Let’s take a look at Belmont’s guaranteed $350,000 Pk4 on Saturday. I’ll give some analysis on each race and then throw out a ticket at the end (with a maximum of $48). Please note that horses are listed with their betting number. –Brian Nadeau
Race 7. $17,000 claimer (claiming price $7,500). 3-year-olds and up at 6 furlongs.
1. Duke Of De Buqe: Before you cross him off right away, note there’s some serious speed here and that’s not an asset many have in this spot. He’s an outsider and will have to improve, but know full well theft is on the agenda and he could get mighty brave turning for home.
2. Api Mohkat: If the rains come, he might be in trouble; otherwise he fits with this group off of his last two. His closing style leaves him at the mercy of the pace, but he’s in with a chance regardless.
3. Matthew T C: This guy, on the other hand, might be able to do some damage if the track comes up sloppy, as he aired here three-back against a much tougher group than he sees here. On fast ground he’s a shaky proposition, but if Mother Nature abides, he’s one to fear.
4. Mr. Umphrey: Once classy fellow has seen better days and he drops to an all-time low in an effort to revive his career. Speed was once his main weapon, but the rigors of racing have taken away his early foot, so he looks to be an outsider in here.
5. One Starry Nite: Ran well here over the goo on June 12 and note he was up close that day, which could put him in a nice spot turning for home. That was his first sign of life in quite some time and if he can repeat that run, he’ll factor.
6. Goodson: Has done little in three starts since the claim and based on his recent form, he’s a deserving longshot in this spot.
7. Clay County: Brown claimed him for 20k three-back and now he drops him through the ceiling after a pair of thirds at the Shore. But before you get too worked up, note that if he wins and is claimed, they basically get back their initial investment, so it’s not like they’re giving him away. And there’s no guarantee he gets taken either, as this drop does look a bit suspicious. Formidable, and the most likely winner, but I wouldn’t take too short a number.
8. Soaring By: Speaking of classy runners, this former Pletcher-trainee is another that just keeps dropping down the ladder, and now he’s back on seven days rest after being a non-factor against slightly better. His in and out form says he might wake up a bit today and if he does, he can have a big say in this spot.
9. Morine’s Victory: Yet another horse of yesteryear who seemingly has lost many a step. But a closer look and you see his last three were at 1-mile, including one over a muddy Big A strip he obviously didn’t care for. If he gets dry footing, this cutback could really wake him up and he does have a hint of tactical speed to boot. Upset special?
10. Americanus: The most likely pace threat to Duke Of De Buqe gets the perfect attack post which should let Velasquez gauge things off the break. Aired at this level two-back, so you know he fits like a glove. Adds contention to a deep affair.
11. Z’s Pitch: He does come in off a career run at Suffix, but on paper, he’s several lengths behind these. Zito is enjoying a solid meet, but this guy looks like he’s in a bit too deep today.
Race 8. $43,000 NYB allowance. 3-years-old and up at 6 ½ furlongs.
2. Coaltown Legend: He’s been stuck at this level since early January and he meets what seems to be an above-average group today. Needs to wake up in a hurry.
3. Miller’s Mint: Whatever the reason, he really turned the corner in his last start, though obviously that was against much weaker than he meets here. Plenty of speed in this corner and with this inside draw, he figures to go as far as he can, but that might not be the best way to get to the winner’s circle in here. Siding against the three-peat.
4. Living Out A Dream: Ran well at this level twice during the winter but that was at two turns over the inner dirt, neither of which he sees today. He exits a troubled fourth on Belmont day over a speed-favoring track, so maybe he can pick up some minor pieces with a late run.
5. William Thomas: After being nowhere at 2-1 in his debut last fall, he returned from a seven month freshening and just dusted an overmatched group here on May 30, running a huge Beyer (92) in the process. Well, now he meets winners, more pace pressure and a pretty salty crew to boot. Not to mention he comes back on three weeks rest and will take a ton of money. He could be any kind, but we’ve seen these flashy maiden winners come up wanting against winners, so tread very lightly with this guy.
6. Rereadthefootnotes: One of the better state-bred juveniles of 2008 makes his long awaited 3-year-old debut. Comes in after nine months on the bench so obviously something went wrong. And knowing the aggressive nature of this barn and ownership, shouldn’t this guy be running in a stakes? Point being, at a short number with some questions to be answered, he’s just not worth the risk. Siding against.
