This will be my last handicapping entry prior to the start of Saratoga’s meet six days from now. I was originally planning on laying low for the remainder of this final weekend at Belmont, but I couldn’t deny that there appear to be some wagering opportunities on today’s card.
As an added note, I will try to post some sort of round up of “Horses to Watch” that I’ve neglected to add to my list over the past couple of months prior to the start of Saratoga’s meet. I also plan to update the Saratoga page of this site as I prepare for this year’s meet.
Now onto today’s races.
Belmont, Race 1: Claiming $15,000B at five and one-half furlongs for fillies and mares
Concealed is clearly the horse to beat. She’s dropping out of NY-bred maiden special weight races and is going out for a barn that is very hot right now. That said, she doesn’t have any significant speed figure edge on this field and I think there’s a strong possibility she could be an underlay. I’ll instead go with Precious Franca (#1), who I’m hoping has just stepped up her game over the past couple of months. You could argue that she improved significantly with the switch to turf, but I feel she ran the best race of her career when briefly put back on the dirt in that off-the-turf May 9th race. She also handles a wet track, which should be helpful in today’s conditions. While I don’t love the rider switch, I think she’s at least the second best filly in the race and I doubt her price will reflect that opinion.
$10 Win 1
Belmont, Race 2: Claiming $16,000B at six furlongs on the turf
I suppose allowance-level drop-downs like Pleasure Principle and The Big Deluxe should appear pretty formidable in a spot like this, but I have questions about both of them. Pleasure Principle doesn’t have any real turf pedigree on the female side of his pedigree and I wonder if he needs a return to the dirt rather than a drop in class. The Big Deluxe, on the other hand, has plenty of turf pedigree–so much so that I find it discouraging that his connections are giving up on him so easily. David Cohen wrapped up on him around the turn last time like he just never had any horse to work with. Chilton is a logical contender who I would certainly use in any multi-race exotic wagers, but I have some other, pricier ideas.
El Corriente (#9) is the horse I’m most interested in. He was favored last time based on some solid return races this spring and was just never given a chance to run by Javier Castellano. The pace was very fast, so I can’t question his judgment in taking El Corriente farther off the pace than he is accustomed to running, but his mount clearly was full of run in the stretch and Castellano, instead of riding him out, just stood up in the irons and eased him. I’m not sure if he felt something was amiss, but the connections obviously don’t think so since they’re running him back a week later with a new jockey. Patrick Reynolds’ runners have really been firing lately and I’m hoping he can finally coax a win out of this 1-for-24 gelding.
I’ll also put a few dollars on another older gelding with an even more dismal 1-for-31 record. Out of Your Mind (#3) has been stuck at this level for over a year now, but I feel that he’s rounding back into top form. In his return in May he chased a classier horse in Mississippi Duel before fading. Then last time he was squeezed back at the start and forced to steady a couple of times in the stretch when Prado was searching for a clear path. I feel he could have attained a higher placing that day with a better trip and I’m hoping he can get a big piece of the purse today at a huge price.
$10 Win 9
$5 Win 3
Belmont, Race 6: Optional Claiming $14,000/N1X at seven furlongs on the turf for Ny-breds
Sky Blue Pink (#5) is a horse I’ve been chasing for quite some time now. He ran exceptionally well two races back when Jose Espinoza sent him up to make a sweeping move to the lead before just getting run down in the final sixteenth of a mile. Last time he was reserved well off of a slow pace and never had a chance to make a late impact. The pace scenario doesn’t figure to be much more favorable here, but the competition is much softer than what he faced that day. If he can run as well as he did on June 8th or perhaps refind the form he displayed in his return last fall, then I think he’ll be tough to hold off in this spot.
Since Sky Blue Pink isn’t the most reliable sort, I will also make a significant wager on my second choice, Stonecoldsteamer (#9). I realize that there is a possibility that he just can’t run at this level anymore, but the switch to turf is what has me interested in him. While Offlee Wild isn’t the most obvious turf influence, there is plenty of turf in this horse’s female family. His dam is a half-sister to Cozy Blues, a graded stakes winner on turf who amassed over $365,000 in her career. She’s also a half-sister to the dam of Acquired Cat, who won many turf sprints on this circuit a few years ago. Stonecoldsteamer’s dam and siblings never tried the turf, but based on the evidence I do have, I think it’s safe to project he might take to it. Michelle Nevin has had some early success with her turf runners and there isn’t a whole lot of early speed in this race so if Luis Saez can get him into a forward position perhaps he’ll have a shot at a price.
$15 Win 5
$10 Win 9
Belmont, Race 7: Solar Splendor Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for three year-olds
I’ve been waiting for Balance the Books (#1) to return to the turf in a spot like this. His connections came down with a case of Derby Fever this spring and tried him twice on synthetic surfaces, which he clearly did not handle. It’s not hard for me to toss those races and judge him solely on his two year-old form and those races make him the horse to beat in here. Chad Brown has had him up at Saratoga for the past month so Balance the Books has clearly had time to refresh and regroup in an atmosphere that he seemed to enjoy as a two year-old. The pace scenario might not be in his favor today, but that didn’t matter in the With Anticipation Stakes last year when he made a charge from last at the top of the stretch. He and his stablemate Noble Tune are the two best horses in this race and Balance the Books is sure to be the more appealing price.
$15 Win 1
Belmont, Race 8: Claiming $20,000B at seven furlongs on the turf
Thunder Brew (#5) was added to my “Horses to Watch” list after his crazy six-wide charge from the back of the pack at the top of the stretch of his return race to just miss. I don’t know if it was the stretch out in distance last time or the tougher competition, but he just didn’t fire. Anthony Pecoraro brings him back in this spot at a distance and class level that should suit him and I feel that he’d be a very logical winner of this race.
$10 Win 5
Belmont, Race 10: Claiming $15,000B at five and one-half furlongs
This race is full of horses that I just don’t trust. Don’t Rock Me may just not be that good and Regal Strike was tailing off when last seen. Swiss Tart obviously has a shot, but his recent form doesn’t make him all that scary. I’m trying Flo’s Greatness (#4), who gets the best rider that’s been on his back since last summer in Jose Espinoza. He was overmatched in his two starts prior to the break, but ran well at this level and distance at Aqueduct and should sit a good trip just off the pace. I’ll also use Little Wyatt (#7), who doesn’t have any flashy speed figures on his past performance sheet, but who is very fast early and should like this slight turnback in distance.
$10 Win 4
$5 Win 7