Belmont, Race 2: Maiden Special Weight at one mile
There are faster horses on paper than Buddy’s Smart (#1), but I liked what I saw in his debut race and think he has the most room for improvement second time out. Engine and Warrior’s Crown both ran such professional races in their debut efforts that I wonder how much better than can realistically be expected to perform in this spot. Buddy’s Smart, on the other hand, was slow into stride and raced greenly for much of his six furlong unveiling (Watch the replay). He dropped well behind the rest of the field in a slowly paced race that was completely dominated on the front end. Coming to the top of the stretch, Jose Ortiz asked him for run and he built up quite a head of steam as he started to angle outside. However, once they straightened away his greenness got the best of him and he ducked in sharply to make his run through along the rail. He lost momentum in the process and only passed a few horses late, but keep in mind that he was trying to close into a sub-24 second final quarter mile into which no one else was making up any ground. By Smart Strike, out of the top racemare Summer Colony, Buddy’s Smart should love the extra two furlongs he gets today and could be a factor if he’s able to stay a bit closer to the pace early. I’ll bet him to win and use him underneath the three other logical contenders in the exacta.
$10 Win 1
$4 Exacta 2/3/6 with 1
Belmont, Race 5: Maiden Special Weight at one mile for two year-olds
I don’t usually give as many as three selections in one race, but I think there are that many opportunities here. I have no major knocks against the well-bred firsters or the horses who have already run well that are likely to take money, but I’m more interested in a few runners who may still have hidden potential.
It’s worth watching the September 14th maiden race (Replay) that Mischieviously (#7 in the replay) and Bourbon Sense (#8 in the replay) are coming out of to see what I like about the two of them. This was a day when the rail was very much the place to be on the main track and Mischieviously (#3) was shuffled back early and forced to race in last place in order to get over to the rail. Coming to the top of the stretch, he angled outside and was about seven or eight-wide for the stretch drive. He was the only horse rallying outside who made up any significant ground and the only horse to make a serious bid from that far back in the pack. I thought it was an excellent effort and one that he should be able to build on now that he stretches out to a mile for his third career start.
Bourbon Sense (#1) was also able to get over to the rail early, but had a different sort of trouble in the stretch as he was very green. When it was time to commence a rally Bourbon Sense at first seemed reluctant to leave the rail and then balked when Edgar Prado asked him to go through a hole between horses. Realizing he was beaten Prado reverted to a light hand ride and a few cracks of the whip for the final eighth of a mile. Bourbon Sense, however, really took off despite the light encouragement and was running on strongly through the finish to just miss catching Mischieviously for fourth place. The stretch out to a mile shouldn’t be a problem and I’m encouraged by the much improved workout earlier this week. I think this colt has some ability and could turn in a big effort today.
Finally, I’ll placed a slightly smaller wager on a real long shot, Away Game (#2), who comes out of a different maiden race (Watch the replay). Much like Buddy’s Smart in the second race, this just strikes me as a young colt that wanted no part of a six furlong sprint and should love the stretch out in distance. Away Game was very slow into stride early and dropped far behind the rest of the field early. Entering the stretch Mike Luzzi started to ask Away Game for run and he really responded making up nearly 10 lengths on the rest of the pack excluding runaway winner Manhattan Johnnie. Shockingly, on the gallop out you can see that Away Game’s momentum carried him past even the winner just an eighth of a mile past the wire. This horse was flying late in the race and should really respond to the extra ground he gets to work with here. He’s posted strong works over at Aqueduct since the debut and I think we’ll see an improved effort at a huge price.
This is a tough, competitive race, but I think the aforementioned three could all outrun their odds.
$15 Win 1
$15 Win 3
$10 Win 2
Belmont, Race 8: The Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) at seven furlongs
I know that he needs to run just a little faster to beat this field, but I think there are reasons to believe Clearly Now (#5) can step in this spot. I realize that he was beaten by Forty Tales going seven furlongs in the Woody Stephens, but the winner had a perfect trip that day whereas Clearly Now was forced to chase a hotly contested pace and he had a right to get leg weary in the final sixteenth of a mile. Last time his return race was again a bit better than it looks since he had to go very wide around the turn on a day when it certainly didn’t hurt to be on the rail at Parx. I like the addition of blinkers since this horse does have a tendency to drift late in his races.
Today Strapping Groom should clear off to the lead as the main speed and Clearly Now can take up a position stalking him alongside Big Screen. Strapping Groom is a major threat to wire the field, but if someone runs him down I think it is likely to be one of the horses in close proximity early. Clearly Now will get first run on the closers and is a bit more reliable than the inconsistent Big Screen. At his morning line odds I think he’s worth a shot.
$10 Win 5 (WINNER; Payout: $49.00)
$5 Exacta 6-5
Belmont, Race 9: The Turnback the Alarm Handicap (G3) at 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares
Centring is in the horse to beat with this drop in class, but I don’t think that she has any huge edge over this field. She got a perfect setup in the Ogden Phipps when she posted that huge Beyer speed figure, but in her other Grade 1 tries she’s just clunked along for a minor award. She’s a very nice mare and will be a deserving favorite, but I don’t think she’s unbeatable.
The problem is: where else do you go? The trainer changes to Todd Pletcher are supposed to help both Fantasy of Flight and Royal Lahaina, but I find it hard to take two mares that I’ve never really been a fan of. It does feel like they are just being handed over to Pletcher late in their careers as a last desperate move to rejuvenate them. Street Secret makes sense since she was clearly best last time when against the rail bias, but she is typically overbet.
I’ve ultimately landed on a wacky long shot, but one who I think has a real chance to upset this race. Stanwyck (#4) is slow on paper, but there are a couple reasons to believe that she will show up with the performance of her life today. First of all, I think she’s a dirt horse. I know that her past performances don’t support that hypothesis as her lone dirt race was just mediocre, but her pedigree does. Her dam and the majority of her siblings have all been best on dirt. Most notably, she is a half-sister to both Giacomo ($2.5 million in earnings) and Tiago ($2.3 million in earnings). She stepped up her game when switched to turf, but I think that improvement was more due to physical maturity than a surface preference.
Her first two starts in New York were nothing to write home about, but she’s since been given a break and is spotted very ambitiously here. Furthermore, her worktab coming into this race is exceptional, especially for a filly who has never really been a great work horse. Her move on September 26th was the fastest of the day by a full second while her move on October 9th was best of the day by over 2 seconds. The Saratoga training track was not playing fast on either day; she just turned in sensational workouts. I would imagine that her morning training is what has instilled John Shirreffs with the confidence to try this graded stakes race and I think she can emulate the feat of her stablemate Blingo, who stepped up to win a stakes here two weeks ago at a huge price.
$15 Win 4 (WINNER; Payout: $336.00)
$5 Exacta 6-4
$2 Exacta 1/2/7 with 4