7. Early Response: Toss the turf experiment and this guy’s form really comes into focus. The last two on the main were heady stuff and he’s got a stalking gear that should have him sitting right off a contested pace. Did I mention he won’t even be the favorite and actually could be the third choice in the race? Expecting a huge run so he gets the call for the win.
8. Justin P: He sure brings his lunchbox to work every day; this will be start number 10 on the year. The problem is he’s still looking to break through, and he’s had plenty of tries versus softer to do so.
9. Won Great Classic: Aside from his two runs against maidens on the inner, he’s been more pomp than circumstance and that’s a major problem in this solid field. He could sit a nice trip but thinking he backs up when the real running begins.
10. Fierce Rival: Sure looked like a good thing when he broke his maiden at first asking last month, but we’ve already discussed the pitfalls when facing winners for the first time. The good news is that Dutrow is usually better second time out so you can expect improvement. Tactical style is a plus, but he might be an underlay at the window and on paper he’s no faster than a half dozen in here. Mixed signals.
1. Sergeant Karakorum: Closed from the clouds to beat state-bred maiden-claimers (I’m not sure why they run those races either) but the waters get much, much deeper today. If they go wild early, he might crack the super, but that seems to be his ceiling.
1a. Karakorum On Black: His run two-back wasn’t bad at all, but it came against much weaker opposition. It’s quite possible his distant sixth against this kind last time was a better indication of where he fits at this level. And if that’s your guide, then he isn’t your guy.
9th. The Grade II, $150,000 New York Handicap. Filly/mares 1 ¼ miles on the inner turf.
2. Belle Allure: She sure looked good last month winning an optional claimer over a small field. And at 8.5 furlongs, it’s entirely possible that was well short of her calling. Now she gets 10 panels, has some tactical speed in a paceless race, goes second-time Lasix and gets the cozy rail draw. And did I mention she should love an off-turf course as well? Expecting a breakthrough performance from our top choice.
3. Criticism: Talented mare has made her name driving the train this year in these turf marathons and what do you know, somehow she looks loose as can be once again. She’s already won a trio of graded stakes this year by playing catch me if you can, and that plan could very well work again in here. The main cause for concern is the give in the ground that’s expected when the latch springs. Her lone stateside loss this year came on a “good” course at Gulfstream. Still, she’s a deserving favorite and the path to the winner’s circle goes directly through this gal.
1. Colina Verde: Brings some tactical speed and she was only beaten 2 ½ lengths by Criticism in the Sheepshead Bay over the course last month. And with a bit more ground, a bit tougher competition and a potential for soft ground, you could argue Criticism can only regress. You could also argue this mare can only move forward. Not out of this by any means.
4. Dress Rehearsal: The only girl in training to beat Criticism this year, but that had as much to do with that one’s suicidal fractions (46 4/5 half-mile in a 12-furlong race) as it did with this 4-year-old’s late run. But hey, she beat the one they all have to run down and that means something. Adds to the contention but I’m willing to make her do it again.
5. Backseat Rhythm: For whatever reason, she just hasn’t been the same since the barn switch and it hasn’t even been close. So why would things change today? On the face of it, they won’t and when you think of the underlaid mutuel you’re staring at, there’s not much reason to get excited.
6. Dynaforce: Grade I-winner over this course certainly can be excused for the sour comeback run at Pimlico, as it was far, far short of her best distance. Well, now all systems appear to be go in here and that makes her a major danger. Seems to be at her best with a course that has some give in it, so that only adds to the appeal. If she runs back to her Diana or Flower Bowl, then the rest are running for second money, Criticism included. A must-use in any Pk3 or Pk4.
7. Icon Project: Cross-entered at Colonial on Saturday and when you consider her Florida-based trainer doesn’t like to fly, it might tell you this filly is headed to Virginia. If she shows up here she merits a look, based on her third to Criticism at Calder in April, but even so she’d have to improve quite a bit to get unsaddled.
8. I Lost My Choo: Another who could head to Colonial, but should she stay home, this NY-bred has one serious stretch kick and she showed in the Mount Vernon that they don’t have to go crazy up front for her to run them down. Seems to like a firm course and that could be an issue here and is probably why she’s entered in Virginia in the first place. Respect her if she’s in the starting gate, but even so, I’ll limit her use to underneath.
