Belmont, Race 2: Maiden Claiming $65,000 at one mile on the turf for two year-olds
This is a troublesome race. I suppose that Branded Hand is the horse to beat since the drop in class and addition of Lasix figure to help him, but I’m not sure that I want to trust him at a short price. The trio of first time starters from the Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown barns should get some tote action, but I’m not thrilled with the records of either of those trainers with horses making their career debuts in maiden claiming turf routes (Over the last five years, Pletcher is 3-for-30 and Brown is 2-for-24).
Instead I’ll try Billypaysthebills (#9), a second time starter who tries the turf for the first time. This one is a bit of a guess, but the horse will be a price and has some turf pedigree. His sire Zensational loved synthetic tracks but has yet to have enough of his progeny try the turf to make a meaningful statement about his ability as a grass sire. His dam, Yankee Belle, was unraced, but is half-sister to Octave, who never tried the turf, but was a multiple Grade 1 winner who earned over $1.6 million. This dam is also a half-sister to Belle Cherie, a mutliple graded stakes winner who had success on both turf and dirt. They are both of Belle Nuit, a turf stakes winner, so there is pedigree in the family that says the switch to turf may agree with this colt. The connections have already tried to get Billypaysthebills on the turf once since his debut when he was a stewards scratch in a maiden special weight a month ago. They paid $75,000 for him because of a 21 1/5 second workout over the synthetic track at Ocala. He’s shown he doesn’t really care for the dirt so perhaps the surface switch can move him up at a price.
$10 Win 9
Belmont, Race 4: The Island Sun Stakes at one mile on the turf for NY-bred two year-olds
A P Johnson (#2) had the benefit of a clear trip in her debut while some of the others who finished behind her encountered traffic troubles. However, I upgraded her performance by making her a “Horse to Watch” because she was forced to race four-wide all the way around the turn over a turf course that was favoring inside paths. The stretch out to a mile is a question mark, but if she runs as well as she did in her initial start, I think she’ll be tough to beat.
$15 Win 2
Belmont, Race 7: Maiden Special Weight at one mile for NY-bred two year-old fillies
This is a tricky maiden race which will likely be made even trickier by the return of the inside bias that has been present over the last week. It’s nearly impossible to predict who will get the right ground-saving trip so I won’t take those concerns into consideration.
I like Shades of Indygo (#3), who was doing some real running at the end of her debut despite finishing far back. She was very sluggish early as she quickly dropped out of contention, but was running fastest of all through the final quarter mile and suggested that more distance may be what she wants. The influence of Indygo Shiner and Raffie’s Majesty would suggest that route racing would be her preference and her female family confirms that. Her dam is a full-sister to Mt. Majesty, a stakes-winning router, as well as Raffie’s Dream, a mutliple stakes winning dirt router, who is the dam of $336,000 earner Stormy’s Majesty, winner of the Discovery Handicap (G3). If the apprentice can get her to the rail and advance up the inside I think she’ll have a chance to upset at a price.
$10 Win 3
Belmont, Race 8: Optional Claiming $62,500/N2X at one mile on the turf for fillies and mares
The scratches have completely changed the complexion of this race. I’m going to somewhat reluctantly trust in Edgar Prado to send Cosmic Energy (#11) to the front. If she is able to clear off and set sensible fractions I think she’ll have a great chance to wire this field. I don’t know what happened to her over the summer when she threw in a string of poor efforts, but she showed signs of life at Delaware last time. You could argue that her best races have come when she’s been allowed to set her own pace and that could be just the scenario she encounters today.
I’m not really thrilled with any of the horses coming out of the race at this level on September 18th. I didn’t feel that Floral Romance ran particularly well while Anna Sophia got a great trip and today will be half the price she was that day. Scenario Analysis isn’t impossible either, but she was pretty bad at Monmouth last time. I had originally liked Promise Me More the best of all, but she is really going to be hurt by the pace of this race. Like I said, I don’t love Cosmic Energy, but she feels like the right horse to take at a price.
$10 Win 11
Belmont, Race 9: The Basket Weave Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for three year-olds
I’m going to hope that Joha keeps Dysprosium company up front and opens this race up to one of the closers. Dysprosium may be very talented and can obviously win, but I feel like he’s going to be overbet off that undefeated record, big Beyer, and trainer change. I’ll instead go with Vinny Goodtimes (#9), who I’ve never really been a fan of, but has undeniably stepped up his game in recent starts. During his first few races he was undone by a tendency to become rank, but while under the care of Patrick Quick it seems that he’s overcome that flaw and it’s done wonders for his closing kick. I know that he got a perfect setup last time, but so did runner-up Red Vine, who was no match for the winner in the final furlong. Today’s foe Calm Pacific struggled to beat that same runner in his allowance win in early September and will probably be a shorter price today. The quick recent workout suggests that Vinny Goodtimes is holding his excellent form and may even have another forward move in him. His morning line odds are probably inflated, but I’d take him at anything over 7-1.
$10 Win 9 [SCRATCHED]
Belmont, Race 10: Optional Claiming $25,000/N1X at seven furlongs on the turf for fillies and mares
I’ve been waiting awhile for Tokyo Time (#8) to return to the races. Something clearly went wrong in that start at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks day as she was uncharacteristically dull in the stretch and was put away for over five months afterwards. She had previously shown at Gulfstream that she possesses a ton of raw ability. Her maiden score was powerful and she followed it up with a huge race in the Herecomesthebride Stakes (G3), when she was much the best despite finishing second (Watch the replay). There isn’t much early speed signed on here so she should be able to wire the field. There won’t be much win value, but I don’t think there’s much of a chance that she loses.
$25 Win 8