Belmont, Race 3: Claiming $35,000B at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
I’m just not thrilled with any of the likely favorites here so I went looking for a new face. Shertzer (#5) ran what was likely the best race of his life off the claim last time when he endured a wide trip to get up for third behind the in form Tycoon Cat. He’s moving to turf today and the only other time he stepped on the surface resulted in an abysmal 32-length drubbing. However, he had plenty of excuses that day. He was coming off a one-year layoff and racing over an extremely demanding soft turf course at Kentucky Downs. Kentucky Downs’ course features a European style configuration that requires a high level of fitness so naturally he was not prepared for that task. His dam was not successful over turf, but she is a half-sister to a few turf winners and her dam was a turf stakes winner. Proud Citizen is a decent turf influence so I see enough pedigree to indicate he should handle the surface switch. If he does, he’s probably better than this field.
$10 Win 5
Belmont, Race 4: Maiden Claiming $65,000 at one mile on the turf for three year-old fillies
Acrostic (#5) is perhaps not the most likely winner of this race, but she’s going to be a big price based on a poor effort in a race where she never had a chance. You need to watch this replay. She was traveling in a nice stalking position entering the far turn when the leader bolted and completely took her out of the race. She has decent turf pedigree and deserves another chance. The problem is that this might be a tougher spot so I’ll make the wager small and hope she drifts up above her morning line.
$5 Win 5
Belmont, Race 5: Optional Claiming $35,000/N2X at one mile for NY-bred fillies and mares
Even though it’s not quite so obvious on paper, I just simply think Haldane (#2) is better than this field. I know she was beaten by Shesabroxbomber in October last year, but Haldane was forced to chase a very quick pace that day while the eventual winner had everything break her way. Shesabroxbomber also seemed to be in better form that that time and she may be tailing off now. The others are proven commodities and Haldane only needs slight improvement second time back from the layoff to elevate herself to a level above today’s competition.
$15 Win 2
Belmont, Race 6: Optional Claiming $25,000/N1X at seven furlongs
I was originally having a lot of trouble with this race, but the scratches have made it much easier. I was initially intrigued by Readthebyline (#6) but wasn’t sure if the presence of plenty of other speed would hinder him. Now that Windafull and Risk Management have come out, it looks as if the only other speed horse left to deal with is Ez Effort and I’m not quite sure what to expect out of him. Readthebyline is the sort of horse who can either set a measured pace or sit just off the foe to his outside if that one chooses to go. If you’ve read previous entries, you’ll know I was never much of a fan of this horse, but he’s steadily improved all winter long and I actually think this slight turnback to seven furlongs is going to help him. He’ll probably be the fourth choice in here, but I think he has an excellent chance to win.
$10 Win 6
Belmont, Race 8: Optional Claiming $35,000/N2X at six furlongs for NY-bred fillies and mares
Longtime “Horse to Watch” La Bella Valeria (#1) is finally back. This black filly who appeared out of nowhere last fall to turn in one of the most remarkable performances of the Aqueduct season (replay) seemed to go wrong when stretched out in December and was put on the shelf. She returns today at a much more appropriate six furlong distance with a worktab that would have you believe she’s in the best form of her life. I think it’s reasonable to project she would have run a Beyer figure of at least 70 two races back without the trouble and if she’s slightly better now that makes her a major player in this race. Perhaps that sounds like too many assumptions, but I’d go back and watch the race I’m referring to if you’re doubting me. It’s highly possible that Jitney could need a race first time back from the layoff and there’s not really anyone else in here that I’d be that scared of. La Bella Valeria will be a huge price and I think she can win.
I’ll also use her to win and underneath in the exacta with logical choices Sing Dixie Sing (#3), Sus Annmaries Gold (#5), and Jitney (#6).
$10 Win 1
$2 Exacta 3/5/6 with 1