Belmont, Race 4: Claiming $35,000B at seven furlongs on the turf
This is a wide open race and if you can find a reason to like a horse who will be a bit of a price, you’d have every reason to back her. The horse that I’m interested in is Tie Dye (#11), whose last race looks much worse on paper than it actually was. The comment would have you believe that she received a perfect trip, but the replay is more telling. Watch the replay (she’s #2).
Tie Dye did secure very good early position under Edgar Prado and was able to advance around the far turn into a contending position. However, Prado did what he usually does in these sorts of races and made no effort to get Tie Dye off the rail. In this case a hole did open up, but it’s narrow and you can see Tie Dye turn her head to the left once as if she’s reluctant to go through. The leader was drifting in and out slightly through the lane and Tie Dye, who appeared to be full of run at the top of the stretch, just seemed to lose interest in giving her best effort under the circumstances.
She’s already run well at the distance so I don’t see the turnback as posing a problem and she possesses the tactical speed to stay close early in a race that does not feature much pace. If Prado can keep her in the clear today I think she has a good chance to rebound with a big effort here.
$10 Win 11
Belmont, Race 7: Claiming $35,000-$25,000B at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
Malibu Way is clearly the horse to beat, but he’s disappointed on more than a few occasions this year and this drop in for a tag is a little disheartening. He can definitely win, but he does not have a huge edge on this field and I wonder if we can really expect to see a top effort out of him today.
I briefly considered trying Radiohead as an alternative since he does appear to be the lone speed here, but I just wonder if he really wants to go this far against a field this tough. I’ve instead landed on Volcano Run (#10), who on paper appears to be off form, but may have had some legitimate excuses in his recent races. His return race on April 14th at Pimlico was a very good effort behind solid allowance types Change of Command and Margano, but things have not gone right since. He endured a wide trip in his next start on the day before the Preakness and then was completely dragged out of the race on June 21st at Monmouth when he became overly headstrong.
Since he’s come to New York things have started to look up a bit. He really never had a chance in that July 19th race since the pace was so slow and he was rated near the back of the pack while wide—certainly not one of Rosie Napravnik’s finest rides. Still, he came running at the end in a decent effort. Next time he was shortened up to five and a half furlongs by new trainer Linda Rice and he flew through the lane to just miss while beating today’s rival Radiohead. He was claimed out of that race by Mike Maker and Ken Ramsey and now lands here in a slightly more ambitious spot. I think he’s still good enough to handle a field like this and Rajiv Maragh would be smart to use some of his positional speed to gain a favorable position close to what should be a slow pace. He would be great value at anything near his 8-1 morning line.
$10 Win 10 [UPDATE: SCRATCHED]
Belmont, Race 8: Starter Optional Claiming $35,000 at six furlongs
It’s time for another trip to the replay center to see Comandante’s last race (watch). He’s a horse that Andy Serling had insisted during the spring and early summer was better than he appeared on paper, but I was skeptical. However, after witnessing his last race I can admit without reservation that I was wrong. Over a pretty dull racetrack at Saratoga, Comandante became very headstrong with the addition of blinkers and just ran away from the field to open up nearly 15 lengths by the time he had hit the far turn. In these types of situations there isn’t much that the jockey can do he Irad Ortiz, Jr. was just along for the ride. All things considered he ran a remarkable race to only be beaten by two and a quarter lengths at the wire.
The blinkers have unsurprisingly come off today but there are other changes as well. Comandante (#7) has since been transfered into the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher, who take away the claiming tag and steps him up in class to face starter allowance foes. Comandante in the past has not been a horse who needs the lead to show his best and even won his maiden while stalking the pace. Today he will have to do just that with speed coming from Tancredi to his inside.
In terms of raw ability I think Comandante may be just as good as anyone in here. That said, Much Stronger and Island Sunset have admittedly run faster on the racetrack and appear to be more adaptable to different pace scenarios so I will use Comandante over and under the two of them in the exacta. Much Stronger in particular should be tough to hold off late. David Jacobson has done a remarkable job to not only get him back into top form but to also correct the bad tendencies that were hindering his performances when he first showed up in New York. He deserves to be the favorite, but at around 5-1 or so Comandante is the horse I will bet to win.
$15 Win 7
$4 Exacta Box 7 with 1/5
Belmont, Race 9: Claiming $20,000B at six furlongs for fillies and mares
I know that Mike Trombetta does not have great numbers with turf sprinters, but Villanella (#3) just makes too much sense in this spot for me to ignore her for that reason alone. First of all, she’s one of the only true closers in a race that is loaded with early speed. Her last effort at Monmouth really wasn’t that bad since it was at a distance that is just too far for her and her prior turf sprints are pretty solid. While it might not be reasonable to expect her to recapture the level of performance she was displaying while in Christophe Clement’s care, she also has been given just one opportunity to sprint on the turf since then and that race came after a six month layoff. She should be much fitter now and she should be able to work out an advantageous trip under the hot apprentice. I’ll bet her to win and use her under the logical favorite Lisini (#12).
$10 Win 3 (WINNER; Payout: $82.00)
$5 Exacta 12-3
I’ll also have to catch the eighth race at Delaware Park since one of my “Horses to Watch” is entered in their feature.
Delaware, Race 8: The Forever Together Stakes at one mile on the turf for three year-old fillies
I don’t expect to get much of a price on her, especially after the scratches, but I have to bet Miss Lamour (#6) off her most recent effort. She finished far behind Midnight Watch in the Riskaverse Stakes (watch replay) during the final week at Saratoga, but never had a chance given her start and subsequent trip. This race took place while the turf courses were extremely kind to inside speed and Miss Lamour was forced out of position from the start and forced to race at the back of the pack. Coming to the top of the stretch she had no choice but to swing very wide to mount a rally and that was just not a move that was working on the turf. She was beaten a long ways, but the race is not nearly as bad as it will look on paper. Her prior effort, in which she held off Sustained after setting a swift early pace, was very strong and anything close to that level of performance will make her very tough in this spot.
$20 Win 6