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TFUS Top Plays For Wednesday July 13

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 Wednesday July 13

>>Go To TimeformUS Past Performances For These Races

 

Race 1: Maiden Special Weight at 8.5 furlongs on turf

The horse to beat is Kundray (#1), who was rightly well-backed in her first attempt against New York-breds last time. After all, she was coming off a strong run against open company at Keeneland. She didn't run badly in defeat, earning a career-best 91 speed figure, but she did disappoint. She can win, but we would not want to take a very short price once again.

Wake Up Smiling (#4) and Preying Mantis (#6) will both try to stretch out after decent efforts sprinting last month. Preying Mantis at least has some experience in turf routes and has room for improvement in her second start off the layoff. On the other hand, Wake Up Smiling may own a pace advantage as one of the only fillies in this race with much early speed.

OUT OF NOWHERE (#3) has had a few more chances than the rest, but her best efforts stack up very well against this field. She took a few turf starts to figure things out as a two-year-old, but she ran very well in her 2015 turf finale at Aqueduct, making a bold bid from well off the pace to get second. She again took a few starts to get going this year, but has been in good form. She ran much better than it appears in April at Aqueduct, and she would have finished closer last time had she not been impeded at the eighth pole. This filly is subtly rounding into the best form of her career and her versatile running style should give Kendrick Carmouche plenty of options.

Win: 3
Exacta Key Box: 3 with 1,4,6

 

Race 2: Claiming $16,000 at 7 furlongs

The morning line favorite is John Eddie (#5), who would be formidable if he were to repeat the 94 speed figure that he earned back in May. However, he's now been off for about two months after getting scratched by the vet a few weeks ago. He is the controlling speed of this race, but he's taking a suspicious drop in class and I find it very hard to trust his low-percentage rider.

Hundred Percent (#2) has shown improvement in recent starts at Finger Lakes, but must transfer that form to the NYRA circuit, which is no easy task. Corpie the Cat (#6) makes his first start for Jeremiah Englehart, but I wonder how much he can improve a horse that was a major disappointment for 100-rated trainer Todd Pletcher.

Since I distrust a few of the short prices, I want to go looking elsewhere for a top selection. At what should be a square price, I believe that MARK TWAIN (#8) is the right bet in this race. His most recent effort is easily forgivable considering that he was facing much tougher company in a NY-bred allowance race won by the promising Jet Black (note the high 103 race rating). His prior efforts at this level are actually not that bad, especially two back when he made an uncharacteristically early move into a fast pace (color-coded in red). The 90 speed figure that he earned that day would make him one of the top contenders here. Furthermore, he's getting a mildly positive rider switch to Eric Cancel after being ridden by a series of lower-percentage riders in recent starts.

Win: 8
Exacta Key Box: 8 with 2,3,5,6

 

Race 5: Claiming $25,000 at 6 furlongs

While the Pace Projector is not predicting a fast pace, there is a fair amount of early speed in this race. I'm hoping that there is enough pace to set up the late move of PEGASUS RED (#5). This six-year-old has run better than it might appear at first glance since being transferred to the Steve Asmussen barn earlier this year. He's only competed at this level one time since the trainer change, and he actually did well to be second that day behind today's rival Geaux Mets after that one was allowed to set a slow pace (color-coded in blue). Since then, Pegasus Red has been placed in much tougher spots against the likes of more talented New York-breds like Swell and So Noted. I think he finds himself back in against a field he can handle this time and the price should be fair.

I'll use him with the logical Geaux Mets (#2), who is very much the horse to beat, layoff runner Gridley Here (#4), who would also benefit from a contested pace, as well as Bustin the Bank (#6) and Curious Cal (#8), who both have back races that make them competitive.

Win: 5
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 2,4,6,8

Pick-3:
5 with 2,5 with 10
2,4,6,8 with 2 with 10
5 with 2 with 4,6,11

 

Race 6: Maiden Special Weight at 6 furlongs on turf

I'm not saying anything too clever here, since this horse is likely to be a fairly short price, and will probably go favored. However, I do still want to highlight just how well TAPANY (#2) ran in her debut and how tough it will be to defeat her in her second start. The running line short comment fails to point out that she actually broke one to two lengths behind the field and had to rush up along the rail to attain her midpack position. She was rank under Junior Alvarado for much of the race, but still finished strongly through the stretch while rallying inside of horses. These are all difficult hurdles for a first-time starter to overcome and she handled herself well. Ralph Nicks gets a superb 100 trainer rating with second-time starters, so improvement may be forthcoming. It will take quite an effort by one of her competitors to beat her.

