Friday, July 08, 2016
TimeformUS Analyst David Aragona
A note on TimeformUS Top Plays: As a handicapper and horseplayer, I prefer to pick my spots—to find those diamonds in the rough—rather than force myself to come up with an opinion in every single race. If you are interested in viewing picks in every race, you may visit NYRA's Talking Horses page for full card selections by NYRA's expert team of analysts. You are also welcome to reach out to me via my Twitter handle, @HorseToWatch, if you are curious about my opinions in any races that are not covered in these daily Top Plays.
TimeformUS Top Plays for Racing at Belmont Park on Saturday July 9th
>>Go To TimeformUS Past Performances For These Races
Race 4: Maiden Special Weight at 10 furlongs on turf
I’m not saying anything too clever here, but it should take a pretty good effort to beat the likely favorite, Revved Up (#7). This well-bred three-year-old has returned as a vastly improved horse this year. He ran better than it appears in his return at Aqueduct, finishing strongly after having to wait to begin his run until the stretch. Then last time, he was an unlucky loser behind the much-discussed “maiden” Mongolian Prince.
I think Revved Up is going to turn out to be a pretty nice horse for the Phipps’s and McGaughey, but RICHMOND STREET (#4) seems to be the one horse that could pose a threat. He was off slowly and green in his debut, but finished up with interest and galloped out ahead of the field that day. Then next time out, he took a significant step forward, nearly getting up to win after racing three-wide around both turns. That race has proven to be fairly productive as both winner Silver Beach and third-place finisher Stockyard came back to improve their speed figures next time out. He’s bred to stretch out in distance, and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.
Exacta Box: 4,7
Race 6: The Victory Ride
The TimeformUS Pace Projector is not predicting a fast pace, but we cannot get past the fact that there are three confirmed frontrunners in this race, Behrnik’s Bank (#5), Appealing Maggie (#6), and Coppa (#9), who should ensure an honest early pace.
That figures to help the duo that finished first and second in the Miss Preakess Stakes in May, Lost Raven (#8) and One True Kiss (#4). The former has made the most of her sprint opportunities, winning 4 of her 5 starts in races at six furlongs or less. One True Kiss was slightly against the pace in the Jersey Girl last time (note the blue color-coding), but should get a faster early clip to run into here.
Of the speeds, Coppa (#9) appears to be most dangerous. She’s drawn well outside of horses and has proven untouchable in her two starts in California. She’s a deserving favorite based on the 114 speed figure she earned last time, but this is obviously the toughest assignment of her career and we’re not keen on taking too short of a price on her.
Aside from those fillies that may be a part of the pace, none of the closers have earned speed figures that make them all that formidable. That’s why I’m taking a shot with MALIBU STACY (#7). I know that she’s only coming off a maiden win, but that seems like a pretty strong race. Second place finisher Malibu Princess returned to win next time out while earning nearly the same speed figure. That 102 figure nearly puts her on par with Lost Raven and One True Kiss, who are likely to go off at shorter prices. This Tizway filly showed promise last year and may finally be putting it all together.
Exacta Key Box: 7 with 4,6,8,9
Race 7: The Dwyer
Economic Model (#6) is the horse to beat off his visually impressive score in the Easy Goer, in which he earned a career-best 117 speed figure. However, this race is no walk in the park, and he offers no value whatsoever at his even-money morning line price.
He figures to face a stiff challenge from Fish Trappe Road (#8), who earned the highest speed figure in the race, a 125, with his spectacular runner-up performance in the Woody Stephens last time. He forced a fast pace (color-coded in red) every step of the way and was the only early player to be around at the finish. He handled a mile in last fall’s Sleepy Hollow over this course and is a major threat to the favorite.
We also have to consider Voluntario (#3), who has been a different horse since stretching out in distance. He earned a competitive 116 speed figure two back at Pimlico and probably could have won by a much larger margin if his rider had asked him in the final furlong last time.
