I didn’t get a chance to write an entry yesterday since I had to be out for the majority of the day, but I’m back from Churchill Downs and ready to dive back in at Belmont for a muddy, off-the-turf Thursday. Since I haven’t yet seen the scratches at the time of writing this I’m focusing on only the races originally carded for dirt as of now.
Belmont, Race 2: Optional Claiming $25,000/N2X at one mile for NY-breds
If this race stays together you have to think that the pace will at least be honest with two stretch-out sprinters in the mix in Hay Shares and Won Great Classic. They’re both good horses and certainly fit at this level but I have doubts about each of them getting the mile distance. Swag Daddy ran very well last time with the addition of blinkers and perhaps I’m just supposed to believe he’ll repeat that effort and be a major player here. However, he had not been very good before that and was facing much weaker foes last time. I’m going to pass on him.
I like my “Horse to Watch” Bigger Is Bettor (#6), who has been trying to graduate from my list for what has probably been far too long now. He often runs well enough to win, but due to various circumstances seems to find a way to lose. To be exact, he hasn’t won a race since the Albany Stakes in 2011 at Saratoga, but I feel he’s found the right spot today. He’s run some of his best races over wet tracks and has proven that he handles Belmont’s muddy strip. His form this winter looks worse on paper than it actually was since he was often up against it from a pace perspective on the inner track. Last time Castro tried to put him in the race very early, which is not his style, yet he still ran very well all things considered. He should be able to secure a more comfortable trip from off the pace here and I just believe he’s better than the rival closers Anaphylaxis and Papa Tom.
$10 Win 6
Belmont, Race 3: Claiming $35,000-$25,000 at 1 1/16 miles
I didn’t originally post a wager on this race, but after taking another look at it post-scratches, I think that Space Race (#2) could be an interesting horse to take a shot with. His overall dirt form is slightly better than most would be inclined to give him credit for after a quick glance. He put in two relatively solid races over wet-fast tracks in the fall at Delaware Park and his two races this year have come against tougher competition. He has an excellent pedigree for a wet track and I expect Joe Bravo to just send him to the front and hope to hold off the closers. I have questions about the current form of Romancing the Gold and Sovereign Default and likely favorite Regal Warrior just doesn’t win races very often. I wanted someone else and I think Space Race will be a decent price with a chance to wire the field.
$10 Win 2
Belmont, Race 5: The Corma Ray Stakes at seven furlongs for NY-breds
Mine Over Matter (#7) made his way onto the “Horses to Watch” list after his non-effort in the Toboggan Stakes in February. He was off very slowly that day, chased a slow pace, and really never had any chance to get involved. Next time out he was stretched out to a mile and raced off the rail on a day when the inside was really the place to be. My point is that his recent form looks a lot worse than it actually is and I fully expect him to get back to his better races from last summer and fall. He clearly moves way up on a wet track and gets one of the hottest riders in the country on his back today. The pace scenario is a bit murky, but when Mine Over Matter is on his game he’s versatile enough to not be affected too negatively by a slow early tempo. His 5-1 morning line would be great value, but I doubt we’ll get that.
$20 Win 7 (WINNER; Payout: $48.00)
Belmont, Race 7: Starter Optional Claiming $50,000 at one mile for three year-olds
I know that on paper he looks almost impossible, but it’s well worth watching the replay of Mewannarose’s (#2) debut. He was legitimately left about five lengths behind at the start, rode the rail around the turn, which is not usually the place to be at Parx, and then made this wild rush past the entire field in the final quarter mile to win easily. As I originally tried to put the race in context, I was about to caution myself that it was just a $40,000 maiden claiming race at Parx. Then I looked up the past performances of the also-rans in Formulator. First of all, four of the horses who finished behind him have come back to win already and two of them even did it against maiden special weight company. But what’s even more noteworthy is that almost every horse who has come back to run has improved on their figure in that race significantly. To be specific, eight horses have run back out of Mewannarose’s debut and five of those have come back to improve on the number they ran that day by between 15 and 34 points. Of those that didn’t improve, one ran on turf next time, another stretched out to two turns, and the last was the 10th place finisher who ran poorly again.
I think there is overwhelming evidence that Mewannarose ran against a much better field than the 62 Beyer speed figure would suggest and, on top of that, he had far more trouble during the race than anyone else and conceivably could have run even faster with a cleaner trip. Furthermore, it’s not as if the pace collapsed in some scenario that would have favored Mewannarose since the second place finisher was up on the pace the whole way. Rather I think Mewannarose just ran remarkably well and with only slight second time out improvement may be a factor here. I know he’s still not the most likely winner, but he could be a significant overlay.
$10 Win 2 [EDIT: Scratched.] $2 Exacta 3/4/6/8 with 2
Race 8: Optional Claiming $62,500/N2X at seven furlongs
I’ve always liked Reload (#6) and I’m actually happy to see this race come off the turf for him. I don’t think it’s correct to assume that he can be a grass horse just because he ran so well over Keeneland’s polytrack last time. Rather, I think he exploded with such a huge performance because he was turned back and allowed to use his speed the entire way. His pedigree says that he will absolutely love today’s sloppy track and if he is as good as that last race suggest I think all of these are running for second place. (Note: If you’re holding his poor race over a sloppy track at Saratoga last summer, it was a terrible ride and closers’ bias that got him beat that day–not the wet conditions.)
$15 Win 6 (WINNER; Payout: $26.25)