Let’s recap the last two weeks of racing at Belmont Park by adding eleven new faces to the Horses to Watch list:
Jane of All Trades (#1), a 2-year-old filly by Rock Hard Ten, made her debut in the second race on Wednesday, June 20th, going five furlongs. She is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, who typically does not have his newcomers ready to fire their best shots at first asking, and drew the rail post position, which is not ideal. She broke about a length slowly and found herself near the back of the seven horse field early. Jockey Ramon Dominguez had to wait briefly around the far turn and then sent up her between horses with a nifty move to get into fourth by the time the field hit the top of the stretch. It briefly appeared as if she might challenge for a higher placing, but she looked to get a bit discouraged racing in behind horses down on the inside and threw in the towel. She showed me enough in making that brief move on the far turn to suggest that she could show up with much better effort next time. This filly is out of stakes winner Bag Lady Jane and is a half-sister to Fantasy Stakes (G2) winner Mamma Kimbo. Watch out for her at Saratoga.
Believe You Can (#1) is perhaps the most accomplished horse I’ve added to the list. She is the winner of this year’s Kentucky Oaks (G1) and is one of the frontrunners for the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly. Still, she could be overlooked next time when she likely shows up in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga after her disappointing third place finish in the Mother Goose Stakes (G1) a couple of weekends ago. However, I am willing to allow her some excuses. First of all, the rail at Belmont Park on Saturday, June 23rd, was not the place to be and she was up against it from the start breaking from the rail. Matters were certainly not helped when she broke slowly and veered to her left. From there she was stuck in a pocket on the rail just in behind favored Contested. Rosie Napravnik really could do nothing but wait for room and once Contested began to come up empty, the two closers Zo Impressive and Disposablepleasure were able to get the jump on her. Believe You Can did find room around the three-sixteenths pole, but she had lost her momentum and the race had been decided. Believe You Can is a better filly when she is allowed to run in the clear early, and next time, when she doesn’t have Contested to deal with in the CCA Oaks, she will be very dangerous.
Yes She Rules had a very troubled trip in the fourth race on Sunday, June 24th, a Starter optional claiming $50,000 at one mile on turf. A closer, Yes She Rules was put in good position near the back of the pack by Rosie Napravnik, but her trouble really began at the top of the stretch. Rosie was trying to be patient and wait for a hole to open up on the rail, but when that didn’t materialize she swung Yes She Rules, now in last place, to the outside for the stretch drive. She was able to briefly set her down for about a sixteenth of a mile, but when Yes She Rules began to accelerate, she found herself running into the back of a wall of horses. There was nothing to be done at the point and Rosie Napravnik just basically was along for the ride for the final eighth of a mile as she tried to stop her horse from running up on heels. Yes She Rules did pass a few horses in traffic completely under her own power late in the race and probably could have done much better with a clear run. This filly doesn’t have much of a look to her on paper, but with sharp connections (Chad Brown) and this troubled running line, I think she might be able to win a race like this at a nice price.
Carameaway (#5) made her career debut in last Wednesday’s second race, a NY-bred maiden special weight at five and one half furlongs. She was surprisingly well bet at 3-1 for connections that are not known for winning with first time starters. After breaking a step slowly, Ramon Dominguez guided her into a position just in behind the leaders on the rail. It appeared that he had a ton of horse and probably could have taken over the race if she was not boxed in on the inside, but he was forced to wait for room. The winner made a wide rally coming to the quarter pole and got the jump on the field. When Carameaway finally did find a seem at the top of the stretch, she could only manage a mild rally into third. Her late kick might have been dulled by having to wait early in the race and she could run much better with a clean break.
Namron had fairly obvious trouble near the end of Wednesday’s seventh race, a Claiming $35,000 at one mile on turf. Sent off as the 2-1 favorite, he was attempting to make a run between horses in midstretch when the eventual winner came over on him just outside the sixteenth pole. Jockey Ramon Dominguez was forced to steady and Namron lost valuable momentum. He finished fifth in the race but almost surely would have been second if not for the incident. It’s curious the winner was not disqualified for the interference, but even I will admit Namron was not going to win. He was claimed out of this race by Rick Dutrow, Jr. and we may be able to catch a price on him if he moves up in class off this dirtied up form.