The only other runners that we find worth considering are Christophe Clement's pair of fillies. Portmagee (#3) may have more of a dirt pedigree, but she ran well enough in her debut and Christophe Clement does well with these surface switches. However, the one that may be the biggest threat is his first-time starter, Crazy About Jazz (#5). She has more than enough turf pedigree as a half-sister to turf sprint winner Super Colossal and gets Lasix in her first start for a 92-rated debut trainer.

Trifecta: 2 with 3,5 with 1,3,4,5,6,7,8
Trifecta: 2 with 1,4,6,7,8 with 3,5

 

Race 7: NY-bred Allowance N1X at 6 furlongs on turf

The first thing to note about this race is that the Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace. Canarsie Kid (#9), Uncle Youdge (#11), and River Knight (#12) are all frontrunning types that figure to contest the pace, but they're all predicted to be hard-pressed chasing the speedy Jacapo (#1), who breaks from the inside.

Given how much speed is signed on for this race, we're most interested in late runners. The one that should offer the best value is MR HARLAN (#10). This horse may turn some handicappers off because he's had so many chances at this level, but I think he's just now rounding into form and coming into his own as a closing turf sprinter. He actually ran better than it appears two back after being rated behind an extremely slow pace. Then last time he did well to close up the rail against a tougher field (note the higher race rating) than the one he meets today. Jose Lezcano gave him a great ride in that race and we like that he's back on board here.

I would use him with Banana Thief (#4), who is a major player if the Steve Asmussen barn has him ready to run off the long layoff, Bajan Summer (#6), who possesses a versatile running style and is often right there at the finish of these races, and Uncle Youdge (#11), who may be the best of the potential pace players.

Win/Place: 10
Exacta Key Box: 10 with 4,6,11

 

 

 

TFUS Top Plays For Sunday July 10

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 Sunday July 10

>>Go To TimeformUS Past Performances For These Races

 

Race 1: Claiming $25,000 at 6 furlongs

GALARDONADO (#3) faced a tougher field last time and now takes the slight drop in class down to this $25,000 level. Chris Englehart, who gets a decent enough 74 trainer rating first off the claim, really excels second off the claim (95 rating). This horse ran very well last time, contesting a fast pace (color-coded in red) that ultimately collapsed. Today he is projected to be racing up close again, but now in a situation favoring horses on or near the lead.

David Jacobson has two runners in this race, making up a coupled entry, so we’ll see if both end up running. Either half of the entry would have to be included on my tickets underneath the top choice. Both Still Krz (#1) and Red Crème (#1A) have the speed to be up close to Galardonado early, which should work out well for them. The Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring runners on or near the lead. Red Crème won at this level two back, but that was a weaker off-the-turf race. Still, Krz stacks up well from a class perspective, but may be going off form.

Beach Hut (#4) and Erik the Red (#6) both have some serious back class, but I find it impossible to support either one of them off their supbar recent efforts.

Win:  3
Trifecta:  3 with 1 with 2,4,5,6
Trifecta:  3 with 2,4,5,6 with 1

 

Race 5: Claiming $16,000 at 7 furlongs

I’m hoping Chris Englehart can sweep both claiming dirt sprints on this card. SUNNY PUZZLE (#3) has been somewhat difficult to peg from a class perspective, but I think he’s finally landing in the perfect spot. He was awesome at this seven furlong distance two back when he trounced a field of conditioned claimers, earning a competitive 103 speed figure. Then last time, he actually didn’t run that badly in a much tougher spot after contesting a fast pace three-wide in a race that fell apart late. Chris Englehart gets a 92 trainer rating with horses dropping from allowance to claiming company.

The morning line favorite is Pass the Dice (#2), but I don’t trust him as he drops in class off an unusually dull performance. He’s handled this seven furlong distance in the past, but there are too many questions for me. At a bigger price, maybe Private Tale (#7) can sneak into the exacta. He finished well at this distance last time and gets a mildly positive rider switch to Angel Arroyo. Regulus (#1) and Comandante (#5) figure to be forwardly placed early, and must be considered on those grounds alone.

