Friday, June 06, 2014
TimeformUS Analyst Mike Beer
Belmont Analysis for Saturday, June 7 - Belmont Day!
Race 1: Pace Projector favors runners on or near the early lead in this race, which figures to make #9 Jimmy Connors tough, though we're still concerned about him getting the distance of this race. We will try to beat him with #3 Spartiatis, who had no business going 1 1/4 miles on turf last time. We like him better as a dirt sprinter, but he's a price in here, and he'll be up close.
#8 Wabbajack was on our radar last year, and he will be a new gelding for this race.
Race 2: We'll go for a price in this race with #3 Effinex, who looks very good on our data, posting three recent speed figures of 97, 100, 97, which puts him right in line with the favorites in this race. #5 Misconnect has run well in all three starts for Pletcher, and will now stretch out in distance a bit off of back-to-back well spaced wins. He is more determined than brilliant as a race horse, but there is nothing wrong with that, and we think he is very dangerous in here. The ML favorite is #4 Kid Cruz, a deep-closing colt who tried his luck in the Preakness Stakes last out to no avail. Pace Projector indicates that there could be a competitive pace in this race, but we don't like to take one-run closers unless they figure to get a prime pace set-up, which is possible here, or if they are simply the best horse in the race, which Kid Cruz is not.
Race 3: #2 Ground Transport took the Drosselmeyer field wire to wire after cruising to the early lead, and while he held on by a diminishing margin, we thought he was clearly best in that race, and want him right back in the Brooklyn. The conventional thinking may be that he led and was almost run down going shorter, so is much more vulnerable as he picks up an extra two furlongs today. But we think he is in a prime position to control the early running again, and are going right back to him. The horse he staved off in the stretch in the Drosselmeyer, #5 Ever Rider, is back to try him again, and he may be the main danger. Ever Rider sat a perfect tracking trip after conceding the lead to Ground Transport that day, and took his shot all through the stretch, only to be denied late.
Race 4: #8 Ben's Cat is the horse to beat in the Jaipur, but we aren't really interested in taking a short price on him and will look elsewhere for a wagering opportunity. #5 Anyriderill Do was initially on our radar as a 2yo back in 2012, when he appeared to get intimidated in traffic during his debut run before kicking in with a big finish despite never getting fully clear. He made his next start seven months later and ran over maidens in what would be his final turf sprint start for over a year. Then, after a series of turf routes and a layoff, Anyriderill Do, finally back in a turf sprint, got himself over toward the inside off the pace before leveling off with a strong late run through the furlong grounds. He's a big price in this race. We are happy to take a shot with him.
Race 5: As strong as this field is, there is a chance that #11 Social Inclusion is simply too good for these horses, as he has earned a TimeformUS Speed Figure for every one of his four career starts to date (110, 115, 118, 113) that is higher than any figure ever run by any of his opponents, save Havana's 112, which he earned in winning last year's Champagne Stakes. A fast horse, turning back in distance, with standout figures. What's not to like about Social Inclusion? We find it impossible to stand very strongly against him, but we do want to make a case for one horse in here against the favorite, and that horse is indeed #3 Havana. He missed a couple of scheduled starts earlier this year, and had a training setback as well, so we aren't that surprised that he was flat in his seasonal debut. In retrospect, it likely wasn't a good sign that he ran that day as part of a coupled entry, as he simply was not sharp at any point in that race. If he was just getting a run in there to shake off some of the rust after a long and difficult winter, he is eligible to really step up his game on Saturday.
Race 6: Trainer Todd Pletcher holds a strong hand throughout the card on Belmont Stakes day, but he may not be stronger anywhere than he is in the Grade 1 Acorn. His #8 My Miss Sophia has been highly impressive through her three race series since being stretched out in distance, posting a pair of 110 TimeformUS Speed Figures, which gives her a sizable advantage on her competition in this spot. #5 Sweet Reason could not have been more impressive than she was in winning her first two career starts, one of which was the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga. Both of those races were contested over sloppy sealed tracks, which made them a little difficult to evaluate. When she stepped up to a one-turn mile for her next start, she encountered fast dirt, and also tasted defeat, for the first time, but she had enough trouble in that race, both at the break and after making a run to contention, that we believe her to be able to run her race without being aided by a wet track. The real key to Sweet Reason seems to be distance. She is not a horse that can carry her run, so getting a turn-back to a shorter race figures to really suit her.