Coexist (#6) was coming into last Thursday’s eighth race, an Optional claiming $75,000/Allowance N1X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, off a fourth place finish in a much deeper spot won by future Phipps turf star Imagining. David Cohen, who was riding Coexist in Thursday’s race, was in a tough spot because there wasn’t much speed on paper and his horse is a closer, but he certainly did his mount no favors with his ride. Coexist was taken to the back of the pack early and basically just stayed there with Cohen showing no urgency until the quarter pole when he briefly thought about taking Coexist outside. This probably would have been the right move, especially if he got his horse in gear a bit earlier. Instead, he took Coexist back to the inside for the stretch drive and the horse never was able to get involved in the race passing a few horses to finish sixth. Some horses just don’t like to rally along the rail, but this was just a case of Coexist never being able to get involved in the race due to dynamics. It’s worth noting that the horses who went 1-2 around the track early finished that way. With a fairer pace scenario next time and aggressive ride, I think Coexist could beat a field like this.
Shkspeare Shaliyah (#1) was coming into Friday’s opener, the London Company Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf as a horse who seemed to be pretty off form. He had shown promise as a 2-year-old, winning the Pilgrim Stakes and entering the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf as one of the choices. Things have not gone right for this horse so far this year, however. His task seemed to be hopeless in Friday’s race due to a complete lack of early speed. Nevertheless, Shkspeare Shaliyah finished up his final three furlongs as fast as anyone else and actually may have run the second best race behind wire-to-wire winner King Kreesa. Although his past performances may suggest otherwise, I think this horse may be rounding into form and could be dangerous in another overnight stakes race such as this provided there is a bit more pace signed on.
Radiant Cut (#6) ran in Friday’s fifth race, a maiden special weight at six furlongs on the turf, like a horse who just needed her first race. She broke about three to four lengths behind the field, trailed for most of the race, and made a mild late bid to get sixth. What interests me is the potential for better here. David Donk, her trainer, doesn’t usually have his horses ready for their first race, and her pedigree suggests that she may have a future sprinting on turf. She is a half-sister to Mr. Gruff, who was a multiple graded stakes winner sprinting on turf and a specialist on Santa Anita’s downhill course. Watch for improvement from this one when she gets to Saratoga.
Won Kool Kid (#1) isn’t the type of horse that I usually add to this list, but I was extremely impressed by his debut win in Saturday’s second race, a maiden special weight at seven furlongs, and think he could have quite a future in stakes races. He was in a tough spot on the rail for the most the race and came through a narrow opening at the top of the stretch to win going away. This was a pretty deep maiden field and Won Kool Kid handled the competition with the sort of poise and professionalism that you rarely see in a first time starter. As a son of Lemon Drop Kid, I especially like his chances to stretch out even further and, as an added pedigree note, I like the inbreeding to Secretariat’s dam, Somethingroyal, on his dam’s side.
Teeth of the Dog
Teeth of the Dog (#6) is being put on the list because he was so much better than his head victory in last Saturday’s Dwyer Stakes might suggest. Joel Rosario understandably thought that the pace might not be that fast and sent Teeth of the Dog out towards the front. However, a few others had the same idea and Teeth of the Dog had to fend off multiple challenges while employing a style of running that he doesn’t even prefer. This horses is in great form right now and has an excellent chance in races like the Jim Dandy and even the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.
African Jazz had some serious trouble from the three-eighths pole to the three-sixteenths pole in Sunday’s eighth race, a Claiming $15,000 at one mile. In seemingly perfect position stalking just in behind the leaders, things suddenly went terribly wrong for African Jazz when the horses in front of her began to fade and apprentice jockey Jose Ortiz made the erroneous decision to try to maintain his position on the rail. African Jazz had to steady repeatedly for about an eighth of a mile and Ortiz continued to try and get her through on the inside when there was just no room there. African Jazz went from having a real chance to win the race to finding herself at the pack of the pack with an eighth of a mile to go. Even after all that trouble she was able to regain some momentum when she finally got clear in deep stretch and pass a few horses to finish a non-threatening fifth. African Jazz will be entering her next race off what looks like a bad effort, but I believe she could have won on this day and am very interested to see where she shows up in the future.