Friday, July 04, 2014
TimeformUS Analyst Mike Beer
TimeformUS Belmont Analysis for Saturday, July 5
The Stars & Stripes Festival
Race 1: #7 Pedal Princess was well bet in her debut, going 5 furlongs at Atlantic City, and had a game finish from off of a moderate pace; showed enough there for us to take her against this field, and she has a big pedigree to live up to, one that suggests more distance is going to suit her. #1 Lady Lavery had disappointed at short prices in each of her last two starts, so we don't want her on top at a short price, but this is as good a spot as she could have found for the level. #4 Guilty Verdict was a no-show as the favorite in her 2yo finale, and switches to turf for Shug off the layoff; she's a question mark on this surface without much pedigree, but could be dangerous if this race is forced to the main track.
Race 2: Tough allowance for older sprinters here, appears open to several different horses. #4 Eastwood is overdue to begin paying dividends for his new connections, and dropping out of the Grade 2 True North figures to benefit him; he has speed but doesn't need the lead, and will get a final chance from us today. #7 Green Gratto is a dangerous and underrated sprinter who is a standout on our speed figures. His last 5 figures look like this 111, 110, 111, 110, 111. They are the 5 fastest figures in the race, so it isn't easy to be against him in here, but with other speed for him to contend with in this spot, we'll put him behind Eastwood.
#1A Be Bullish is an admirable old warrior who continues to show up and run competitively at the ripe old age of 9; he's also capable of sitting a trip, and he has faced some tough sprinters at Monmouth recently. #3 Protocol has been impressive at times, and rates a chance with one of his good efforts, but his trainer has not been sending out live horses so far at this meet.
Race 3: #6 Iron Power is going to need his very best to defeat the likes of #2 Partly Mocha and #9 Isn'tlovejustgrand, but he flashed plenty of ability at times as a 3yo, and trying to get a route of ground, as he did in each of his two turf attempts since breaking his maiden over this distance, is not his game; has the speed to be involved early assuming he breaks the gate, which he's had trouble with in the past. Isn'tlovejustgrand sat a perfect trip and defeated a salty group of $40k claimers here on Preakness day, and Partly Mocha rallied gamely after an awkward break to fall just shy of catching a front-running winner here last month; they are the two logical horses in here and must be used in any exotics.
Race 4: This year's running of the Grade 3 Dwyer drew a short field of six (five betting interests) and will go early on an otherwise very strong Belmont card on Saturday. The coupled entry of #1 Kid Cruz and #1A Captain Serious has them coming and going here, with Pace Projector placing Captain Serious on a clear early lead while his entrymate settles back in last.
We think Captain Serious, an undefeated NY-bred sprinter to this point, has ability, and having that early advantage may make him a dangerous player in this race, but he faces some serious obstacles in the form of the class hike and the distance stretch-out. Kid Cruz, on the other hand, will be relying on his entrymate to keep the early fractions honest, as he does his best running from off the pace (note his powerful 112 Late Pace rating). A convincing winner of a pair of stakes races in Maryland prior to trying his luck vs. the best of his generation in the Preakness Stakes, Kid Cruz came back to NY for Belmont Stakes Day. But rather than trying the top 3yos again, he found a cozier spot early on the card and was a much-the-best winner of the Easy Goer Stakes with a new top TimeformUS Speed Figure of 106. An effort similar to that one makes him the clear horse to beat in the Dwyer, and we are making him our top pick in the race.
The toughest call in the Dwyer figures to be what to do with #4 Tiz Dark. Trained by Todd Pletcher, he's a well-bred Tiznow colt from the family of the super-talented Cross Traffic, and he steps right up here off of a blowout maiden win over this track and trip earlier in the meet. He is clearly a colt of some ability, and taking into account the amount of upside he still has, we find it hard to dismiss his chances vs. this field, even though he rates to have to improve greatly off of that MSW victory, earned over a blank field, to win this. He's the 6/5 ML favorite, and while we can't get behind him at that price, he is difficult to leave completely out of the mix.
#3 Ulanbator, like Kid Cruz, enters here off of a new top figure performance, his coming when second-best in the Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs. Also like Kid Cruz, he is a late-runner who will be looking for an honest pace to run into. He's far from impossible, and we like that his trainer has been very live from limited starters at this meet, but of the two closers in the race, we much prefer Kid Cruz.
#5 Gaining Ground appears overmatched from a variety of angles, and #2 Spot, while the lone graded stakes winner in the field, appears to be better as a sprinter and has been no factor in any of his three starts since upsetting heavily favored No Nay Never at Gulfstream back in March (albeit in some much tougher spots).
Race 5: Wide-open turf sprint for NY-bred maidens figures to go through the two favorites, #10 Dowse's Beach and #11 A Marked Man. Either could win, but they're hard to get excited about, especially Dowse's Beach, who has blown a couple of good trips already going longer, and these horses turning back to sprint on turf tend to disappoint. We're against him ,and only slightly more in favor of A Marked Man, another who has had perfect trips in both of his turf starts and come away empty so far. #9 Blue Chips Only will try again after having his scheduled turf debut rained off earlier in the meet; dam's 3 career wins all come over turf, and she made almost $130k on this surface. #8 Latigo Trail can also be given one more on turf, as he was caught up in a fast duel last time and only succumbed to the closing winner right at the end.
