom of trifecta and superfecta tickets.
(6) Gronkowski missed the Derby due to a minor injury, then got transferred to the Chad Brown barn to point for this race. The fact that Chad Brown trains him, plus the Rob Gronkowski factor, is sure to drive down his odds below his fair-value of 99-1. He’s just way too slow to seriously contend with American dirt horses, Brown or not. But at least you get last year’s winning jockey Jose Ortiz aboard.
(7) Tenfold is a really interesting horse in this year’s Belmont. Over the last five years, the best sires in this race overall have been Tapit and Curlin, accounting for four wins, two seconds, and two third between both. Well guess what, this guy has both sires in his immediate bloodlines, being by Curlin out of a Tapit mare. How can you go wrong with that? Tenfold is a steadily improving horse who just missed second in the Preakness before Bravazo came rolling by. He offers very fair odds at his 12-1 ML price. His running style is also ideally suited to the Belmont, as he should be sitting just off the pace within 2-3 lengths of the lead. Asmussen also trained Creator, the aforementioned winner of the 2016 edition. I’ll be using him on all of my tickets.
(8) Vino Rosso is a horse I’ve been waiting to play in the Belmont since his 3rd place finish in the Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa in February. This is the race that suits him best- it’s now or nothing. His connections have stated that Vino Rosso didn’t care for the Tampa surface, which may explain his subpar performances there. He never fit the Kentucky Derby in the first place, in my opinion. Matters were made worse when he drew the 18 hole and the track came up sloppy, which his connections said he hated. But he ran deceptively well while being wide the whole way. Pletcher has figured the Belmont out with horses that have run in the Derby and skipped the Preakness- accounting for two wins and two seconds in the last five years. Vino Rosso also has a notable good race/bad race pattern according to his speed figures, just like last year’s runner-up Irish War Cry. The good race is coming up! Being by Curlin certainly helps too (re: successful Belmont sires). Johnny V has stated he needs some help from stablemate Noble Indy up front to put pressure on Justify. I think Vino Rosso will be sitting in midpack alongside of Hofburg, and the two will start moving in tandem around the turn. It’s just a matter of who has more horse in the end, and if Justify starts tiring in the stretch. I’ve been on the Vino train all along for this race, and I’m not hopping off now. I think he’s going to run the race of his life. The pick.
(9) Noble Indy is the other Pletcher. He’s got some pretty decent breeding as well, having A.P. Indy on the top and Storm Cat and Northern Dancer on the bottom. However, despite his breeding, he seemed to be stretched to his limits in the Louisiana Derby. That race didn’t indicate to me that he wants to go longer. It’s hard to tell exactly what role he will have here, as he’s co-owned by Winstar (Justify) and Mike Repole (Vino Rosso). But he will most certainly be forwardly-placed. I don’t expect him to be around at the end, though.
(10) Blended Citizen comes into the Belmont off of a win in the main local prep- the Peter Pan. He’s coming into this race in top form, and has really shown an affinity for the Belmont surface. And the 15-1 ML price is solid. Despite this, I’m skeptical of his chances. He’s a closer in a race that doesn’t typically favor them except for the trifecta and superfecta slots. And then theres jockey Kyle Frey, who will be making riding his first mount in a Triple Crown race- and at 1 ½ at Belmont. This is a race that puts jockeys with relative inexperience at a distinct disadvantage due to the sweeping turns and the need to be patient when making moves. I also don’t think Blended Citizen’s breeding is nearly as good as most of the other contenders in here. The Belmont is so good this year, so lines need to be drawn somewhere.
If Justify is going to win the Belmont, he’s definitely going to have to earn this one. This is a great field, with many well-bred horses that fit the Belmont pedigree profile. My top pick is Vino Rosso, who I think is a very fair price at 8-1 ML. I have a hard time seeing Justify finishing out of the exacta- if he loses, he’ll be passed close to the finish line. Hofburg is a seriously good horse that is improving at the right time and is coming in here in tip-top shape. And Tenfold has the best of both worlds with Curlin and Tapit in his pedigree, and is another horse who is improving at the right time. These are the four horses that will be at the core of all of my tickets, primarily built around Justify finishing in the exacta, but also covering myself with a trifecta box.
#8 Vino Rosso
(3) Slim Shadey will make the 74th start of his career in this race, and has been as good as ever recently for trainer Jason Servis. He comes in off a runaway win over this track last time out when he drew off to win by more than 4 lengths at 1 1/16 mile in a sharp 1:38.3 under jockey Manny Franco. We wouldn’t be surprised if the 10 year old son of 2001 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Val Royal gets his 14th career win today.
(6) Compass Zone ships up from Churchill Downs for trainer Brad Cox off a nice 3rd place effort, and is eligible to improve stretching out to 1 1/8 mile under jockey Florent Geroux.
(10) Soluble makes his first start of the year for trainer Robert Ribuado, but has shown ability against good horses in the past. He has a tractable style and should sit mid pack before making his move under jockey John Velazquez.
(3) Just Whistle drops out of the Peter Pan stakes where he finished 3rd behind Belmont Stakes entrant Blended Citizen. He should look to sit just off the pace under jockey Jose Ortiz for trainer Michael Matz in the Saturday finale.
(8) Hyndford goes out for trainer Todd Pletcher off an impressive allowance score over this track last time out. Like our top pick he too should sit right off the early pace under jockey Manny Franco.
(1) Proven Reserves broke his maiden at first asking last time out for trainer Chad Brown drawing off to win by 6 under Irad Ortiz Jr down at Aqueduct. He should be out early from the rail post, and can be tough if he takes a step forward off his impressive debut.