Brian’s Pick 4 preview, July 4th, 2009

July 4th weekend is annually one of the best stretches of racing on the calendar and Saturday at Belmont only proves the point. Three graded stakes help make up a terrific late Pk4, so let’s jump right in. –Brian Nadeau

Keep in mind horses are preceded by their program number.

Race 8. The Grade II, $200,000 Dwyer Stakes. 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.

1. Warrior’s Reward: Don’t be too harsh for the 4-5 loss last time, as the colt that beat him is now 3-for-3. Gets back to one-turn today, which might be a better fit but the front wraps went on last time, which is always a sign of concern. Tread lightly with that gaudy 113 Beyer he earned on Oaks Day, as we all know how the sealed track played to inside runners that afternoon. One of many contenders but nothing wrong with shopping around and looking for more value.

2. Convocation: Aired on Belmont Day and that won’t be the first time you hear that in this preview. But while several others put up ridiculously fast times that day (see Just Ben a few stalls over), this colt did nothing of the kind when he beat a completely overmatched field. He won under wraps that day so he could have gone faster, and it does look like he’s coming into his own, but going from maidens to Grade II types is no small assignment. Siding against.

3. Kensei: Put forth a career-best run when a distant third to Munnings in the Grade II Woody Stephens and if he can improve just a bit more, he’s in with a shot. Stretches out, but remember that these 1 1/16-mile races are just one-turn at Belmont, and the reality that is they’re not that far removed from a 7-furlong sprint. If you believe the last was a sign of things to come, you’ll get a very nice price on a colt that could be getting good at the right time.

4. Masala: Finally broke through for new barn after several frustrating tries with Pletcher when he seemed ready to join the Triple Crown trail. But if you watch that run, he almost had to win, as the runner-up Two Brash dueled through insane splits yet was coming back at this guy at the end. So while the race looked fast on paper, I’m not sure it was all it was cracked up to be. Mixed signals.

5. American Dance: Drilled Two Brash handily in his last in wire-to-wire fashion, so you have to expect he’ll be in the mix early in here. That run was by far a lifetime best, so you have to worry about a bounce from this well bred homebred. Willing to take a stand against.

6. Just Ben: Freaked on Belmont Day when he ran a 109 Beyer in a tour de force at 7 furlongs. Set a sub-45 half that day, so it’s possible he’ll clear off once again, which would make him mighty dangerous. While the Beyer was a bit of a farce due to the racetrack that day, there’s no denying there’s ample talent in this corner, not to mention a potential pace advantage. Bounce not withstanding, he gets the call for the win, though this race has the look of a spread in the Pk4.

7. Sunday Sunrise: His last was by far his best, but it still leaves him well behind the others in terms of class and speed. If a group of them goes crazy up front, he could close for a piece, but anything more seems a bit out of reach at this point.

Race 9. The Grade I, $300,000 Prioress Stakes. 3-year-old fillies at 6 furlongs.

2. Luster: Homebred has done little wrong in her career but really gets the acid test today. Drew the short end of the straw with the rail too, as she’s shown a propensity for slow starts when inside. So an alert break has her on or near what could be suicidal splits and a tardy one has her spotting several nice rivals a few lengths; neither seems like a tasty proposition.

1. Cat Moves: Coupled with Light Green, so she’ll be part of the favored entry. Unbeaten and untested in two career starts, but they were against much lesser and she defeated only four horses in each start. Seems like she has a bit of a stalking gear, which should bode well in this spot, but it seems a bit too much too soon for her.

3. Heart Ashley: Sure, she’s 4-for-6 lifetime and has never missed the exacta but her only speedy win came over Aqueduct’s inner dirt, so you need to view her with skepticism. The other bad news that is she’s drawn inside of Light Green, who seems as fast or faster. So the potential for an eye-popping half-mile speed duel is quite high, and if someone blinks, I’m thinking this is your candidate for some Visine. Taking a strong stand against.

