Belmont, Race 5: Maiden Claiming $20,000 at six furlongs for NY-breds
Fiona’s Hero can obviously win this race, but he hasn’t done any real running in the last two races in which he competed and he’s a horse who the connections are apparently just giving up on. If the class drop wakes him up then he’ll be formidable, but I have another idea. Just Be (#1) was left about three lengths behind the field at the start of his debut and actually put in a decent run to pass a few horses in the stretch. That came against much tougher company than he faces today and I think there’s an excellent chance he can improve here. His dam, Grab Bag, was a nice filly on this circuit, taking 6 of 19 starts and earning nearly $250,000. With routine improvement and a better start I think he can win a race like this.
$10 Win 1
Belmont, Race 6: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs on the turf for NY-breds
Analysis (#9) ran much better than it looks last time in his turf debut for a number of reasons. Firstly, he ran off before the start for nearly a half-mile, which had to sap some of his energy. Then, when he finally left the gate, he did so about two lengths behind the field and was forced to make a run from last. Coming to the top of the stretch Javier Castellano swung Analysis about six or seven wide and it appeared for a brief few moments as if he’d be a late threat before flattening out. All things considered it was a very good effort and without the troubles he encountered last time he looms a very likely winner.
$15 Win 9
Belmont, Race 8: The New York Stakes (G2) at 1 1/4 miles on the turf for fillies and mares
I spent a lot of time on this race. One of the primary questions to be answered is, “What do you do with the Sheepshead Bay form?” It seems that most handicappers are completely disregarding the horses that ran well in that race and dismissing it as a flukey race due to the boggy conditions. My take on the race is a bit more nuanced than that and I think that both the horses who handled the course and didn’t handle the course need to be discussed.
Mystical Star and Starformer, who looked to have great chances coming into the race, both didn’t lift a hoof. Was it the course condition? Well, that doesn’t make a lot of sense since they figured to be two of the mares who were supposed to handle the soft going. Starformer’s race was so bad that I’m inclined to throw it out. However, that doesn’t mean that I want her in this race. Her two good efforts–in the Long Island and Very One–were accomplished under very favorable circumstances and I have some questions about whether she’s truly Grade 2 quality. Mystical Star, on the other hand, is the defending champion in this race and I can’t poke many holes in her form from last season. Still, it remains to be seen whether she’s returned as the same horse this year. She hasn’t done much running in any of her races (her Hillsborough wasn’t nearly as good as it looks on paper) and until she shows she can still run at this level I don’t want her.
I liked Anjaz (#2) in the Sheepshead Bay and I thought she ran a huge race. After getting left at the break, she had to weave her way through traffic on the turn and came with a good late run to only be beat by the perfect trip winner Tannery. Tom Albertrani has been quoted as saying he thinks she’s coming into this race even better than last time and I just think she’s a filly who always had plenty of potential and is finally figuring out how to be a top racehorse. I don’t think it was the soft turf that moved her up because she didn’t improve that much off of her deceptively good effort in the Orchid. With another step forward (and hopefully a cleaner break) I think she’s a major player once again. I have no major knocks against Tannery (#4) or Minakshi (#5), but they both received absolutely perfect trips last time and I think the more lightly raced Anjaz is likely to turn the tables.
As for the others, Dream Peace (#7) is obviously the class of the field and the horse to beat, but she’s been in a position to win multiple times during the past year and hasn’t gotten it done. Regalo Mia (#3) also has a shot if she runs back to her Orchid. Finally, I took a stand against Lady of Shamrock, who just hasn’t been quite as sharp so far this season.
I’ll bet Anjaz to win and use the four others I’ve made a case for above over her in the exacta.
$10 Win 2
$2 Exacta 3/4/5/7 with 2
Belmont, Race 9: The Victory Ride Stakes (G3) at six furlongs for three year-old fillies
This one was a lot more interesting before the scratches.
I think Fusaichiswondeful and I’m Mom’s Favorite are equally likely winners and the latter will almost certainly be a larger price so I’ll give preference to her. I realize Fusaichiswonderful should have won the Eight Belles, but that field seemed stronger at the time than it does in retrospect. I’m Mom’s Favorite (#6) is just as fast and she certainly doesn’t have to drop as far out of it as she did last time. Rather, I think her two prior efforts were much stronger than her Miss Preakness–especially the Cicada where she set a torrid pace for the inner track and was very game until the final sixteenth. She’s matured since then and her newfound versatility should serve her well here.
I will also throw a few extra dollars on Bridgehampton (#5). I just have a feeling that she’s better than she looks on paper. Let’s remember hat she’s not a normal Mike Hushion trainee. She was prepared for her career debut in California by Niel Drysdale, who certainly likes to take his time with his youngsters. She was completely dismissed on the board in her debut and ran that way. While she showed normal second time out improvement for Mike Hushion I think it’s safe to say that she’s probably not a finished product yet, especially after only being in his barn for a few weeks prior to that last effort. He’s been quoted as saying he likes her a lot and is certainly showing a lot of confidence by stepping her right up into this race. She’ll be a big price and I think she’s the third most likely winner.
$15 Win 6
$5 Win 5
Belmont, Race 10: Maiden Claiming $20,000 at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
I feel pretty strongly that Prime Devil (#5) is the most likely winner. Contrary to the discrepancy in the Beyers, both his second and third lifetime starts at Saratoga and Belmont, respectively, were good efforts and either performance would win this race. On October 20th he got involved in a pace that was a lot faster than it looks (the turf course variant was -48) and he collapsed late while still finished far ahead of the other speeds. Then on December 1st he never had a chance after being completely clobbered coming out of the chute and then racing rank and wide for the rest of the trip (replay). While the drop in class isn’t a great sign off the long layoff, I think it makes sense for a horse who may not be quite good enough to win a decent maiden special weight.
Polaris Dream (#6) ran well last time in his first start against maiden claimers on the turf. The low-profile connections should inflate his price, but I don’t see why he can’t be a major factor in this race once again.
$15 Win 5
$5 Win 6
Belmont, Race 11: Claiming $20,000B at six furlongs
Yield Bogey is the horse to beat, but I think Don’t Say No (#9) also is in with a chance and he’ll be a much larger price. Don’t Say No was up against it last time after being taken to the back of the pack in a race where each quarter was run faster than the previous one. He drops into a much easier spot and he should get some pace to run into this time.
$10 Win 9