Belmont, Race 1: Starter Optional Claiming $25,000 at six furlongs on the turf
I think Tightend Touchdown (#2) is a very likely winner of this race, but as much as I’m looking forward to betting him I’m equally interested in wagering against Magical Season. He’s just going to be a much shorter price than he really deserves to be based off a couple of Beyer speed figures which I’m very skeptical of. Looking at the horses who ran with Magical Season on March 16th, it is extremely hard to justify that 96 Beyer speed figure. I’d estimate that it should be about 10 points lower given the competition and what they’ve done afterwards. Last time, there’s less evidence upon which to base a judgment of the validity of the figure since it’s more recent and the horses haven’t run back, but it still feels high to me. While Mike Maker’s horses improved dramatically at Fair Grounds and Keeneland a few of them have come back to earth in their returns to New York recently with a prime example being Sneaky Kitten yesterday. Magical Season’s prior New York races would make him no more than a fringe contender here so I’m playing against him.
I believe that horses like Tightend Touchdown, who has come to life recently on the dirt at Aqueduct but is probably even better on turf, along with Cayambe (#1) and even Quick Money (#7) are just as good if not better than Magical Season and may be overlays. I’ll bet the former to win and box all three in the exacta.
$10 Win 2 (WINNER; Payout: $19.50)
$2 Exacta Box 1/2/7 (WINNER; Payout: $29.20)
Belmont, Race 2: Maiden Special Weight at seven furlongs on the turf for fillies and mares
This is my best bet of the day. Street Trick (#7) ran extremely well in her debut at Gulfstream (replay) and probably should have won that day. She broke decently, but then was squeezed back just after the start to race in mid pack. This was a race featuring a slow pace for the distance it was dominated by horses who were racing in the first flight around the turn. Street Trick was the only one to mount a late rally and she came flying late to just miss by a neck behind repeat winner Coarsegold, who improved her figure by 16 points in her subsequent start.
For her second race Street Trick was stretched out in distance at Keeneland and made the favorite off her impressive debut. However, nothing went right on this day (replay). She was squeezed back soon after the start and forced to race near the back of the pack. She had shown in her debut that she possesses ample early speed and she resented Prado trying to get her to settle in last place behind such a slow pace. Prado then made the foolish decision to try to make an early advance as the field entered the far turn. Street Trick was sent up to race five-wide all the way around the turn before being pushed out to come six- or seven-wide into the stretch. Naturally she had nothing left after such a ridiculous trip.
Now she cuts back to a much more appropriate distance of seven furlongs and gets the blinkers removed and a rider switch to Cornelio Velasquez. The combination of a faster pace and the equipment change should allow her to settle in mid-pack and, if she comes running with that same late burst she showed in her debut, she has a big chance to win. On a side note, it would be nice to see her give Tom Bush his long overdue first winner of the year.
$15 Win 7
Belmont, Race 5: Claiming $15,000B at one mile
I’m skeptical of both Willy Elliot and Our Entourage, the two likely favorites here. Willy Elliot is going to have to deal with plenty of early pace pressure from Starship Captain, Pin Number, and Political Justice so he has a tough task before him. I know he appears to have a touch of class to him, but I don’t like the layoff or the fact that Rudy Rodriguez hasn’t recently been winning at the same rate we had seen for most of the winter. He may win, but I have to take a position against him. As for Our Entourage there are too many red flags to count coming up as you delve into his past performances so I would never touch him.
I like Smokin Candy (#9). He was a pretty decent three year-old who appeared to go off form late last year after a couple of claims. Dominic Galluscio wisely did the right thing and gave him time off before returning him to the races at a more realistic claiming level. He initially disappointed again, but then came alive when moved to the turf at Aqueduct and finished a good closing fourth losing by just a half-length. He was run back on the turf again last time, but never had a chance at any point after being taken completely out of the race in the first quarter mile. The pace held together that day and no one was able to make much of a closing move. I’d toss the effort from consideration. Now he gets back to dirt, which is probably his preferred surface, and gets a mildly positive rider change to Irad Ortiz, Jr. I think he fits at this level and is more reliable than some of the shorter priced options.
I’ll bet Smokin Candy to win and use him in the exacta with Gunfighter (#7), who is looking to regain some of his classy back form with the trainer change to Jamie Ness. This one mile distance should suit him better than the sprints he was contesting recently.
$10 Win 9
$2 Exacta Box 7/9
Belmont, Race 7: Optional Claiming $25,000/N2X at one mile on the turf for NY-bred fillies and mares
The Beyer speed figure assigned to Frosty Bay’s (#10) last race is just too low. Adriatic Dream and Eurokay by Me both validated that notion by returning with big performances in a tougher allowance race against the well regarded Heart of New York last week. Frosty Bay beat both of them last time while overcoming a dawdling pace which undoubtedly contributed to the slow final time. I’ve always liked this filly and I’ve seen some major improvements from her over the past few months. With only a slight step forward she should be able to contend with these more experienced foes and she’ll certainly be a decent price.
$10 Win 10
Belmont, Race 9: Claiming $35,000B at seven furlongs on the turf
My top choice was scratched so I’m left with my back-up selection, Buckeye Heart (#9). This one is a bit of a guess but he’s going to be a decent price and he has enough turf hidden in his pedigree to suggest that the surface switch may move him up. Lion Heart is a decent turf sire and while his dam, Willathewest, was unraced, she’s a half-sister to a few broodmares who have produced some capable turf runners including some stakes winners. Today Buckeye Heart gets the best jockey that’s been on his back in quite some time in Irad Ortiz, Jr. and if the pace is honest perhaps he can come running late at a big price. I’ll use him to win and behind logical contenders Fizzano (#2) and Capetown Devil (#4) in the exacta.
$5 Win 9
$2 Exacta 2/4 with 9