Belmont, Race 1: Optional Claiming $25,000/N1X at seven furlongs on the turf
The distance of this race makes it a little tricky to handicap. Decisive Move and Jess Not Jesse are both in excellent form, but the extra furlong is a major question that both of them will have to answer. Thomas Hill seems like a decent alternative, but I don’t entirely trust him to show that winning instinct that the other two consistently display. Image of Disco clearly has some ability, but his race is pretty phony considering the way the track was playing and I think he may be overbet based on that performance.
Therefore, I’ve landed on Never the End (#2), who has run a couple of races as a two year-old and early three year-old that suggest he might be this good. His performance on September 23rd of last year, in which he battled down the stretch with subsequent stakes winner Sayaad, was very encouraging. A mile didn’t agree with him next out at Gulfstream before he easily broke his maiden at five furlongs. Something obviously happened after that to necessitate him being away from the races for seven months, but his return effort is not as bad as it looks. That was a paceless race and Never the End, who should have been up front, broke a half step slowly and was squeezed back out of position (replay). He never had a chance to make up ground after that and may have needed the race anyway.
Today he should be able to stalk the pace of Image of Disco and hopefully out-finish that foe while holding off the late charges of the aforementioned older horses. I think there’s a chance that with routine two year-old to three year-old improvement he may just be better than this field now.
$10 Win 2
Belmont, Race 2: Maiden Claiming $25,000 at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for fillies and mares
I have to bet Bargaining Table (#3) in here because I think she has a lot more ability than what is shown on her printed past performances. Her races on May 1st and June 6th in particular were very strong as she attacked fast paces and held sway until just before the wire on each occasion. She did not get the right trip on June 21st when she was wide and made a middle move and then last time I don’t know what Joe Rocco was thinking. She’s a horse with plenty of speed, yet he decided to ride her as a closer on a turf course that was intensely speed favoring.
Cornelio Velasquez needs to be somewhat aggressive here and apply a bit of pressure to Tizallheart, but if he does so I think that Bargaining Table is good enough to win. I’ll also use her underneath East Coast Express and Always Home in the exacta since they will be more appealing prices than Tizallheart and appear to be no worse than the favorite.
$10 Win 3
$2 Exacta 4/8 with 3
Belmont, Race 3: Maiden Special Weight at one mile for NY-breds
I love Privatize (#3) in the third race. This one is a real throwback to the dead of winter at Aqueduct when he ran a remarkable race in his second start on January 17th. I know it was a while ago, but it’s worth revisiting the replay. Privatize broke from the far outside that day and was hung out six-wide entering the clubhouse turn. He continued four-wide all the way around that turn and then made another wide move on the far turn to take the lead prematurely. The race was falling apart late, but Privatize ran on strongly to the finish to hang on for second. It was a performance that is much stronger than the 56 Beyer would suggest.
He ran pretty well next time, but then came apart a bit and threw in a couple of dull efforts. Leah Gyarmati gave him a freshening and brought him back on August 1st on a day when the rail was golden. Privatize chased the pace three-wide around the turn and came up empty in the stretch. That race is better than it looks on paper and signals to me that he may be rounding back into form. There isn’t much pace in here and Mike Luzzi would be smart to try and use Privatize’s speed to wire the field.
$15 Win 3
Belmont, Race 4: Claiming $20,000B at 1 1/16 miles (off the turf) for fillies and mares
I was actually happy to see this race come off the turf because it might be a more interesting dirt race. I have to play Guyana Princess (#12), who ran so strongly on August 8th when she was all but eliminated at the start (replay) and made up a huge amount of ground to get up for fifth. Next time she was overmatched in the Saratoga Dew Stakes but I think she prefers one-turn racing anyway. While I think she’s the best horse in the race, I do worry about the pace, which is why I will also box her in the exacta with Quiet Sunshine (#9), who should be forwardly placed and handled a route on the dirt over the winter.
