It’s an interesting card at Belmont today which features a compact, but quality renewal of the Noble Damsel and a fascinating edition of the Garden City that drew almost all of the major players in this division. It just so happens that all of my stronger opinions come later in the card today:
Belmont, Race 6: Allowance N1X at seven furlongs on the turf for NY-breds
Iron Power (#12) presents a bit of a dilemma for trip handicappers such as myself. On one hand he clearly has more ability than what he has shown in his two races since the layoff, but on the other hand he’s been the cause of his own problems. Do you continue to play a horse like this and hope that he gets over his bad habits because you have faith that he’s just better than the others or do you start to rely on him to get into enough trouble to be defeated?
If he were an older horse with more races under his belt I might take the latter approach, but since he’s young and still has some learning to do I’ll trust that Mike Hushion has worked with him on his gate issues since Saratoga. That said, I’ll need a bit of a price today. I liked him last time as well, but refused to take less than 2-1 on a horse who could very easily lose a race in the first couple of jumps.
I like that he drew the outside post today so that even if he does break a step slowly the field will not immediately collapse over on him. He does have a bit of early speed at his disposal so I’m hoping that Irad Ortiz, Jr. can use a clear outside path to his advantage and get a position racing in midpack. The extra ground he’ll have to work with today should only help and if he can run a more professional race, I think he’ll win. Fair odds on him are around 4-1.
I’m also going to throw a few dollars on Wise Guide (#8), who comes back from the layoff as a new gelding. This is a horse who I’ve written about many times before on this site. I’ve always thought he had more ability than what he was showing on the racetrack and perhaps this change will allow him to fulfill his potential. There admittedly isn’t much turf on the dam’s side of his pedigree, but he is a Freud and will be a huge price.
$15 Win 12
$6 Win 8
Belmont, Race 7: Maiden Special Weight at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for fillies and mares
I’ve been waiting for over seven months for Medea’s name to pop up in the entries again. When I started following Gulfstream over the winter a friend had pointed out the performance by this filly in her first race in this country. (Watch the replay)
When assessing this performance you must remember that Gulfstream’s turf course had become intensely speed favoring during the period from late January to mid-February and that the winner on this day, Formative, had a huge tactical advantage for that reason. You also needed to stay on the rail if you were trying to come from off the pace and Medea (#7) was one of only a handful of horses to successfully sustain a wide run from the back of the pack. After breaking slowly, Joe Bravo tried to do the right thing as he saved ground around the first turn and tried to advance on the inside down the backside. However, entering the far turn the holes closed up and Medea had to steady with nowhere to run inside. Bravo angled her off the rail and sent her up to make a four-wide sweep into the stretch. Formative appeared to be long gone at this point, but Medea continued on determinedly through the stretch to cut her margin of victory in half by the finish.
Based on that performance Medea might be a stakes quality filly. However, all of this praise begs the question: Where has she been for the past seven months? I don’t have the answer, but I do know that her connections show a lot of confidence shipping her all the way up to New York just to break her maiden. There certainly were a number of easier spots where they could have run her in the mid-Atlantic region, but I like that they’ve set their sights higher.
I’ll bet her to win and use her in the exacta with Cloture (#6), who gets first time Lasix, which is a good move for Shug. While she ran for a tag the last time she was seen, that was a field that featured subsequent stakes performers Emotional Kitten and Magnificent Shirl. I think her best may still be ahead of her and she’s worked well for this return.
$15 Win 7 (WINNER; Payout: $36.75)
$4 Exacta Box 6/7
Belmont, Race 8: The Noble Damsel (G3) at one mile on the turf for fillies and mares
It must be stated up front that Better Lucky (#3) and Hungry Island (#6) are the two most likely winners of this race. It’s hard to arrive at any other conclusion when assessing their overall resumes in comparison to the rest of the field. However, at some point you must ask yourself: What is fair value on these two? Let’s assume that Eric Donovan’s morning line is accurate and that they go off at 9-5 and 2-1 (although I think they could actually drift lower). Do you trust the two of them that much?
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I have questions. Where has Better Lucky been for the past three months? Tom Albertrani attempted to answer this question in the Daily Racing Form article about this race, but his response is laughable: “There was nothing at Saratoga for her. We had to wait for the right spot.” If you’re going to buy that reasoning then I urge you to bet her, but I believe that something went wrong and that this is a filly who was supposed have run in the Diana (G1) but now is aiming for a far less prestigious Grade 3.
