Belmont | October 3, 2015
Race 5: The Kelso
While I acknowledge that his connections are using this race merely as a tightener for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, I can’t find a suitable alternative to HONOR CODE (#2). Honor Code has been in the best form of his career in 2015 and he’s always been most consistent around one turn. The horse that some may feel is a threat to the favorite is Red Vine (#5), who should appreciate the turnback after finding the 10-furlong distance of the Pacific Classic to be outside his optimum range. Red Vine is a nice horse, but Honor Code is a class above foes like Valid and Bradester, who Red Vine was tangling with at Monmouth this summer. Tamarkuz (#4) should appreciate a bit of class relief here, but he was disappointing in the Forego despite getting briefly shuffled back on the far turn. Appealing Tale (#1) may hold a slight pace advantage, but he benefited from a favorable setup in the Pat O’Brien (pace coded in blue in TimeformUS PPs) and appears to be a little dressed up.
Selections: 2 – 5 – 4 – 1
Race 6: The Flower Bowl
CURVY (#8) showed that she belongs with Group I company in Europe after just barely losing a couple of close finishes in the Irish and Yorkshire Oaks. She has shown steady improvement through the summer, handles good-to-soft ground, and prefers to race up close to the pace, which should serve her well in a Flower Bowl lacking an obvious frontrunner. On the surface, it appears that Stephanie’s Kitten’s (#1) 2015 campaign is following a similar trajectory to last year, which saw her Breeders’ Cup preparation culminate with a win in this very race. However, I believe a closer look at her races this year reveals that she’s lost a step. Her Beverly D. form has her moving in the right direction, but she still wasn’t winning that day and I don’t think she ran that much better than her stablemate, Watsdachances (#5), who figures to be a bigger price once again. Watsdachances has quietly put together a solid resume and seems to always run her race despite rarely landing the top prize. Her last couple of races were two of her career best performances and signal that she could be sitting on another big effort. I’ll be using her with my top selection. Mutatis Mutandis (#7) is the other Euro, but her form is far less consistent than Curvy’s and she appears to have issues getting out of the gate, which could hurt her chances here.
Selections: 8 – 5 – 1 – 7
Race 7: The Frizette
I’m against She’s All Ready (#1), who is sure to take her share of play off two blowout wins against New York-breds. This is far and away the toughest field she’s ever faced so she’s going to have to prove it to me against this caliber of competition. Width (#2) is the horse to beat off a visually impressive maiden score that saw her race break slowly and loop the field to win going away. The extra distance doesn’t figure to be an issue for this daughter of Blame, but I wonder how much value she’ll offer and wouldn’t recommend taking much less than 3/1 on her. I have doubts I’ll get that price, so I’ve made DESERT TUNE (#6) my top selection. She was a comfortable maiden winner last time, showing a great deal of professionalism in saving her best run for the stretch. She’s going to have to run faster, but in a field full of stretching-out sprinters, she’s one who I feel I can trust to be around at the end. I also am a little interested in Nemoralia (#3), who ships over from Great Britain, since her pedigree suggests that she should be just as effective on the dirt.
Selections: 6 – 2 – 3 – 5
Race 8: The Champagne
Ralis (#5) was a decisive winner of the Hopeful, but he faces a tougher, deeper field now in the Champagne and you’re not going to get anywhere near the $15+ payout that his backers were rewarded with that day. Instead, I prefer a few horses exiting what appear to be strong maiden races. My top pick is TALE OF S’AVALL (#7), who was one of a handful of well-prepared Barclay Tagg firsters to debut at Saratoga. Tale of S’avall showed good professionalism to overcome a wide trip and win going away in a solid final time. The extra distance shouldn’t be a problem for this full-brother to Pleasant Tales (both wins, best speed figures came routing). I also want to use Sail Ahoy (#4), who looks a little slower than his competition, but is a one-run closer who should get a favorable pace setup ahead of him. (The TimeformUS pace projector is predicting a fast pace in the Champagne.) Finally, I could also throw in the maiden Portfolio Manager (#9), who finished well while making up ground on the winner last time through a fast final quarter mile.
Selections: 7 – 4 – 9 – 5
Race 9: The Hill Prince
This is a wide-open edition of the Hill Prince. World Approval (#10) is a bit of a conundrum. His Hall of Fame was a better effort than it appears since he had to loop the field making a wide run around the turn while rallying into a moderate pace. However, his Saranac triumph is not quite as good as it seems since he got a fast pace to run into and also had the advantage of rallying up the hedge. (The inside path was the place to be on the turf during the last week at Saratoga.) I want to go in a different direction and am picking TALE OF LIFE (#11) on top. He won on heavy ground in his debut last year, so rain in the forecast is no concern. In his first start as a 3-year-old, he finished a good second behind eventual Prix du Jockey Club-G1/Prix Niel-G2 victor New Bay, so you know he has quality. Tale of Life’s stateside debut didn’t quite go as planned since he got stymied in traffic for much of the stretch drive, but I expect an improved performance out of this son of Deep Impact today. Behind him, I want to use a couple of Chad Brown runners. The one I’m most interested in is the long shot, Winter Springs (#3), who didn’t deliver in two races at Saratoga, but may appreciate more give in the ground here. I’d also recommend using Money Multiplier (#9), who has improved on turf and may have been best in the Saranac.
Selections: 11 – 3 – 9 – 10
Race 10: The Jockey Club Gold Cup
The Jockey Club Gold Cup looks like Tonalist’s race to lose. TONALIST (#6) has run very well in all of his starts this year despite coming up just short of winning in his last three efforts. An odd trip may have cost him the Suburban and there’s certainly no disgrace in losing to horses like Liam’s Map and Honor Code in his two other defeats. He loves Belmont Park and John Velazquez should be more familiar with his idiosyncrasies now in his fourth ride aboard the defending Jockey Club Gold Cup champion. The biggest threat to Tonalist may come from Coach Inge (#2), who has quietly matured into a top tier handicap horse late in his four year-old season. He also has shown an affinity for Belmont Park and should appreciate stretching back out to a mile and a quarter. I expect him to get first run on likely pacesetter Constitution, who I don’t trust to reproduce his Gulfstream form. The Jimmy Jerkens duo of Wicked Strong (#1) and Effinex (#4) may find Tonalist too much to handle at his beloved Belmont Park, but should fill out trifecta positions.