$10 Win 12
$4 Exacta Box 9/12
Belmont, Race 6: Maiden Special Weight at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for two year-old fillies
This is my favorite race on the card because it’s the first time that I’ll be getting an opportunity to bet back the fillies who were hindered by the slow pace in the eleventh race on August 18th. I should mention right off the bat as I link to the replay (watch it here) that I do not actually believe that they went the first quarter in over 27 seconds, but the pace was obviously slow and Candy Kitty really backed them up to a crawl midway around the clubhouse turn. Rachel’s Temper (the #3 horse on that day) was in good position for the opening quarter mile, but for some reason Luis Saez decided that he did not want to be so close to this dawdling pace and took his filly back to midpack. Meanwhile, Red Constitution (#2 in that race) was lingering near the back of the pack from the start before trying to mount a wide rally on the far turn.
It was essentially a Quarter horse race from the top of the stretch to the wire as Candy Kitty used her early advantage to kick clear and wire the field. Red Constitution had already used up some energy trying to get into the race on the turn and flattened out a bit in the stretch as the others came charging. Rachel’s Temper finished very strongly considering how much ground she had to make up after going from second place on the far turn to eighth place by the top of the stretch. I believe she could have won, or at the very least finished second, if Luis Saez had just held his early position.
All of that said, today’s race presents a new set of fillies for these two to tackle. Spangled Banner looms as the logical favorite based on her strong debut, but that was a race that came apart a bit late after Miss Frost made an early move to the front around the far turn. Still, Granny Mc’s Kitten did come back to win a stakes in her next start so it was a decent field. The other two logical contenders are the firsters High Heel Kitten and Marie Antoinette. High Heel Kitten is the one I would prefer, but I do wonder why she hasn’t race over the past month after being entered in an off-the-turf race all the way back on August 9th at Saratoga. Marie Antoinette is bred for the turf, but Todd Pletcher is typically a terrible bet going first time out in turf routes. The statistics do not lie: Over the past five years, he has won with just 11% of these runners to the tune of a paltry $1.03 ROI.
In summation, we don’t yet know if there’s much quality in this field and I think there is reason enough to take a shot with both Rachel’s Temper (#4) and Red Constitution (#1) at large prices. In Pick-4s and other multi-race wagers I might use a few others as backups, but these are the two that will make those types of wagers pay a meaningful sum.
$15 Win 4
$10 Win 1
Belmont, Race 8: Optional Claiming $14,000/N1X at 1 1/16 miles for NY-breds
Summer Place to Be may ultimately turn out to be a very good New York-bred, but the fact of the matter is that his debut was not faster than what Junior Officer (#2) and Alcolite (#3) are capable of running. Additionally, those two earned their mid to high-70s Beyer figures against much tougher competition than the weak maiden field Summer Place to Be defeated. In multi-race wagers I’d have to see all three of them in equal strength, but in intra-race wagers on the eighth I’ll concentrate primarily on Junior Officer and Alcolite.
$5 Exacta Box 2/3
Belmont, Race 9: Claiming $16,000B at seven furlongs on the turf
The pace of this race should be swift with Yield Bogey, Brown Indian, and Rangey all preferring to be fowardly placed early. For that reason I’ve gone looking for some interesting closers and I believe that I’ve found them in Precious Metal (#9) and Pasta Lover (#5).
Precious Metal has run turf sprints in the past that would easily beat this field, but it would be fair to question his current form. I cannot give him a major excuse for his poor effort on June 27th, but last time I will give him a pass. That race took place on a day when the rail was still helping horses on the turf and the winner, Shmooz Talker, ran away late as he hugged the hedge. Precious Metal, on the other hand, went four-wide around the turn and never really had any chance to make a late impact. He hasn’t minded some cut in the ground before and he’ll get that today. At anywhere near his morning line of 6-1 he’s a good bet.
Pasta Lover’s recent form is better than that of my top selection and I would have made him my main pick if I was sure he’d handle this turnback to seven furlongs. The pace will be in his favor and the horses he faces today are much softer than what he’s been running against at Monmouth, but I would need at least 6-1 on him as well given the questions I have about his ability to handle this shorter trip.
$15 Win 9 [OFF THE TURF] $10 Win 5 [OFF THE TURF]