As for Hungry Island, I’ve been a fan for a long time, but I am starting to wonder if she’s lost a step. She was a little dull in the lane of the Just a Game and then last time, while she was against the nature of the turf course, she really put in no run whatsoever. Any give in the ground helps her, but it also helps another filly who is the best form of her life.
Assateague (#2) has really come to hand recently for trainer Michael Matz. I know that many handicappers are just viewing her last race as a total fluke, but I don’t think it’s wise to ignore a good race just because you didn’t see it coming. She attacked a very fast pace in the De La Rose and kept on strongly through the stretch to hang on for the win. Today she will be as loose as can be on the front end and racing over a turf course that has taken some rain, which clearly helps her cause. She’s always had plenty of ability, but some character flaws have prevented her from showing that she’s truly stakes-quality. Perhaps her recent successes are just indicators that she’s finally coming to hand mentally and I don’t think she’s that far off the two favorites in terms of raw ability. At around 5-1 I believe she’s a good bet.
$10 Win 2
$4 Exacta Box 2 with 3/6
Belmont, Race 9: The Garden City (G1) at 1 1/8 miles on the turf for three year-old fillies
This is a very competitive race. A number of fillies can win and I would be careful with popular horses like Emollient and Discreet Marq because no filly entered in this race deserves to drift much lower than 4-1 in the wagering.
The pace must be discussed first. I will not argue with some who look at the past performances are reason that Discreet Marq is the lone speed and will wire the field much the way she did in the Sands Point. If they leave her alone up front she is certainly going to be very dangerous, but I have my doubts that it will play out that way. Mike Smith is too smart to just let Discreet Marq go and he’s on a filly with a fair amount of speed in her own right. Then you throw in Precarious, who has achieved most of her success while racing close early, and you can at least hope (as I do) that the pace will be fair. Also, we’re talking about a turf course that has taken some rain and I believe it will be closer to “good” than “firm” by race time, which could make Discreet Marq’s task a bit tougher.
I’m going back to Caroline Thomas (#11). I know that many will look at her Lake Placid and just disregard it as a weaker race than the American Oaks, the Sands Point, or the Lake George, but I think this would be a mistake. Yes, long shot Nellie Cashman did cross the wire first, but there were still some quality fillies behind her. Using the consistent Watsdachances as yardstick, you could argue that the Lake Placid was just as strong as those aforementioned races.
The bottom line with my selection is that Caroline Thomas is just a filly who is much, much better than she looks on paper. She received a series of terrible rides and unfortunate trips in every race she contested from the Sweetest Chant stakes right on up to her nightmarish stretch run in the My Princess Jess two back. I’m not even sure that her Lake Placid run, in which she did get a relatively good trip, was the best that she has to offer. I believe that she possesses the best late kick of anyone in here and a less than firm turf course should only help her cause. She needs to work out a trip under Joe Bravo, but if she is able to get a clear run I think she might be good enough to mow them down late.
The price should be right to take a chance on her once again. I’ll bet her to win and use her underneath Emollient, Discreet Marq, Alterite, Concise, and Summer of Fun in the exacta.
$15 Win 11
$2 Exacta 1/2/4/5/6 with 11
Belmont, Race 10: Starter Optional Claiming $35,000 at one mile on the turf
This is a very tricky race, which is why I’m taking a shot with a couple of price horses, both of whom happen to reside on my “Horses to Watch” list.
Bluegrass Springs (#8) showed up on my radar last time after her got a terrible ride from Jose Ortiz, who for some reason decided it would be a good idea to rate this frontrunner over a turf course that was favoring inside speed. That was probably a tougher spot, but he still put in a decent late run to beat half the field. Today there is some other speed, but Bluegrass Springs doesn’t need to be on the lead. He just has to be forwardly placed so the he can get a jump on the closers in the stretch.
I’ll also make a smaller wager on long shot Foolish Tiger (#7), who may not be the most talented horse in the race, but who has had to compete in a couple of completely paceless races in his last two starts and should finally get a fair setup today. He likes a little bit of give in the ground and is in the best form of his life right now. I think he’s worth trying at double-digit odds.
$15 Win 8
$10 Win 7