9. Borrowing Base: I’d be shocked if they take this Grade II off the turf–also as shocked as I would be if she wins said race taken off the turf. They’re probably hoping for some black-type, which could also be asking a bit much.
1a. Winning Point: Big, big shot if she gets to play her game, especially if you key off her 2008 success. Her 2009 form hasn’t been as hot, but she would still get a bunch of turf horses on her surface. The one they have to beat if it gets rained off.
10th. $22,000 claimer (claiming price $25,000). 3-year-olds and up at 7 furlongs on the Widener turf course.
1. Flo’s Honor: His lone turf try wasn’t pretty and now he meets a few in here that have shown an affinity for the lawn. The rail draw is a major issue as well, so it’s best to keep looking.
2. One Lucky Date: Makes his turf debut and he’s not really bred for it. His dirt form isn’t any great shakes either, though he could rally into it if the pace falls apart. The search continues.
3. Show Me The Cash: Takes a huge class drop, though his recent form says it’s the right move. This is the same horse that was necked in the Grade III Pilgrim over the Widener here last fall. Yikes, that seems like a decade ago when you look at his four runs in 2009. Class players will land here, and though they’ll have to swallow a big underlay, he’s probably the most talented runner in here.
4. Prairie Boy: You can make a case for him all you want, but you’re still going to come back to the neon lights that read “1-for-53.” And that’s just not something I’m looking for in a spot like this.
5. Skyebay: He’s got a few solid turf runs on his ledger and either of them would probably suffice here. Seems to have enough speed to stay in the mix so he’s a threat, though not at the top of the list.
6. Masterofthehouse: His turf run two-back was heady stuff, and after 24 straight losses, it was the light at the end of the tunnel. But dang, did he ever get set up that day or what? Doesn’t figure to see 44 and change splits in here so I’ll make him do it again.
7. Lion’s Lair: Looked good wiring cheap state-bred maiden claimers last time and now he tries the grass, which hasn’t been a bad angle for Galluscio (21 percent from a small sample). Could get brave if they leave him alone up front and unlike several in here, he hasn’t yet shown a penchant for losing. Definitely worth including on your ticket.
8. Wild Way: The probable favorite has a lot going for him against this crew, most notably his last two turf runs against much better than he sees here. Either run would win this, and note that those last two were his only two starts with blinkers-on, so it all adds up to another big run. Those with a budget could do worse than singling this guy on the end of their tickets.
9. Alabama Man: The main danger to the favorite hasn’t been seen since last November, though it’s comforting to see him return at the same level he left at. If he’s ready to roll off the bench, he looms a major player, and his last work on June 14 says he’s primed for a big run.
10. Hi Daddy: Made his turf debut last time out and ran quite well to be fourth at this level. He’s got speed, cuts back a panel and has a trainer who is very crafty in the claiming ranks. Potential upsetter at a nice price.
11. Here Comes Charlie: Maybe he can improve off his return from a six-month layoff but at 1-for-25, just how much more does he have in the tank?
12. Wayoutsidethebox: His name tells you the way you need to think to get him to factor, and even then it might not get him to the wire first.
13. Manchild: Ran a big one to beat maiden-claimers here last month but now takes on a field of winners–well, horses that have won before. If you want to get cute, you can say he’s a perfect 1-for-1 sprinting on the turf. And that one was pretty solid to boot. Interesting if he draws in.
14. Scorch the Torch: MTO takes the biggest plunge of his career if this one gets rained off, and that right there says he’s a player. Speed and a solid attack post mean he’s a big threat if he’s in the gate.
15. Captain Sword: MTO is winless in five starts on an off-track, but four of those runs have been solid, including a pair of runs versus allowance foes. Can’t fault anyone looking this way if his number flashes on the tote.
16. Sir Sapphire: His lone win from 18 starts came on an off-track, so you at least know he doesn’t mind a bit of moisture. Decent credentials, but the pair to his left look a bit better on the main.
Brian’s $48 ticket: 1,3,7,8,9,10–7–2,6–7,8,9,13
3:25 pm update: The 9th has come off the turf so here is my revised play in the 9th race: 2, 3, 5
Gotta work Backstreet Rhythm into the sequence now that they are going over the slop. Revised ticket is $36.