Win:  3
Exacta Key Box:  3 with 1,2,5,7

 

Race 6: Allowance N1X at one mile on turf

I’m not putting much effort into trying to beat the favorite, MISSION DRIVEN (#8), whose races towards the end of last year would easily beat this field. He hinted that he was rounding into form at Saratoga last summer and really put it all together in the fall. He was especially strong in the Hawthorne Derby, in which he dueled with long shots through fast fractions and was the only one of the speeds to be around late.  

He’s the most likely winner, but I think the runner that will offer the best value is KEEPTHEDREAMALIVE (#4), and he would merit some consideration in the win pool at the right price. This horse ran very well two back. That day he was hustled into making a wide move into a fast pace by Eddie Castro, appeared beaten at the eighth pole, and gamely battled back for the “win” (he was disqualified for interference at the top of the stretch). Christophe Clement gets a 94 trainer rating with runners coming off maiden wins.

Win/Place:  4
Exacta Box:  4,8
Trifecta:  8 with 4 with 1,2,3
Trifecta:  8 with 1,2,3 with 4

 

Race 7: Optional Claiming $62,500/N2X at 6 furlongs

The Pace Projector is not predicting a fast pace, but it does show that there are a few runners that prefer to be fowardly placed, all fast enough to make the lead. I’m hoping for at least a fair pace to set things up for FUSAICHI RED (#2). This filly got very good over the summer last year, winning a stakes at Monmouth before bulling her way through traffic to gamely get up for third in the Grade 2 Prioress at Saratoga. She subsequently didn’t handle Charles Town and was done in by a slow pace (color-coded in blue) in her 2015 finale at Keeneland. Her Gulfstream return last month appears disappointing at first glance, but the Gulfstream main track was extremely speed-favoring that day (note the bright red color-coding in the race rating box). I think we’ll see a much better effort today.

Her primary rival appears to be So You Say (#6), who also ran in one of the elite races for three-year-old filly sprinters last summer, finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Test. She is clearly at her best sprinting and has been working strongly in Kentucky for new trainer Steve Asmussen. On the front end, she may have to deal with Summer Reading (#5), who moves from turf to dirt and cuts back to a more appropriate distance. Mrs. Hudson (#1) improved over the inner track this winter and is far from out of this as she returns from a short layoff. I’ll use all three of these with my top pick.

Win:  2
Exacta Key Box:  2 with 1,5,6
Trifecta:  2 with 1,5,6 with 1,5,6

 

Race 9: NY-bred Maiden Special Weight at 7 furlongs on turf

Moonshine Cate (#5) is probably the horse to beat as she returns off an eye-catching debut effort at Saratoga last summer. She had no early speed that day, but was absolutely flying through the late stages of that race, making up over 13 lengths to just miss. That said, there was a significant rail bias on the turf course during that final week at Saratoga, and she may have benefited from that.

I would also have to use Talkn Til Midnight (#2), who turns back in distance for Linda Rice. Given the grinding style of this runner, I’m a little skeptical of her ability to handle this sprint distance. However, Linda Rice puts blinkers on and gets a 100 trainer rating with that move.

While I’m not way against either of those likely favorites, there are a couple of long shots that I find intriguing. DIAMOND STREET (#9) ran much better than the running line would suggest in her debut. She was off about a length behind the field and had to rush up into contention along the rail through the opening quarter. She tired late, but she had a right to, going seven furlongs first time out. There’s certainly enough turf pedigree for her to take to this surface, by Temple City out of a Sky Mesa mare.

At a bigger price, I also have to throw in OUT OF NOWHERE (#8), who would have finished closer last time had she not been impeded at the eighth pole. This filly has been subtly improving over the course of her last three starts and another step forward would make her a major player in this spot.

Win:  9
Win/Place:  8
Exacta:  8,9 with 2,5,7,8,9,10
Exacta:  2,5 with 8,9

 

 

 

TFUS Top Plays For Saturday July 9

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.

Win: 4
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.

Win/Place: 7
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.

Win: 2
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.

Win: 4
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

Pick-4:
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.

Win: 2
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.

Win: 7
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.