1a. Light Green: Absolutely freaked when she drilled Grade II winner Doremifasolatido in a minor stakes here in May, running a ridiculous 109 Beyer while going 6 furlongs in 1:08 1/5. If she runs back to that race she could lap this field, but with the aforementioned Heart Ashley to her left, we already know nothing is going to come easy on the engine. A perfect 3-for-3 at the distance, unmistakably talented and the most likely winner, but let’s just say you might want a backup or two because should could be a bit wobbly inside the furlong grounds.

4. Reforestation: She’s a nice filly that has really come into her own this year, but now she faces a monumental task in what is her graded stakes debut. Has the right stalking style to sit a good trip but can’t envision her sticking around when the real running begins.

5. Be Fair: Had no chance in the Acorn when they somehow, someway let ‘Gabby get loose on an intensely speed-favoring track. But she didn’t run poorly at all to be fifth, beaten less than 5 lengths and now she returns to the distance where she aired in her career debut. Bargain filly sure hasn’t ducked anyone all spring and she’s got enough speed to be ahead of the closers and close to the leaders, so if the speed duel takes some starch out of Light Green, you never know who might come calling late. In with an upset chance.

6. Gabby’s Golden Girl: Christmas came a few months early in the Acorn when she got loose and forgot to stop. Well, things couldn’t be any more different today, as not only is she not getting loose, she probably won’t even sniff the front. So you have to ask yourself if she can stalk and pounce and still be at her best? Possible, but off a career run under optimum circumstances, it’s not likely. Making her beat me once again before I believe.

7. Selva: How’s that saying go, they could run over broken glass? That’s the perfect description of this classy filly. Fast, sloppy, turf, Poly; she’s handled them all and comes north with a big chance. Her speed could have her right off the early leaders and she’s shown in the past that she can run by horses late. Don’t sell her too short.

8. On The Menu: Before he hit the big time, Jones made his name shipping to New York with some classy fillies and winning these types of races (Island Sand and Wildcat Bettie B come to mind). Well, he’s here again with a homebred that looks like she’s in with a big, big chance. No doubt a step up in class, but she’s shown on her best day that she can run fast enough to win a race like this and she gets some bonus points for her tactical speed. Throw in a nice price and it all adds up to top selection in a thrilling renewal of the Prioress.

Race 10. The Grade II, $400,000 Suburban Handicap. 3-year-olds and up at 1 ¼ miles

1. Finallymadeit: Know him early, that’s for sure. Speedy sort should break running from his inside draw and take them as far as he can. The problem is that there are more than a few in here who want to do the same, so while he might give you a thrill for a mile or so, it’s unlikely he can shake loose and hold off the cavalry charge late.

2. Dry Martini: A few years ago he had the numbers to win a race like this, but it’s now 2009 and he hasn’t quite showed the same stretch run that he once had. The race flow should flatter him but unless he can find that old form, it’s tough to see him making a big impression.

3. It’s A Bird: His three runs over fast ground this year are simply better than anyone in this field can handle, so if he runs one of those races, the others will have to improve a few lengths to beat him. And of all the entrants, he should benefit the most from energizing early splits, as he’ll be stalking and get first run on the closers. Another of Wolfson’s many miracle reclamation projects looks tough to beat in a weak renewal of the Suburban, though the price is hardly appealing.

4. Asiatic Boy: Just loved him in the Stephen Foster but let’s be honest, it was a miracle he got second as Einstein had a nightmare trip and this guy did very little running. Gets second-Lasix today and you could argue he’ll be a bit better in his second start in America. Of course, you could also argue the dreaded Euro-bounce (errr, Dubai-bounce) will rear its ugly head. I’ve already mentioned this isn’t your dad’s Suburban, but at about 5-2 it’s tough to get too excited about a runner who could very well be a shadow of his former self. Worth including if you’re spreading, but worth beating on the win end.

5. Stud Muffin: No matter how weak this field might be, he’s never once in his life run a race good enough to win this, so he’ll have to improve a few lengths to even be in the picture. If the pace falls apart, he could be a stretch factor underneath.

6. Rising Moon: Ran third in this race last year and seems to be coming into it in solid form. His stablemate won this last year at about 40-1 so we know Dutrow can strike at a nice price. Figures to sit a dream trip and then it’s only a question of if he’s good enough. He’s probably not, but you’ll be getting one heck of a price to find out and that’s never a bad thing in this game.