Race 6: The Belmont Sprint Championship figures to go through #2 Central Banker and, to a lesser extent, #3 Clearly Now. If you haven't had enough of Clearly Now yet, then we suppose you should give him yet another chance, although considering the price he figures to be, you're not getting back much of whatever money you've lost on him so far. He's a talent, to be sure, but he's just his own worst enemy on the track, breaking slowly every week, and then finding still more trouble during the running. Central Banker is the logical horse in here, and, in our opinion, should be a clear-cut favorite over the troubled Clearly Now. The others all have a race in them that could get them close, and if the favorites show up with something less than their best, this could turn out to be a very interesting race. #8 Big Screen could have rated higher for us, were he not cross-entered to run at Monmouth on Saturday. If he runs here we will use him, as we think his best game is showing speed on the dirt, and this is a race that is very much open to aggressive tactics from someone.
: We have an in-depth analysis of the Grade 1 Belmont Derby posted to our Stakes Preview page
, but we really like #4 Adelaide
in this race. He has run very well in all four of his career starts to this point, and will have no issue with the distance of this race. We like a shipper on top, but our other uses in the race are all Americans. #9 Mr Speaker
was highly disappointing in the local prep for this last time, but he was so promising leading into that one that we have to forgive and forget and give him one more chance. #6 Dance With Fate
is talented and figures to be price, and #3 Bobby's Kitten
may be the most talented horse in the race, although whether he can carry his immense talent 1 1/4 miles is a very big question.
Race 8: After being turned back to nine furlongs for the past four runnings, this year's edition of the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap will again be contested at the distance of 1 1/4 miles. The added distance scared no one away, as 11 older horses are set to go in this historic race, and a better betting race may not be easy to find. Despite the longer distance, this race figures to have at least an honest pace, and Pace Projector indicates that a group of horses may find themselves racing clear of the pack in the early stages.
That may set things up best of all for our top pick in the race, and since we're still talking about a handicap race here, let's begin with #5 Last Gunfighter, who is the high weight in the field.
Last Gunfighter is not a household name, but he is a winner of 9 of his 16 career races and over $1.1 million for trainer Chad Brown. There is nothing at all flashy about this 5yo son of First Samurai. All he does is show up and run. He has posted TimeformUS Speed Figures between 109 and 118 for each and every start dating back to January of last year, and since that January race, he has taken his game to Pimlico, Belmont (he was a game 2nd in this race last year behind Flat Out), Monmouth, Santa Anita, Hawthorne, and Penn National. He may not be the most talented horse in the handicap division. Heck, he may not even be the most talented horse in this year's Suburban field. But he handles any surface, is unfazed by pace scenarios fast or slow, is a dead-game fighter at crunch time, and stays all day. We love this horse, and we know that he will once again be laying it all on the line Saturday.
The ML favorite for the race is #6 Romansh, who won the most recent running of Aqueduct's Excelsior with a 117 TimeformUS Speed Figure before finishing a game 3rd behind Palace Malice in the Met Mile. Romansh has shown flashes of real ability in the past. Flashes that make you think this Godolphin color-bearer could well take down a very big prize at some point this year. The problem with him is that he has also been very unreliable, and so taking a short price on him is always a tricky proposition. Further complicating things for Romansh is that expected pace we were considering earlier. There is no shortage of speed signed on to the Suburban, and with #8 Stormin Monarcho, #9 Vyjack, and #11 Moreno lining up outside of him, Romansh, a horse who likes to take up a tracking spot on the outside of horses, may not be able to land the most comfortable trip in this race. We think he may have the best race to get to, and can't leave him completely out of our play, but we're trying to beat Romansh on Saturday.
Our other main use, to go with Last Gunfighter, is #1 Micromanage. Micromanage ran very well when unable to hold off a grinding #4 Norumbega over 1 1/2 miles last time, but he ran the better race of the two and figures to benefit more than that rival from this turn-back in distance.
#11 Moreno is a talent who was entered into the wrong kind of race last time and fits better in this field, but he didn't draw well, and there may be too much other speed lined up here for him to pull the right trip. We like him and will find a way to include him should he be sent off at overlaid odds, but we wonder if he's landed in the wrong spot again.
: We also have a more in-depth look at the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks posted to the Stakes Preview page
, and this is a race that deserves a longer look, as it appears open to several different horses. #7 Xcellence
is a deserving ML favorite and horse to beat, as she has kept the best company and run the fastest races. We aren't wildly against her, but we have a feeling that she has overachieved to this point, and there are plenty of other ways to go. We like #1 Goldy Espony
, another French import who has group credentials and will have no problem with the distance. We can be against dual Grade 1 winner #2 Room Service, especially if she is sent off at her ML odds, and would rather use horses like #5 Flying Jib, #6 Rosalind
, and #10 Recepta
Race 10: This race goes through #6 Point Roll, who has been highly impressive on turf to this point and buried a field of maidens when last on turf here in May; forget the dirt race last time. Main danger is #12 Hidden Vow, who is just 1-for-21 lifetime, but ran a big one in a tough spot when last seen. If one of those two doesn't win, we will lose.