Today I’ll be handicapping a few races from Belmont and the major stakes races being run at Parx on Pennsylvania Derby day.
Belmont, Race 5: Claiming $25,000B at 1 1/8 miles on the turf
I added So Outspoken (#2) to my “Horses to Watch” list after he sustained a wide trip at Saratoga in his most recent race during that stretch of days when you needed to be on the inside. The pace was also very slow in that race and So Outspoken put in a remarkable effort to actually gain ground through the stretch. He was claimed out of that race by Linda Rice and is stepped up slightly in class today. He drew an advantageous post on the inside going a mile and an eighth, a distance that he has already proven he can handle. There is a real lack of pace in this race so Mike Luzzi should be able to control the pace from the start. He’s just a very likely winner who is value at anything over 2-1. I’ll bet him to win and use him in the exacta with Bedouin Now (#7), who endured a nightmare trip last time when finishing far behind my top pick.
$20 Win 2
$5 Exacta Box 2/7
Belmont, Race 9: The Gallant Bloom Handicap (G2) at 6 1/2 furlongs for fillies and mares
Cluster of Stars is quite a talent, but I have questions about her coming into this race. I won’t try to poke holes in her form because she was very good at Aqueduct over the winter, but you can’t deny that this is a serious step up in class. This field is also twice the size of the small groups she was beating earlier in the year and with a larger field comes other speed. Classic Point has to be sent from the outside and I doubt Javier Castellano is going to try and rate Cluster of Starts, which means she’ll have to be on the engine for the entire six and a half furlongs. And then you have to wonder if you’re going to get her very best effort today. Steve Asmussen does not have very good numbers bringing horses back from layoffs in graded stakes races and I feel like they’re running here because they have to. She’s out of allowance conditions and is ready to race. She has a ton of raw ability, but I can’t make her my top selection.
Dance Card is a tough call for me and I’m ultimately taking a stand against her. I don’t want to be too harsh, but I thought I’d be more impressed looking back at her resume from late last season. She did win by large margins, but she only beat Sea Island, My Wandy’s Girl, and Lady Cohiba in those stakes triumphs. What I’m trying to say is that the Gazelle was hardly a Grade 1 field and she didn’t have to run that fast to register a visually impressive victory. She’s also a filly who showed on a number of occasions that she’s difficult to ride and Roman Dominguez learned to use only the gentlest handling to coax the best efforts out of her while still unable to prevent her bad habit of drifting in the stretch. I don’t know who’s been working her in the mornings, but if this is the first time Junior Alvarado will be getting on her back, I’d be a little worried.
Dance to Bristol (#8) might be the favorite, but I just think she’s a very likely winner once again. She drew a perfect post position on the outside so that Xavier Perez can see what’s going on to his inside before dropping over for the turn. The moisture in the track should not make any difference since she’s handled wet tracks before and is bred to love them being by Speightstown. You say that the fields she’s been beating aren’t that strong, but Cluster of Stars and Dance Card accomplished their feats against lesser company. Her morning line is probably the lowest price that I’d want to take on her, but I can’t go against a horse who is in the best form of her life and should work out a perfect trip. I’ll bet her to win and use her in the exacta with the other logical horse with recency, Holiday Soiree (#3).
$20 Win 8
$5 Exacta Box 3/8
Belmont, Race 10: Allowance N1X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for NY-breds
Powerful Instinct (#5) is a horse that I’ve liked for a while now. He should have won in his 2012 finale when he got buried down in behind the leaders and Ramon Dominguez could not find a clear path until too late. He then returned for some unfamiliar connections in the spring and took a couple of races to find his best form. Last time I liked him at Saratoga at 35-1 and took a nasty beat as he just failed to get up. Well, apparently Michael Dubb noticed that there’s a decent horse here and it appears that he was privately purchased in mid-August. This is just a very positive trainer switch on a horse who would have been a major contender even for his previous connections. As long as he gets a little bit of pace, I think he may be the most likely winner
The horses that took wide paths into the stretch in that August 24th race need to be discussed. Sunlover is the one that most will want to take since he got a terrible ride by Javier Castellano, who took him too far back early and could not get him to settle around the first turn. He ended up very wide on the far turn and was taken even wider into the stretch by a drifting Archer Hill. He’s better than that, but I’m more interested in another horse out of that race.