Clearly, there are many intriguing participants in this race, but the runner that we think may offer the best value is TALE OF S’AVALL (#2). One of the worst things that ever happened to this horse was winning his debut at Saratoga, because it got his connections thinking about some prestigious spots before he may have been ready for them. However, recently, he’s started to come around. He ran much better than it appears in the Woody Stephens after breaking slowly and getting unwisely rushed up down the backstretch into the fastest part of the race. He should handle this distance and may be set for his best effort yet.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 3,6,8
Race 8: The Belmont Derby Invitational
Camelot Kitten (#6) worked out his second straight excellent trip under Irad Ortiz in the Pennine Ridge. He was able to save ground during the early portion of the race and had to angle off the inside only midway around the far turn. His stablemate, Call Provision (#12), had a mildly more difficult trip, racing just outside his stablemate for much of the running, but the horse that was really hindered was Highland Sky.
The fact that Highland Sky (#4) has finished no worse than second in his last three races, considering the trips that he’s gotten, is pretty remarkable. Three back, he had to make a four-wide move around the far turn while closing into a slow pace (color-coded in blue). Then it was the same story two back at Aqueduct, when he was able to get the better of lesser foes after another wide trip. However, his last race really takes the cake. For whatever reason, Luis Saez seemed totally unconcerned about saving any ground. He angled Highland Sky five-wide at the start of the far turn, and was carried out farther by the time they completed that bend and hit the top of the stretch. He lost a ton of ground and put in a spectacular effort to be beaten only a neck for the win. This horse is bred to love extra distance, hailing from a stamina-laden female family, and we believe that he’s a major threat to the European challengers.
The two Europeans likely to attract the most support are the pair going out for the familiar Aiden O’Brien barn.
Deauville (#13) brings the stronger overall form, having finished a close second in the Royal Lodge as a two-year-old. He was then runner-up in his three-year-old debut in the Group 2 Dante Stakes, considered one of the major preps for the Epsom Derby. This race is probably somewhat of a consolation prize after his failure at Epsom, but he does have the form at this distance to fall back on. It’s a tough post position, but he’s one worth considering.
His stablemate, Long Island Sound (#7), debuted in April, but has been coming on strongly since then. He reeled off three consecutive victories in lesser races to start his career, and then stepped up nicely in the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes, finishing third behind Hawkbill. That runner would come back to win the Group 1 Coral Eclipse in his next start, which certainly flatters the form of this improving son of War Front. A mile and a quarter seems to be within his scope. American racing fans will be familiar with his pedigree, since his dam is a half-sister to the almighty Zenyatta.
Finally, Humphrey Bogart (#10) gets sent over by Richard Hannon after two consecutive attempts against some of the best three-year-olds in England. His Investec Derby effort at Epsom was hardly disgraceful, even though he couldn’t stay with the leaders through the final quarter mile. He then was a mild disappointment when sixth at Royal Ascot, but still gave a decent account of himself. He’s not our pick of the European contingent, but he’s far from out of this.
Exacta Key Box: 4 with 7,10,13
Trifecta: 4 with 7,10,13 with 6,7,8,9,10,12,13
Trifecta: 4 with 6,8,9,12 with 7,10,13
4,7,10,13 with 1,2,5 with 4,7 with 2,3,6,9
Race 9: The Suburban
Effinex (#5) was sensational when he won this race last year over Tonalist, who would go on to record wins in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Cigar Mile later in the year. His 2015 campaign culminated with a surprising second place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and he appeared poised to dominate the handicap division in 2016. However, he’s been plagued by inconsistency this year, and was especially dull in the Stephen Foster last time. At his best, he’s the horse to beat. However, if he shows up with his Foster effort, he may not hit the board.
The one they all have to catch is Noble Bird (#1). This Casse runner is best when he’s allowed to run freely in the early going. He doesn’t like to be pushed along, as he was in the Met Mile, or restrained too aggressively, as he was in the Alysheba. He’s drawn well down towards the inside, and the Pace Projector is predicting that he will control this race on the front end. He’s dangerous, but we think he faces a serious challenge from the runner drawn just to his outside.
If MUBTAAHIJ (#2) can bring his Dubai World Cup form to New York, he should be very tough to beat in this race. After all, it’s not as if he was disgraced in his two U.S. starts last year. You can’t fault him for getting beaten by American Pharoah and Frosted in the Belmont Stakes, and 12 furlongs may be slightly farther than he really wants to go. He’s drawn well down towards the rail and should sit a perfect ground-saving trip in behind Noble Bird. Kiaran McLaughlin gets a 98 trainer rating with horses getting Lasix for the first time and a 100 rating with overseas shippers.
