With just two days of racing during opening week there are only five new additions to the list:
September 7, Race 2 — Desert Bliss (#3)
The pace of this race very slow, which allowed Uncle Southern, who probably was not the best horse, to wire the field. The only filly or mare to mount a significant rally against the pace setup was Desert Bliss, who unleashed a furious rally in the final quarter mile to get up for third. I know she’s not really a winning type, but she is likely to get more pace in future races and she is much better suited to these Belmont turf sprints than those at Saratoga. She’s held her form well and is certainly due for a breakthrough.
September 7, Race 7 — Sunset Ride (#12)
It’s too early to say for certain that Sunset Ride has any real ability, but she was just not given a chance to show anything in her debut and deserves at least one more chance. After breaking slowly, Cornelio Velasquez asked her to advance around the far turn and she was responding mildly before running into a traffic jam and getting steadied right back to last. Cornelio sensed that he wasn’t going to have any major impact on the outcome at that point and basically just eased her through the final quarter mile. This half-sister to Garden City (G1) winner Gaviola is bred to do better, especially when the distances stretch out. With this learning experience under her belt she might show up with a much improved performance next time.
September 7, Race 9 — Spirit of Peace (#1)
The reason for this horse’s inclusion can be viewed in the first quarter mile of this race. I would first switch over to watch the head-on as the horse breaking just to the outside of Spirit of Peace nearly herds him off the course before straightening out for the run over to the hedge. On the pan shot you can see that this incident left Spirit of Peace, typically a frontrunner, far from his preferred early position. Instead of rating kindly thereafter, he took hold of the bit and dragged his rider up into an early duel. The pace heated up down the backstretch and eventually came apart as the race was dominated by closers down the stretch. This will look like a poor performance on paper for Spirit of Peace, but I believe it actually wasn’t that bad and he should be given a pass for this race.
September 8, Race 2 — Cousin Stephen (#4) & Rebranded (#5)
This appeared to be a loaded maiden race, but it ended up turning into a one-horse public workout as Mosler bounced away to an easy lead and facilely drew off under wraps in the stretch. Behind him, however, others had plenty of trouble. I suggest you view the head-on of the start as there was a serious collision when horses came over from the inside and the outside. The two who took the worst of that bumping were Cousin Stephen and Rebranded. Rebranded, the heavy favorite, was asked to make a wide premature move after that by John Velazquez and paid the price down the stretch. Cousin Stephen sat back and tried to make a late rally, but ultimately flattened out as well. Given how strong this race appeared on paper and how much trouble these two endured at the start I’d be willing to be forgiving of their efforts. Rebranded in particular is a horse who I know the connections regard highly, but who has not had ideal trips in either of his starts. I will add, however, that I would need a price on either of these horses going forward, which is no guarantee given that they are trained by Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher.