Thursday, July 3, 2014

Down to the Wire: Belmont Derby Edition + Weekend Quick Picks

This weekend is so loaded with races that we couldn't even discuss all of the ones I would've liked to have been able to get to on this week's Down to the Wire. On there, we previewed the Belmont Derby, Suburban Handicap, Belmont Oaks (races 7-9 on Belmont's Saturday race card), and the Los Alamitos Derby. 




Saturday, June 5

Belmont Race 6 -- G3 Belmont Sprint Championship S:
Another day brings another race that Clearly Now should win, but after him not finishing any better than third in three starts this season, I feel compelled to look elsewhere. The seven-year-old son of Unbridled's Song, Moonlight Song may be one of the longest shots on the board, but he's certainly not without a chance. Since May of last year, he's never finished worse than second albeit not at this level of competition, but his speed figures are plenty fast enough to put him in the mix here. He last ran in January at Aqueduct, where he defeated Palace despite breaking through the gate beforehand. In my opinion, he's the value here and he has performed well of a layoff in the past, so that doesn't worry me too much. 

1. #4 Moonlight Song (M/L 12/1)
2. #5 Dads Caps (10/1)
3. #3 Clearly Now (3/1)

Belmont Race 7 -- G1 Belmont Derby:
In this race, we have some interesting European shippers along with the more talented American three-year-old turf routers, but many of whom are questionable at this distance. To me, Bobby's Kitten is the clear bet against. As much of a fan of his I may be, I couldn't possibly have him going this far and in a larger field where he's likely to face a bit more pace pressure than he did in the Penn Mile. Gala Award is another I couldn't possibly have at this distance either. Even though he's won twice over nine furlongs, he looked spent at the end of both of those races, so another furlong does him no favors here. In my opinion, the standout in this field is Gailo Chop, who ships in from France. Since finishing second (ahead of Flamboyant) in a two-year-old stakes race, he's won four straight including two at this distance and one going further. On top of that, the horse he defeated two back at Longchamp Free Port Lux, came back to win the Group 2 Hocquart over Adelaide, he's versatile as far as his running style is concerned, and he's won over both Good and Soft ground. He's a gelding and thus ineligible for the French Classics, so this spot makes perfect sense for him. Adelaide comes here after having finished second at Ascot in the King Edward VII S. He's a consistent horse and class-wise he fits, but having last ran only two weeks ago, I'm thinking this was an afterthought, so I'll pass. After running in mostly minor events, Pornichet finished third in the French 2000 Guineas and he now comes over as the first of world renowned trainer Gai Waterhouse's to run in America. He likely needs a bit softer ground than he'll get here though and the distance is a question for him. Of the American runners, Mr. Speaker seems best suited to this distance. Throw out his last, which was an ugly, slow race from the start, and he fits in this spot. His runner-up finish in the G3 Palm Beach was very nice against a solid group and based off his run there, I think another furlong would suit him just fine. Both Global View and Dance With Fate are plenty classy enough to compete in this spot, but I'm a bit iffy on the distance for either of them and I wonder if their running style hinders them a touch when running against the Euros, who are known for their sharp turn of foot. Flamboyant's debut win over Home Run Kitten, who has since won two straight, puts him in the mix here. He was lugging in last time out and yet was still catching Gala Award. Perhaps not a win threat, but wouldn't be surprised to see him turn up underneath.

1. #7 Gailo Chop (M/L 5/1)
2. #9 Mr. Speaker (15/1)
3. #4 Adelaide (7/2)
4. #5 Flamboyant (15/1)

Belmont Race 8 -- G2 Suburban S:
I tipped up Romansh for the Met Mile and he ran big to finish third. This is a step down in class, so I'm going to stick with him here in a race where I see the pace being contested, but not overly fast. The only concern for him is his history of not stringing together multiple good efforts. Norumbega was visually impressive when winning the Brooklyn upon his return to dirt and on paper appears the biggest threat to the top choice.

1. #6 Romansh (M/L 3/1)
2. #4 Norumbega (6/1)
3. #1 Micromanage (9/2)

Belmont Race 9 -- G1 Belmont Oaks:
While I picked a Euro to win the Derby, I'm sticking with the home team and Room Service in this spot. After dead-heating with Rosalind in the Ashland, she backed that up in a big way when taking the G1 American Oaks with ease over Diversy Harbor over today's distance. This is a filly who really seems to be coming into her own and I'll gladly take her on top here. Flying Jib has never ran this far, but she intrigues me in this spot. She's won her three most recent starts, runs well on faster ground, and her being by Oasis Dream out of a Mizzen Mast mare suggests she may be good for a furlong or two further than she's ran to this point. Xcellence will certainly stay the trip, but she seems to be one who just doesn't get the job done when she has chances late albeit against top company. The morning line odds on her are ridiculous and I doubt we'll get anywhere near that, but My Conquestadory, twice a graded stakes winning juvenile is one of the more unexposed runners in here, having only four starts to her name. She did finish second by a nose in a G3 last time out, but that was her season debut and return back from a six month layoff, so one could expect her to improve with a run under her belt.

1. #2 Room Service (M/L 3/1)
2. #3 My Conquestadory (12/1)
3. #5 Flying Jib (5/1)
4.  #7 Xcellence (5/2)
**Add #6 Recepta as fourth choice w/the scratch


Weekend Quick Picks:

Saturday July 5 -- Los Alamitos Race 8: G2 Los Alamitos Derby: With racing having just began at Los Al, how the track will play is a bit of an uncertainty in and of itself, but Shared Belief has done nothing wrong in his career and should have every chance to win once again in this spot. Top Fortitude intrigues on the stretchout and at what will likely be a pretty nice price.

Sunday, July 6 -- Monmouth Race 12: G1 United Nations: I'm siding with a horse I've been a fan of for quite some time in Kaigun who has steadily been stepping up in trip and running well, as of late. He ran very well behind Real Solution in the G1 Manhattan and this trip should be right up his alley. I'm not really sure what the plan has been with Twilight Eclipse and two miles certainly wasn't his trip, but he'll appreciate stepping back down here and looks to be the chief threat to our top selection. Side Glance has performed well in the US before, but he seems to have lost a step this year and Main Sequence, second to Camelot in the 2012 Epsom Derby, is interesting in debut although likely more of a place chance. 

Sunday, July 6 -- Woodbine Race 11: Queen's Plate Stakes: We Miss Artie enters here the heavy favorite and deservedly so, as he by far has the most accomplished resume for top connections and his last win was mighty impressive. I expect the pace here to be pretty fast, which would hinder the hopes of Asserting Bear and Coltimus Prime, who have shown flashes of talent to this point. At a large price, Tower of Texas is very interesting. He's run well as of late to be somewhat in the mix despite contending with a very speed favoring surface on occasion and if this race is in fact quick early on, he should benefit. 

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