Race 7: First, #5 Beholder, who was so dominant in that Breeders' Cup win: She has been masterfully developed by Richard Mandella, who has managed to turn this fast horse, who was once a fire-breathing handful, into a handy and tractable powerhouse who will rate and then run at her rider's command. She got a short layoff following her BC win, and appeared to be even more formidable, if that's possible, upon her return in an easy spot. Bottom line, Beholder is not going to be easy to defeat in this race. #6 Princess of Sylmar put together the unlikeliest of three-year-old campaigns after wintering in NY on Aqueduct's inner dirt. She endured a tough trip in losing to Close Hatches in the Grade 2 Gazelle, but following that run she surprised Beholder and nine other talented fillies to win the Kentucky Oaks at odds of 38/1. After that, all she did was win the Coaching Club American Oaks (Gr1), the Alabama (Gr1) and the Beldame (Gr1) over older horses, including reigning champion Royal Delta. The Beldame was supposed to be her season finale, but she was re-routed to the Breeders' Cup at the last minute, and things did not work out there. She has also made her 4yo debut already, and it was an impressive one, running away from a promising rival in Wedding Toast, who was a Grade 3 winner last year.
Race 8: The Just A Game is first up in this all Grade 1 Pick 4, which features 44 betting interests and interesting horses galore. We're going to make #6 Stephanie's Kitten our focus in this leg. We'll admit to being less than thrilled that she races so infrequently, but so far she has shown up for the big ones more often than not, and she simply didn't have a fair chance when unable to get clear from her inside trip in the Jenny Wiley, which was her first start of the year. #9 Discreet Marq is dead game and a couple of photos away from showing up here looking for three straight Grade 1 wins. We will use her as a backup, but would rather try to get #5 Coffee Clique into our play, as she has flashed talent, and remains relatively unexposed after only two starts as a 4yo.
Race 9: Met Mile projects to be a war from start to finish. #1 Palace Malice may be the best horse in the country right now, but he drew poorly for this. Will he knock us out of the Pick 4? No. But we are going to be trying to beat him. #9 Normandy Invasion has the talent but is always over-bet. Thing is, he can really run and is better as a one-turn horse, which makes him a big player in this race. Meanwhile, there is another runner in here whom we are going to focus on, and that is #13 Shakin It Up. Yes, Shakin It Up took advantage of a clean run into a pace meltdown when taking the Grade 1 Malibu as a 3yo, and yes, he got a perfect trip when he buried the field in his big-figure Strub win, but he has also run very well in each of his two races since then--despite difficult trips.
We will have all of the #1, #9 and #13 as main Pick 4 uses, but want to include some pricier options as well: #2 Vyjack, #10 Clearly Now, and #12 Romansh make the ticket, as well.
Race 10: The Manhattan brings together an interesting group, as usual. #6 Seek Again figures to attract much attention in this spot. That was a strong effort after a layoff, and his win over this trip in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby was equally impressive. We don't necessarily believe that he deserves strong favoritism in this spot, but the ML price seems right, and we cannot get around him being a major player in this race. The top 3 from the Man o' War are here, and that is a race we admit to having struggled with. #8 Real Solution was compromised by the flow, and still managed to make a strong run to contention before being turned away. We want to make Seek Again and Real Solution our keys to this race, and will make #4 Grandeur, who will be first-time lasix today, our other horse.
Race 11: No better way to cap this great sequence of races than with a Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes. Obviously #2 California Chrome is the horse to beat here. He will not be an easy foe to vanquish, as he has that handy speed to pull his own trip, which he combines with a sharp burst of speed, which has proven devastating to his opponents through the first two legs of this series.
However, we have decided that there are two-and-a-half horses in this Belmont Stakes who have the best chance to stop him in his tracks. The first of those is #9 Wicked Strong, who owns a TimeformUS Speed Figure equal to the 116 that California Chrome earned in his Preakness victory. Wicked Strong earned that 116 back in early April, when kicking in strongly through the stretch to close down the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. He then endured plenty of trouble during his 4th-place Derby finish. He has displayed a strong finishing kick in his races, and starts for a trainer who has been sending out nothing but live runners since returning his string from Florida.
We also believe that #11 Tonalist is a threat here. He is perhaps just a bit too far behind at this point, but there is no denying that he has the requisite ability. #1 Medal Count has improved from start-to-start throughout his career, and also had traffic trouble in Kentucky. We'll get him on a few tickets.
Race 12: #7 Ghurair is going to run better in this race than he did in the Fort Marcy off of the long layoff and is very much the horse to beat. We're not against him, but do wonder how far he really wants to go, and want to give #2 Artic North a chance to rebound. He shipped to NY at the end of last year and ran a lot better than it looks vs. graded stakes company, after getting a less-than-ideal trip.
Race 13: We are huge fans of #5 In Trouble and think he will take a ton of beating here as he turns back out of graded stakes company. If #2 Eastwood opts for this spot rather than Friday's True North, we think he could prove a serious foe. #12 Quick Money has been in strong form, will appreciate any pace that develops, and was just claimed by a going concern.