Trifecta: 2 with 1,3,4,5 with 1,3,4,5,6
Trifecta: 1,5 with 2 with 1,3,4,5,6
Race 10: The Belmont Oaks Invitational
Catch a Glimpse (#12) has done very little wrong in her career, having won all seven of her turf starts after a losing debut on dirt at Saratoga last summer. In the Penn Mile, she was able to use her ample speed to her advantage in an otherwise paceless race, setting a glacial early clip (note the blue color-coding) before spurting away from her male rivals in the stretch. That turn of foot has been her greatest asset, but it remains to be seen whether it will be such a lethal weapon at this 10-furlong distance. Without any other confirmed frontrunners in the lineup, the Pace Projector places her on a clear early lead. Assuming that the pace is legitimate and she gets a stern test of stamina, we think this is the time to take a shot against her at a very short price. There are other fillies of great quality in this race, and we believe this daughter of City Zip is going to prove vulnerable at this distance.
Among the American challengers, Time and Motion (#4) is the chief threat to the favorite. Jimmy Toner knows how to handle a talented turf horse, having campaigned a slew of Grade 1-caliber runners for these connections over the years, including the namesakes of the last two stakes races that Time and Motion has won in the lead-up to this Belmont Oaks. Although she was a plodder as a juvenile, John Velazquez has been able to put her in the game earlier in her races as a three-year-old. She displayed strong finishing kicks in both the Memories of Silver and Wonder Again, and one gets the feeling that there’s still more in the tank. Unlike her rival Catch a Glimpse, she would appear to be well-suited to this stretch-out to 10 furlongs. Of the American contingent, she is far and away the one that we prefer.
Unfortunately, the Americans may be up against a monster from Europe. BALLYDOYLE (#7) is a legitimate Group 1 performer in Europe. If not for her superstar stablemate Minding, Ballydoyle would have won three straight Group 1 races prior to her last start. Our Timeform foreign correspondents had this to say about her after her win in last fall’s Prix Marcel Boussac: “She remains with potential (much more scopey sort than her sister [Misty for Me]) and will stay 1 1/4 miles, though not necessarily any further.” Then, after her second in the 1,000 Guineas: She “kept on well, finished with running left; as long as she keeps away from the winner, she can gain compensation soon.” While we admit that we have an affinity for Time and Motion, even we cannot deny that she’ll be hard-pressed to beat this talented daughter of Galileo. Aiden O’Brien has had plenty of success making this trip over the years. He gets a 100 trainer rating with runners getting Lasix for the first time and a 99 rating with overseas shippers. Ballydoyle deserves to be a strong favorite in this spot, and we’re not trying to beat her.
Trifecta: 7 with 4 with 2,5,6,9,10,11,12,13
Trifecta: 7 with 2,5,6,9,10,11,12,13 with 4
Trifecta: 4 with 7 with 2,5,6,9,10,11,12,13
Race 11: The Belmont Sprint Championship
Private Zone (#2) is the class of this race, but he does have some questions to answer. He missed his prep for this race in the True North when he was forced to be scratched, and now must make his first start off the layoff going seven furlongs. Additionally, he’s a horse that has run his best races when he’s been involved in the pace, either on the lead or conesting it, and Brian Lynch has stated that he’s looking to have him rate off horses in the early going.
Since I think Private Zone may be vulnerable, I’m going to try to beat him with MARKING (#9). The Met Mile was a tough assignment off the post-Dubai layoff, but Marking ran fairly well after making an early move towards the front down the backstretch. He showed serious potential last year and I think he can still turn out to be one of the most talented runners in this bunch.
At a huge price, I also have to throw in NUBIN RIDGE (#3). He is not that much slower than Joking, who will be a fraction of his price, and he figures to get a strong pace to close into. Chris Englehart has been having a fantastic meet and this horse is in the best form of his career.
Exacta Key Box: 3,9 with 1,2,3,6,9