Win: 9
Win/Place: 3
Exacta Key Box: 3,9 with 1,2,3,6,9

 

 

TFUS Top Plays For Friday July 8

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 Friday July 8th
 

>>Go To TimeformUS Past Performances For These Races

Race 1

This high-priced conditioned allowance race only drew a field of five, but there’s a lot going on. The headliner is obviously Twilight Eclipse (#4), who has not visited the winner’s circle since earning the victory in last year’s Grade 1 Man O’ War. Since then, he’s struggled with consistency, having put in brilliant performances on a few occasions (see his tough-luck third in last fall’s Turf Classic), and lackluster efforts on others (see his first two starts of 2016). Now he drops in class to make his first start against non-stakes company since a 2012 allowance race at Indiana Downs. He is undoubtedly the horse to beat, but I have to question his current form, and it’s not as if he faces a field of pushovers here. For what it’s worth, Tom Albertrani gets a mediocre 58 trainer rating with runners moving from stakes to allowance company.

Smooth Daddy (#2) would be mildly interesting if this race were a tad shorter. While he did win at a mile and a quarter last fall, he did so after setting a moderate pace in a race that was largely dominated on the front end. He comes off a solid performance behind the talented Ironicus in the Fort Marcy, but that race came over yielding ground and he’s always been best over less-than-firm turf courses. I’ll be somewhat surprised if he’s the one to pull off the upset

Rather, my top pick is a different horse trying this distance for the first time. GOLDEN SABRE (#1) has never raced over 11 furlongs, but he’s certainly bred to handle the trip. He was a strong second going a mile and a quarter in the Sky Classic last summer and followed that up with a stellar performance in the Durham Cup. Despite racing well off a slow pace (color-coded in blue), Golden Sabre launched a quick burst of speed to carry him to victory, easily defeating Lukes Alley, who would go on to win the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. More recently he’s been cut back to a mile, and I don’t think that distance suits him. He’s been hard-pressed to keep up early in those races and seems to find his best stride too late. Alex Cintron also may not have helped matters by trying to get him to rally up the inside in both of his last two starts. Now Golden Sabre is getting a very positive rider switch to John Velazquez. He would be a fair price at or above his morning line odds of 5/2.

Win: 1

Exacta Box: 1,4

 

Race 3

Rudy Rodriguez holds a very strong hand here, training three of the five runners in this race. The most respected runner in that trio is Royal Posse (#4), who has not finished out of the exacta since being claimed by these connections last summer. He’s consistently recorded some of the fastest speed figures in the race and owns a solid record at Belmont Park. The only drawback is his inexplicably dull last race, in which he barely could manage second as the 4/5 favorite. One wouldn’t imagine that the muddy track would be his excuse, since he’s done exceptionally well over wet tracks in the past. Perhaps he’s losing a step after such a great run of top performances, so I don’t want to take another short price on him.

I have similar concerns about his stablemate, Good Luck Gus (#5), who was supposed to win as the 1/5 favorite at Pimlico last time. I can excuse his effort two back, since he broke through the gate prior to that race, but I still have doubts that he can get back to the form he displayed over the inner track when beating Royal Posse and earning a career-best 115 speed figure. He also seems better suited to two turns.

Sioux (#2) is a danger on the front end, but he is likely to face some pressure from Wake Up in Malibu (#3), who has some distance limitations but could still prove to be a nuisance. Unlike his two barnmates, Sioux does not like a wet track, so I want to be somewhat forgiving of his last two races. When he’s right and gets an aggressive ride he’s shown real talent, but consistency has been rather elusive.

At what should be one of the longest prices in this race, the horse that interests me most is PAX IN TERRA (#1). I know that race dynamics may work against him (our Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring horses on or near the lead), but you could say the same thing about Royal Posse or Good Luck Gus. Pax in Terra is actually a pretty talented New York-bred that just has never had a fair chance to really shine. When he returned to the races in the spring of 2015, he was twice hindered by slow-to-moderate paces in races that did not set up for him. He came back this year with a strong second-place finish behind the in-form Send It In, despite losing plenty of ground around the far turn. Even his last race is better than it looks after he had to wait for room on the turn and found clear sailing too late.

Win: 1

Exacta Key Box: 1 with 2,4,5

 

Race 4

Never underestimate the value of experience. There’s only one horse in this race to have faced the starter before. While I realize that CHRISTENING’s (#8) sixth-place finish may not look all that encouraging on the surface of things, you really need to watch the replay of her effort. She was slow into stride, but had actually had plenty of run coming to the top of the stretch and just repeatedly found traffic trouble through the final two furlongs. Jackie Davis made a few unfortunate decisions and it probably cost this filly a higher placing. I would have preferred to see a rider switch this time, but this daughter of Girolamo appears to have some talent and could get slightly ignored in the sea of first-time starters.

