The Belmont Stakes is over and now let’s wrap up the past two weeks with Horses to Watch from the past 9 days of racing:
Majestic Raffy was supposed to be added to the list a couple of weeks ago, but was a bit of an oversight. He ran in Belmont’s fourth race on May 31st, a NY-bred optional claiming $25,000/N2X allowance at 1 1/16 miles on turf. It was the second time in a row that he showed me he still has the ability he displayed on occasion last year as a 3-year-old and just has not found the right spot yet. After beginning his season in a 6 furlong sprint that is just way too short for him, Majestic Raffy got caught behind a glacially slow pace in the May 31st race when stretched out to a proper distance. He still put in a nice run and visually stretched out an accelerated nicely in the stretch–he had just had too much ground to make up in a race where the leaders came home quickly. If he can find a race with any sort of decent pace, he could connect at a price with his low-profile connections.
Rain Forest (#4) was making her career debut in June 7th’s sixth race, a maiden claiming $65,000 at seven furlongs on turf. After breaking a step slowly, she gained decent position in mid pack, but then was forced to steady briefly entering the far turn and was shuffled to the back of the pack. Most firsters would have been discouraged by this, but once Rain Forest found some daylight at the top of the stretch, she really kicked it into high gear and run past five or six horses in a furlong. She finished fourth and was beaten quite a ways, but I think this was an encouraging first run and she may improve a lot next time.
Dyna Vision (#11) was making her turf debut in June 7th’s eighth race, an allowance/optional claiming $50,000 at seven furlongs on turf. This was on oddly run race in that a 39-1 longshot was completely ignored on the lead and allowed to go wire to wire. It’s also worth noting that the horses who were 1-2-3 at the quarter pole finished that way. Dyna Vision is a closer and needs a bit more pace to run into, but she also was not helped by some bumping that occurred in mid stretch. She was looking to get on track and perhaps earn a piece of the purse when she angled out to make her run at the top of the stretch. However, just past the eighth pole, Karakorum Elektra, racing just to her outside, veered in sharply and squeezed back Dyna Vision. She probably was not going to hit the board, but she lost all of her momentum and finished further back than she otherwise would have. Dyna Vision has some nice turf pedigree and I’m interested to see what she can do when the dynamics are more in her favor next time on that surface.
Boisterous (#2) started as one of the main choices in the Manhattan Handicap on the Belmont Stakes day undercard. Boisterous has the tactical speed to be placed in a stalking position, but jockey Alan Garcia was a bit too under-aggressive in the early going found himself behind the eight-ball for the entire race. The Belmont turf had been favoring speed all day, and after six furlongs in 1:13 3/5, the field began sprinting for home. Boisterous swung out for the drive, but when the leaders run the final half mile in 46 flat, it’s very difficult to make up ground. If Boisterous had secured one of the stalking positions there is no doubt in my mind he would have won this race. He could be a bettable price when he runs back against these next time, likely in the Man O’ War Handicap next month.
Tazered was making his turf debut in the race after the Belmont Stakes, a $20,000 claimer at six furlongs. He had recently changed trainers to the lower percentage Patrick Quick and, previously a frontrunner, looked up against it in a field filled with other speed. His chances looked hopeless when he broke a couple lengths slow out of the gate and found himself at the back of the pack. They were motoring up front, but Tazered was charted as being 18 lengths back after a quarter mile. Yet the horse overcame all of this to come with a flying finish, running his last quarter in about 22 2/5 seconds, to just miss in finishing second by a neck. It should be no surprise that this horse handles turf seeing as he is by decent turf sire Mizzen Mast and out of a Cozzene mare. EDIT: Tazered has already run back, finishing a respectable third in Wednesday, the 20th’s sixth race. He was defeated by top NY-bred sprinters One Note Samba and Strong Impact and will appreciate easier competition next time, so he will stay on the list.
Grand Miz Blue is an impeccably bred daughter of multiple NY-bred stakes winner Dat You Miz Blue, a favorite on the NYRA circuit near the beginning of the last decade. She made her debut at Belmont last July and ran an even race to be fifth. Something obviously went wrong after that and she was put away and not seen again until Belmont Park’s fourth race on June 13th, a maiden claiming $16,000 at six furlongs. She went off as the favorite, but was seriously compromised at the break when she broke behind the field. Instead of settling back there, she pulled her jockey up into contention by the time the field reached the turn and she took the lead at the top of the stretch, having passed the entire field in four furlongs. The track was sloppy and very tiring last Wednesday and she actually hung on very well through the stretch only to be run down late. This was a promising first start back and it will be interesting to see where she shows up next. She was claimed by Jason Servis and I’m not going to be surprised to see them step her up in class.
Won Wild Dude almost made the Horses to Watch list back in May after he was shut off with nowhere to go in a $15,000 claimer at six furlongs. I waited because I was not sure if he could compete with this class of horse despite the trouble. He certainly proved that he can run with these in June 13th’s sixth race, however, where he ran just about as well as a horse can run without winning. He attended a very fast pace and put away the other speed. He was challenged from the inside, lost the lead, and appeared like he might get nothing in midstretch. Yet Won Wild Dude continued to battle back to reclaim the lead, only to just be run down by a last-to-first winner. On paper, this looks like a big step forward, but this horse may just be improving now for very sharp connections. He will be extremely dangerous at this level next time.
First Verse is another horse who ran too good to lose on June 13th in the very next race. He was gunned to the front, set a very fast pace and seemed home free at the eighth pole. However, the favorite Bomber Boy, had been reserved near the back of the pack and was able to rally up the rail (from 21 lengths back) to nip First Verse on the wire. First Verse is making the list, however, because he seems to be really stepping up his game. After struggling in NY-bred allowance company over the winter, since being dropped to the claiming level he has shown versatility and a high level of early speed. If he gets in a race next time where he doesn’t project to get too much early pressure, watch out because this horse is in form for these low profile connections.
Cardiac Rhythm makes the list after being completely shut off at midstretch of Sunday, June 17th’s sixth race, a $20,000 maiden claimer at six furlongs. She probably was not going to win, but she was going to run much better than her ninth place finish might suggest. The race was collapsing at the three-sixteenths pole and apprentice Jose Ortiz made the erroneous decision to try and rally up the rail. The leading horse drifted over to the inside and Cardiac Rhythm was completely shut off. After than she had lost all her momentum and was out of contention. I think she may have at least been third or fourth with a clear run and she could have a say in a similar spot at a big price.