Belmont, Race 1: Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for three year-old fillies
This is more of a sentiment than a strong opinion. Glorious Chant (#4) is a filly I’ve been rooting for since she made her turf debut largely because she possesses an exceptionally strong pedigree not just for turf, but for high class racing at ten furlongs and beyond. So why, you ask, would I pick her cutting back in distance? I suppose it’s because I’m just not sure about the quality of this field and I’m fairly certain that at least Glorious Chant should have a future in stakes races. She’s out of Ring of Music, who is the dam of Campanologist, a G1-winning turfer in Germany and Italy who earned over $1.6 million. Ring of Music is out of the great racemare Glorious Song, a winner of half of her 34 starts and the 1980 Horse of the Year in Canada. She produced two notable half-siblings to Ring of Music in top sire Rahy and Singspiel, one of the best and most versatile racehorses of the 1990s. Glorious Chant is actually inbred 4×2 to Glorious Song since her sire, Giant’s Causeway, is out of a Rahy mare.
The major question in here is the pace, since Glorious Chant likes to linger near the back of the pack early. Alydorable (#3) might have a pace advantage on most of them since she has enough tactical speed to put her in close attendance to the pace or perhaps even on the lead. I view her as the main rival so I’ll throw her in on top of an exacta with my top selection.
$5 Win 4
$5 Exacta 3-4
Belmont, Race 4: Maiden Claiming $20,000 at six furlongs on the turf for fillies and mares
This is not a strong field and it’s hard to argue that any of the likely shorter prices possess much of an edge on the so called fringe contenders so I’ll try a couple of long shots who may have good chances to win but could be ignored in the wagering.
Little Miss Hughes (#9) admittedly was not facing much in her debut, but she really didn’t give a bad account of herself and at least showed that she can run a little bit. After getting away slowly and finding herself in last early she was hustled into position going around the far turn and made a premature move up into third before fading late. Next time she lost all chance at the start when she was bumped and steadied and may not have appreciated the slightly tougher competition. Now she moves to the turf, which should be her preferred surface. Her sire, Henny Hughes, is a capable turf sire and her dam’s family is full of grass influences. Her dam, while a half-sister to Read the Footnotes, hails from a line that has produced many more runners that preferred turf over dirt. I’m not thrilled that the connections are sticking with Abel Lezcano but at least it will help her price.
I’ll also use Wicked Disco (#1), who is taking a huge drop in class here off the 11-month layoff. I honestly don’t know if this filly can run at all, but she figures to flash some speed and is bred to be at her best sprinting on the turf. She is a half-sister to three siblings who all won on the turf, including Wicked Tune, a multiple turf sprint winner.
$10 Win 9
$5 Win 1
Belmont, Race 5: Maiden Claiming $25,000B at six furlongs on the turf for fillies and mares
I see this as one of the best wagering opportunities on the card. Rodinia and Tapit to Me are likely to take much of the play, but I have questions about both of them. Gary Sciacca does not have great numbers bringing horses back off layoffs like this so Rodinia may need a race before she’s primed for her best performance. I also wonder if six furlongs may prove to be a little bit short for her. I have the opposite question about Tapit to Me, who had her last race won before seemingly hitting a wall in the final eighth of a mile and allowing long shot Fall into Faith to nail her on the wire. Today’s field is undoubtedly tougher and I’d be mildly surprised if she were to win.
I prefer Ascended Fever and Fantastic Eyes. Ascended Fever (#6) is really dirtied up after her two poor turf efforts to start this season in which she had major excuses each time. On April 7th, her saddled slipped early in the race and Jilver Chamafi had no control of his mount so he pulled her up on the backstretch. Next time, she was off very slowly before being sent up to make a middle move down the backstretch into one of the fastest portions of the race. She came up empty in the stretch, but never had a realistic chance after her early trouble. Now she drops in class, turns back even further to six furlongs, and gets a significant rider switch to Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Fantastic Eyes (#8) is a filly who I’ve thought has been crying out for a turn back in distance for quite some time. She has a history of making middle moves in her route races before faltering late much as she did in her return to turf on April 7th. Next time Abel Lezcano rode her perfectly but saving her burst of speed for the final quarter mile, but then last time in her first start versus winners she was just overmatched. She also gets a needed class drop today and positive rider switch to Luis Saez. While I’m concerned that there might not be enough pace for her, I’m certain that she wants to just sit at the back of the pack and made one late rush. Whether that’s enough to get her up here remains to be seen, but the price will be right.
I will use each of these fillies to win since they should both be decent prices and will box them in the exacta with the logical Hold It (#7), who may play out to be the main speed.
$10 Win 6
$10 Win 8
$1 Exacta Box 6/7/8
Belmont, Race 6: Claiming $20,000B at one mile
I realize this is a bit of an oddball pick, but anytime you choose to ignore a horse who clearly is in the best form of his life, it’s at your own risk. It just feels like a light bulb went on for Tycoon Cat (#3) four races back when he made a good late run to almost get up on April 19th at Aqueduct. A week later he was a different racehorse. He showed speed and gamely held off Vee’s Accolade going today’s distance of a mile. He was then returned to turf for his two subsequent starts and each time ran as well as he possibly could have run without really threatening for the win. It feels like the return to dirt can only help and with a repeat of his recent efforts he could be right there at the finish. Tycoon Cat is a horse who physically has always appeared to have a lot more ability than he’s shown on the racetrack. He’s a robust chestnut who clearly can hold his form through a great deal of frequent racing. Yet what really signals to me that he’s moving in the right direction is that he seems to have finally gotten over the gate antics that cost him many placings throughout his career. This is a horse who would routinely break a few lengths slowly for seemingly no reason. He’s shown none of those tendencies in his last four races and I wouldn’t even be surprise to see another move forward today.
I’ll bet him to win and will use him underneath in the exacta with the entry, Most Happy Fella, and Regal Warrior.
$5 Win 3
$2 Exacta 1/7/8 with 3
Belmont, Race 8: Starter Optional Claiming $35,000 at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for three year-olds
I wrote this just under two weeks ago when picking Mewannarose in a similar spot on the dirt:
“I know that on paper he looks almost impossible, but it’s well worth watching the replay of Mewannarose’s 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.”
The Beyer has since been upgraded by a meager two points, which I doubt will bring much more play his way. Obviously the main question for Mewannarose (#4) today is turf since this seems like an odd placing for a horse who ran so well on dirt in his debut. He has one full sibling, African Rose, who is a multiple stakes winner in New Mexico, but has never tried the turf. His other sibling, a half-brother by Roar of the Tiger, earned his only victory over turf. Bwana Charlie has decent numbers with his turf runners and, much like his sire Indian Charlie, appears capable of getting horses who are equally adept on either surface. Red Bullet is also not the worst turf influence and Mewannarose’s dam, Darby Rose, is a half-sister to a couple of other mares who have gotten offspring that won on the turf.
The grass pedigree here isn’t necessarily obvious, but it seems like there’s enough to suggest Mewannarose can handle the surface switch. There should be enough pace for him with speedy types like Beeliner, Exporter, and Pontus entered so I’ll give him a shot and hope for a huge price. I’ll also use him underneath in the exacta with logical favorites Pontus (#5) and Brickyard Kitten (#9).
$10 Win 4
$2 Exacta 5/9 with 4