Of those firsters, the ones that I would use are Snap Cat (#1), who goes out for 88-rated 2YO debut trainer Rudy Rodriguez; Miss Freeze (#5), who worked a quarter-mile in 20 4/5 seconds at the OBS sale; Song for the Soul (#6), a half-sister to talented New York-bred Building Permit; and Passporttovictory (#10), who shows some quick works for Tom Morley.

Win: 8

Exacta Key Box: 8 with 1,5,6,10

 

Race 6

The TimeformUS Pace Projector really tells the story here. Many of these fillies have run similar speed figures, topping out in the low-90s, but one of them has a huge early pace advantage. CONGARETTE (#6) is the only confirmed frontrunner in this race and is projected to be clearly ahead early in a situation favoring the leader. This filly once had a habit of quitting, but she seems to have returned as an improved horse this year, finally putting it all together when switching back to turf in April. She led all the way that day, but was prevented from doing so last time when she was unwisely rated. She ended up getting shuffled back around the turn and actually finished up decently late. Congarette gets a huge rider switch to Javier Castellano and appears likely to take these wire to wire.

In terms of raw turf ability, her main rival may be Ametrine (#4), who is making just the fourth start of her career. She was a strong second to the talented Ancient Secret in her debut and then kept the momentum going off the layoff with a visually impressive debut win. She was made the favorite in her stakes debut last time, but couldn’t quite muster an effective rally while never fully clear in the stretch. This slight drop in class should suit her, but her lack of speed is a concern.

The other runner that I will use is I Hope You Dance (#9). She has not run very fast in her two career starts, but she has a ton of turf pedigree as a half-sister to three surface winners. Linda Rice gets an 88 trainer rating with horses making their first starts off the claim.

Win: 6

Trifecta: 6 with 4,9 with 3,4,5,9

Trifecta: 4,9 with 6 with 3,4,5,9

 

Race 7

This might be the most interesting race on the card. There are plenty of contenders and many ways to go. I also find this race to be exceedingly playable because there appear to be some potentially vulnerable favorites. Let’s clear them out of the way first:

At first glance, May Flowers (#3) looks like the horse to beat. She’s been facing open N1X allowance foes and is taking a significant drop in class. Furthermore, she faced a legitimately strong field last time (note the lofty 106 race rating). However, she was also terribly dull in defeat that day, barely making it to the top of the stretch before throwing in the towel. One would normally dismiss such an effort as the result of residual rust after such a long break, but Jeremiah Englehart does very well with his layoff runners (93 trainer rating). She feels like a trap.

Orzo (#8) has done some of her best work sprinting on turf, but she needed a weak field to get the job done last time and is stepping up in class here. Rudy Rodriguez, who has struggled at this meet, only gets a 68 trainer rating with runners coming off maiden wins.

Nile Princess (#5) is a tougher call. She has had trouble in each of her last two starts, ducking in out of the gate two back and getting stuck in traffic down on the rail last time. She’s better than those efforts, but I’m concerned that she may not possess the quickness to get the job done at this six-furlong distance.

I’m instead most interested in a couple of long shots: J K’S GIRL’s (#7) form is not much to speak of, but there’s reason to believe that this surface switch could really move her up. She’s by decent turf sire Noonmark and is a half-sister to 4-time turf sprint winner Ave’s Halo. Steve Klesaris has tried to get her on turf twice in a row and should finally get the opportunity here.

I also have to use BARRIER TO ENTRY (#6), who, at 20/1 on the morning line, may offer the best value of all. She’s been toiling away in dirt races lately, but she’s a much more talented turf horse. If you take her form all the way back to last spring, she was earning speed figures that would absolutely trounce this field, and was doing so over this course and trip. She should be fitter in her second start off the layoff for Carlos Martin and she picks up Jose Lezcano, a huge upgrade over some of the riders that have been aboard her in the past. Don’t let this live long shot go off at too big of a price.

Win/Place: 6

Win/Place: 7

Exacta Key Box: 6,7 with 3,5,6,7,8

 

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