While there are no Horses to Watch from my list entered today at Belmont Park, there are personal favorites like Dreaming of Cara and Majesty’s Pilgrim running as well as the brilliant Agave Kiss a bit later on. And of course I will get to this especially deep renewal of the Suburban Handicap a bit later on.
Race 2: NY-bred maiden special weight at 1 1/8 miles on the turf
I was at Monmouth on Friday, June 15th, and took a flyer on a longshot in a maiden claiming turf race. That horse, Breathaway, had only made one previous start versus NY-bred company and was dropping in for his first turf race. Dismissed at 16-1, he sped off to the early lead, set a demanding pace and was just run down by a neck late in the race. What really caught my eye, however, was the gallop out. Angel Serpa stood up in the irons after the wire and Breathaway kept going. He ran past the winner in a few strides and continued to gallop down the backstretch. Serpa didn’t get him pulled up until he had entered the far turn. Perhaps this horse just got mad about getting passed late in the race and wanted to take off after the wire. It’s also worth noting that the winner Holy Smoke, came back to run a respectable third versus winners next time out. I can’t say I’m surprised that Breathaway (#4) showed such stamina when stretched out in distance since he’s by Belmont Stakes runner up Andromeda’s Hero. Today he will have to deal with stronger competition and possible speed from first time turfer The Kenosha Kid, but I think this horse has some ability. I also like the confidence his connections are showing stepping him back up into maiden special weight company.
$10 Win 4
Race 5: Claiming $20,000 N2L at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
Let me give some backstory for this selection. A few years ago at Saratoga, I came across a horse named Playful Majesty who was running in NY-bred maiden races on the turf. She caught my eye because her little-known trainer, April Tschan, had gradually been stretching her out in distance and Playful Majesty seemed to be thriving as the races got longer. I was able to make a score with her completing the bottom part of a trifecta at Saratoga and then the following year made a really nice score when she finished second at over 60-1. That day I had her to place and completing a huge exacta payout. The following year, I noticed her half-brother, Majesty’s Pilgrim, in the entries. Both of them are out of the mare Stop and See Me, who is by His Majesty. His Majesty, a foal of 1968, is a name you rarely see in modern pedigrees and is an excellent source of stamina from the heyday of racing in the 1960s and ’70s. I absolutely loved Majesty’s Pilgrim when he ran at Saratoga on August 1st last year and he gave me a great thrill making a late rush to just miss the exacta at 47-1. He subsequently broke his maiden up at Suffolk Downs and now shows up in his first race of the year in this spot. I admit that this may just be a prep for Saratoga, especially since this race is only 1 1/16 miles and he made need 9 furlongs to show his best stuff. Yet there is ample speed signed on and Majesty’s Pilgrim (#6) may get the fast pace he needs to make a late run. The $20,000 claiming level is probably the right spot for this horse and if he is anywhere near his 30-1 morning line, you can be certain I’ll be betting.
$5 Win/Place 6
Race 6: Allowance N1X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
I’ve been a fan of Dreaming of Cara (#7) for most of her short career. After winning three straight races, culminating in a 10-1 allowance win over the turf that resulted in an astronomical Pick-4 payout for me, she was stepped up into open company races. First she faced Colonial Flag and Zultanite and, although she was hindered by a slow pace, she actually ran very well to hang with those fillies through the stretch to be fourth. Following that she was stepped up once again into the Sands Point Stakes (G2) and was just overmatched. Today she is back at the open N1X level and probably doesn’t have to face a filly of the caliber of Colonial Flag or Zultanite, both of whom went on to place in graded stakes races. Today she is reunited with Ramon Dominguez, who was aboard for her maiden win and I’m hoping he can get the best out of this filly, who I still believe has more ability than the racing form would suggest.
$10 Win 7
Race 8: The Victory Ride Stakes (G3) at six furlongs
This is not a race to bet, but to purely enjoy. Agave Kiss has never been headed in six starts and just continues to run faster and faster. Last time in the Miss Preakness Stakes she got a rider change to Ramon Dominguez and he fits this filly like a glove. He had the presence of mind to let her use her speed, but also the calm to get her to relax up front and have something left for the stretch. It resulted in a 106 Beyer, her highest yet, and it still appeared that she had something left in the tank. There is other speed in here, but not Agave Kiss’s type of gate speed. She’s using this as a prep for the Grade I Prioress and Test Stakes at Saratoga, so just watch and enjoy one of the best three-year-old filly sprinters we’ve seen since Xtra Heat.
To Honor and Serve & Hymn Book
Race 9: The Suburban Handicap (G2) at 1 1/8 miles
If this race is not upgraded to a Grade I after this renewal of such a historic race, I don’t know what the criteria for Grade I races is. You have the winners of the most recent Travers, Jim Dandy, True North, Donn Handicap, Gulfstream Park Handicap, Cigar Mile, and Pennsylvania Derby all convened for this race as well as up and comers like Buffum and Trickmeister who have been brilliant in listed stakes and allowance races. The first thing to notice about the dynamics of this Suburban is that the early pace is likely to be hot and contested. Trickmeister needs the lead and horses like Buffum, Mucho Macho Man, and To Honor and Serve all have sub-46 speed that will keep them lapped on that rival early. This sends me looking for either a grinding type, who has the stamina to withstand a strong pace, or a closer to pick up pieces if the race falls apart. I believe those two horses, respectively, are Stay Thirsty (#1) and Hymn Book (#4).
Stay Thirsty had a perfect prep for this in the listed Vanlandingham Stakes when finishing second to Trickmeister. He was mired down towards the inside for most of the race and stayed on very well through the stretch when he finally got clear. If Javier Castellano can keep him within two or three lengths of the lead early in this race, his stamina should allow him to forge past some tiring rivals in the stretch. Hymn Book, on the other hand, needs to be allowed to drop out of the race early, much the way he did in last year’s Cigar Mile, coincidentally the last time today’s jockey, Alan Garcia, was aboard him. That day he came running a bit too late, but the mile and an eighth distance should really work in his favor, whereas I believe To Honor and Serve, who no doubt is the most brilliant horse in this race, may be better at a flat mile. Don’t get me wrong. To Honor and Serve can definitely win this race. I think he has just as good of a chance as my two other picks. But, based on the way he was overbet in the Met Mile, I just don’t expect the value to be there.
$5 Exacta Box 1-4
$2 Trifecta 1-4 with 7 with 1-4