Sonnyandpally (#3), too, had to endure a wide run around the far turn and stayed on through the stretch as Sunlover was basically eased late. The race is a throw out for each of them. I was as surprised as anyone by Sonnyandpally’s maiden win two races back, but after looking into it, I’m pretty sure that he became a new gelding before Saratoga and there’s a chance that he’s just a better horse these days. He was always bred to be a good one since he’s a full brother to Gitchee Goomie and I think there’s a chance that he’s finally putting it all together as a four year-old. He’s going to be a huge price in this race and I think he has enough of a chance to take a small shot to win.
$15 Win 5 (WINNER; Payout: $60.75)
$8 Win 3
Parx, Race 8: The Alphabet Soup Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for Pa-breds
Roadhog is clearly the horse to beat and a key for many playing the Pick-4, but I have a long shot idea in this leg. Rimyanna (#9) is ambitiously stepped up in class for his turf debut and I’m to take a small shot with him. There isn’t that much turf pedigree to be found on his dam’s side, but his sire, Rimrod, is a half-brother to Selkirk, a champion turf miler and top sire in Europe, and a full-brother to Seebe, who won the Suwanee River at Gulfstream and was second in the French 1,000 Guineas prior to coming to the U.S. There isn’t much sire data on him because he hasn’t produced very many runners, but if Rimyanna has inherited any of his sire’s genes there’s a chance he could move way up on the turf. I also find it encouraging that his only two good efforts came over sealed racetracks, which is sometimes a sign that horse will handle turf. He’ll be 30-1 or more, so I’ll take a small shot with him while acknowledging Roadhog is the most likely winner.
$5 Win/Place 9
Parx, Race 10: The Cotillion Stakes (G1) at 1 1/16 miles for three year-old fillies
I feel that the two best horses in here at the moment are My Happy Face and Close Hatches, but I don’t have the greatest confidence in either of them. I’ve always thought that My Happy Face was more of a one-turn runner and I think a mile and sixteenth at Parx may be pushing it for her. I know that she ran well in the Coaching Club American Oaks, but she got to set her own pace that day and held second by default because no one else showed up behind Princess of Sylmar. Close Hatches has been working well recently, but I do wonder what’s been keeping her away from the races. I know that she didn’t miss the entire Saratoga meet by design and I just don’t want to rely on her to repeat her Mother Goose after having had some problems.
I’m very interested in a price, and that’s Street Girl (#10). She ran a huge race in the Ballerina and I think showed her connections once and for all that she wants to run farther than six furlongs. She’s won 2 of 3 going two turns on the dirt and the one loss came behind Close Hatches in a race at Gulfstream where that one had everything her own way up front. I think her Ballerina proves that she’s better now than she was when she won the Calder Oaks and the extra distance will only help. I won’t be surprised to see her charging late at a big price.
$10 Win 10
$2 Exacta 2/4/6/9 with 10
Parx, Race 11: The Pennsylvania Derby (G2) at 1 1/8 miles for three year-olds
I have no knocks against Will Take Charge. Both of his races at Saratoga were very strong and I’m of the opinion that he’s a big, rangy horse who has just finally figured things out. I also like the entry. Romansh is improving rapidly, but I prefer Transparent, who was just not himself in the Travers and may have bled since Kiaran McLaughlin finally applies Lasix for the first time. His Curlin win was a strong effort and a repeat of that race makes him a player in here. Moreno has a chance, but I don’t think they’re going to let him get away with such soft fractions today.
The one other horse that I really like, who happens to be the one I’m most interested in trying to make some money with, is Fury Kapcori (#6). I know it seems like an eternity ago, but his race in the CashCall Futurity was one of the strongest two year-old performances of the year. I started to like Oxbow on the Triple Crown trail based on his performance in that race and Fury Kapcori ran even better than him. I like the way Jerry Hollendorfer has gradually brought him back to the races, first in the sprint and then in the El Cajon. He was very game last time to get within a head of the winner at the finish after appearing beaten at the top of the stretch and perhaps hinted that he’s recapturing his two year-old form. I know that dirt is a minor question, but he’s going to be a huge price so I’ll bet him to win and probably fool around with him in exactas and triples.
$10 Win 6
$5 Exacta 1/7 with 6