7. Real Merchant: Should be up close early and he did run big over the track two-back, so you know he likes it here. Followed that up with a solid run in the Grade III Schaefer, so he comes here in fine form and maybe even ready for a career-best run. He’s like Rising Moon; not good enough to win this but in form and a big price, so why not take a shot if he’s your guy?

8. Cool Coal Man: Dangerous runner could very well be fast enough to clear Finallymadeit early, so racing tactics will be at a premium. If you’re siding with a closer, you need to hope the rail secures his position and makes this guy press/stalk, because if Velazquez is able to clear off, it could be a long day for the rest. Here’s hoping they want this colt to be involved early because I’m trying to beat him for the win.

9. Ready’s Echo: What does it say about the 2009 Suburban when this underachiever has an upset chance? Yikes. Eligible for a second-level allowance but Pletcher takes a chance at a big purse and with good reason. He’ll need to continue to improve, but with only nine lifetime starts that’s entirely possible. If they go crazy up front he’ll be rolling late, but he’s best used underneath as he just leaves himself with way too much to do.

10. Samhoon: Speedy 5-year-old could very well be the key to the race as he’s cross-entered Friday. If they run here, there should be no worries about anyone clearing off and getting loose through easy splits, as this guy’s got speed to spare. And with this terrible post (they start 1 1/14-miles races on the turn), he’ll have to gun to ensure he’s not extremely wide on the turn. Can’t see him winning it, but he could ruin the chances of the other speed while helping out the closers.

Race 11. $44,000 maiden special weight. 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on the Widener turf.

3. Harlan’s Band: Decent debut run at the Shore and it’s a sign of confidence that he ships up to Belmont for start number two. He’ll need to continue to improve as he meets a few talented rivals, but Tam McLaughlin is well known for success with their second-time starters.

4. Evolutionist: No doubt more comfortable on turf and it’s nice to know that he can handle any kind of going. Good fourth here off the shelf on May 30 and minimal improvement will put him in the mix. Major player.

5. Chapin Beach: Slowly getting the hang of things, but with that being said, he still hasn’t really kicked it in through the stretch. Best used underneath in the exotics.

1. Wild Entry: One of those horses that makes you wonder how in the world he’s still a maiden. With only three starts under his belt, that’s still OK, but with a few more second-place finishes, you start to wonder if he doesn’t want to win. Clearly the one to beat, but at a short price and in a big field, those backup tickets become more and more important.

2. Canardly: Yet to make an impact in any of his six lifetime starts, so until we see some marked improvement, it’s best to keep passing.

6. Buddy’s Song: Ran well over the boggy going here on June 13 in what was only his second lifetime start on turf, but he’s still going to need improvement to get in the mix today.

2b. Pynaformer: Coupled with Canardly and this gelding’s bio is much the same. Seems up against it in this field.

7. Tawaared: He’s gotten better and better in each start and his last two–both over the grass–have been very solid. There’s enough tactical speed in this corner to put him in the mix as well and get first run on the closers. Can’t fault anyone leaning this way.

8. Flight Song: Well-bred firster seems to have a bright future but does meet some accomplished runners. Velazquez jumping aboard is worth noting, but we’ll wait for the maiden win to come at the Spa next month.

9. Memorized: Basically run in place in all four career starts and that’s not a recipe for success in this field. Needs to show more before backing.

10. Fenomeno: Talk about a well-bred runner. Mom won the Oaks and Alabama for these very connections and Lobo is beginning to make inroads here in New York. His lone turf run at Santa Anita wasn’t bad and with some experience and maturity, the best seems yet to come. Chance for the upset to close out the day.

1a. Grassy: Coupled with Wild Entry and looks every bit as formidable as his stablemate. His debut was impressive and you know Clement probably didn’t have the screws tightened so better can be expected here. If that’s the case, the rest are in for a long day. Makes the entry tough to deny at a short, short price.

Brian’s $48 Pk4: 1,6—1,5,7,8—3,4,6—1,10

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