Belmont, Race 1: Claiming $20,000B at six furlongs
There should be at least a legitimate pace here with Shotgun City, Induce, and Poised to a Tee all likely to show speed. The closer that I feel is most likely to benefit from a contested pace is my old friend, Buckeye Heart (#4). That scenario did not materialize the last time Shotgun City and Buckeye Heart met each other on April 11th when Shotgun City was rating just off a half in a slow 47 seconds and Buckeye Heart was forced to make an early move into the pace. Buckeye Heart has never been quite as good on a track with moisture in it and I think he will move forward on today’s fast strip. Both of his prior efforts were good and I think he could be dismissed at a bit of a price due to his lower profile connections.
$10 Win 4
Belmont, Race 5: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs on the turf for NY-bred fillies and mares
If Eddy’s Time improves on her turf debut at Gulfstream or if Talmadge Hill gets back to her turf sprints from last summer then they will be a tough duo to beat. However, I think there’s a strong chance that they will be overbet when neither of them are really standouts. I have a couple other ideas at bigger prices. Rapidize (#10) has some sneaky turf pedigree since her dam is a capable grass producer and Midas Eyes has done well with limited grass starters. Her one turf effort was contested at a distance that is too far for her, but she handled the surface well enough to be fifth behind Clever Spirit and Yes It’s Pink, both of whom would be scary in a spot like this. I’ll also throw a few dollars on first time starter East Coast Express (#7). Western Expression is a decent turf sire and her dam is a full sister to a stakes-placed multiple winner on turf. I think it’s a good sign that Irad Ortiz, Jr. climbs aboard for these connections.
$5 Win 10
$5 Win 7
Belmont, Race 6: Maiden Claiming $16,000 at six furlongs for fillies and mares
This is an easy one for me. Rettalfa has serious gate issues and I think she’ll need to improve off her maiden special weight tries in December to beat “Horse to Watch” Queen Nine (#6) today. If anyone hasn’t seen Queen Nine’s race two back, it’s worth watching the replay. She would have run a Beyer in the low to mid-60s that day without her early trouble and another effort like that will certainly win here. She had a right to not run as well last time after putting in such a huge effort first time back from a long layoff, but she still gave a good account of herself. Bliss is a higher class filly and Queen Nine was ridden to actually try and win that race rather than just suck up for second. Her morning line of 2-1 would actually represent good value.
$15 Win 6 (WINNER; Payout: $45.00)
Belmont, Race 7: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs on the turf
Sunbio ran a big race in his debut at Gulfstream and he would be a deserving favorite here. It’s hard to close ground in those five furlong turf sprints down in Florida and he did very well to make up as much ground as he did after being slow into stride early. However, I’ve been waiting for The Big Deluxe (#5) to get to turf since he made his debut in December. He steadily improved over Aqueduct’s spring meet and I expect the best race of his career now that he’s getting to what his pedigree suggests will be his preferred surface. He’s a half-brother to Dayatthespa, the winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1) at Keeneland and is out of a dam who is a full-sister to Phi Beta Doc, winner of the Saranac (G3) and the track record holder on Saratoga’s turf course at 1 3/16 miles. I know Silver Wagon isn’t the most obvious turf influence but he’s had some success with limited grass runners. The Big Deluxe’s morning line of 4-1 would be a gift.
$15 Win 5 (WINNER; Payout: $60.00)
Belmont, Race 10: Claiming $20,000B at six furlongs on the turf
Before discussing my selection here, Caution Sign (#1), it’s necessary to go back and watch her last race (replay), which merited placement on the “Horses to Watch” list. She was off near the back of the pack and Jose Lezcano made the decision to rush her up outisde of horses to take the lead by the time the field hit the first turn. She had to expend a lot more energy than you would think by just looking at the printed past performances and her overall performance has to be upgraded. That said, I would like Caution Sign here regardless of that effort. This trainer change has to be viewed in a positive light and she’s proven that she handles the turf better than most of today’s competitors. I don’t mind the turnback since she’s been successful sprinting on dirt recently. I have to make her my best bet of the day.
$20 Win 1 (WINNER; PAYOUT: $71.00)
[3:32 p.m. update] – I would say “Horse to Watch” Queen Nine ($6.00) is worth quite a bit more than $16,000 after that facile romp in quick time. She ran to her race two back and was a real overlay even at 2-1.
[5:40 p.m. update] – Well, the first couple days of the Belmont meet were a little rough but things turned around in a big way today. Both of my “Horses to Watch” came through with top performances in the sixth and tenth races. I had singled Queen Nine in the Pick-6 and was alive to only Caution Sign ($7.10) in the finale. Luckily she was able to run her race after securing a ground-saving trip orchestrated by Rajiv Maragh and proved much the best while capping a great day.