Yikes, is it really the last Saturday of the Belmont Spring meet? Where the heck did the time go? We close with the traditional send-off to Saratoga, the historic Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. We get a solid group of eight, and all of them seem to be able to win, so it makes for a good handicapping affair. I’ll see you at the Spa on Wednesday! –Brian Nadeau
Race 7. $22,000 claimer for 3-year-olds and up on the Widener turf at 7 furlongs.
1. Beso Del Sur: You get Linda Rice doing what she does best, saddling turf sprinters, and it’s highly interesting to see her put this filly in with the boys. There are 71 turf sprints a week at Belmont; surely she could have found a spot with the gals. Her turf form isn’t bad, either, so she can be used if you’re spreading.
2. Triste Doble Q: Drops from state-bred allowance foes, but his races against winners haven’t been anything to write home about, nor have his four on the grass. Passing.
3. Jed Greeley: Kimmel removes the hood in an effort to get this February returnee to settle a bit early. Making his turf debut in here, which is not one of the barn’s top moves. If they go crazy up front, he’s not without hope late, but it might be best to watch one first to see how he handles the surface switch.
4. Mr. Petersson: Just blasted state-bred maiden-claimers for 16k and it’s tough to think that type of competition has him ready for this spot. Has the speed to be involved early, but can’t see him lasting late.
5. Wild Way: Liked him a few weeks ago and he ran well to finish third behind the bomber Skyebay. A repeat of that run puts him in the mix again and you know he fits at this level. Threat for all the spots.
6. Prince Dubai: Not crazy about the 1-for-22 record and he’s been treading water in this condition for a long, long time. Doubt he gets out of the pool today.
7. Show Me The Cash: Sure hasn’t had much racing luck this year against much tougher competition, too. His last at the Shore wasn’t pretty, but he does get a much better post today. Probably won’t get the price you should at the window, but he’s a tough customer.
8. Wayoutsidethebox: Seems like the biggest outsider in the field and an easy toss.
9. Flo’s Honor: Heads to turf after taking forever to get the job done versus state-bred claimers. Not a likely recipe for success in here.
10. Sydney Road: Hmmm, they paid 200k for him and he’s earned 31k in three races; three darn good races against open maidens and allowance foes. Now, after finishing fifth in the slop, he’s in for 25k. Makes sense, right? Beaten less than 6 lengths by Lime Rickey two back and that guy would be 1-20 in here. If he’s right, he’s long gone, but that’s a mighty big “if” and a mighty small price to find out.
11. New Yawker: Makes his first start against winners, but his last pair–over this course–stamp him as a major contender in this soft spot. With his speed he can either set the tempo or rate just off of it, and either scenario would put him in an enviable spot turning for home. Definite win threat for a barn that’s been heating up of late.
12. Saarlandisourland (MTO): Finally got the job done in start number 12 but it took the bottom level of state-bred claimers to do so. Even if this gets washed off, it’s tough to see him scoring.
13. Vicarious (MTO): Slowly putting it together and if he gets a contested pace up front, he could be rolling into the mix late.
Race 8. $46,000 New York-bred optional claimer (N2X/30k) at 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf.
1. Stormy Success: His last was a real breakthrough, and one more jump he probably gets there, so it’s nice to know he’s heading in the right direction. The worry is the bounce, as that run was by far a lifetime best. His 4-for-42 record endorses that theory.
2. Undocumented: His lone turf try was dismal and that’s important to note because this is a horse that loves to win (9-for-33). Meets a tough cast in here so not expecting his first grass score.
3. Missinglisalewis: Brings some honest turf form to the party, but he just can’t seem to get over the hump. Makes his second start on turf with blinkers and in his first he had a world of trouble, so maybe, just maybe, he makes the leap today.
4. Kettle Two: Another who seems to have maxed out in terms of improvement and his lone 2009 start was ugly. Should move forward today but doubt it’s enough to get him a win.
5. Grasberg: Looked loaded turning for home in his return and then just hit a wall of horses and had nowhere to go. The Form didn’t pick up on the trouble, but this guy was in with a big, big chance that day. Blinkers go off so he should settle early and the loss of Prado ensures a nice price. I’m back aboard one more time with him on top.
6. Admiral Bird: For a horse that doesn’t do a lot of winning, he sure does get hammered at the window every time out. His lone run without trouble this meet did result in a second-place finish, but he’s 0-for-9 over the Belmont sod for a reason.
7. Extra Zip: Enters in raging form but he does meet tougher than the two groups he’s drilled so far. Still, he loves Belmont and can adapt to any scenario and with very little in terms of early speed signed on, he might be the one to catch turning for home. Clearly the horse to beat.
8. Imperial River: Slowly moving in the right direction but even so, it’s going to take a career run to down this group.
9. Gold Pageantry: Ran well against open company at Gulfstream and now makes his first start in the capable hands of Rice. Freshened since April and all indications are he’s a different horse than the one who struggled against this kind last year. Worth using.
10. Piazza Di Spagna: Took six tries to get through the entry-level condition and now he meets much tougher than the soft group he just barely beat last month. Siding against.
Race 9. The Grade I, $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/4 miles.
1. Livin Lovin: She’s been scratched so often in the past week you’d think she had poison ivy, but it seems she’s found the right spot to contend in this soft Grade I. Passed on a pair of Del Park tilts last weekend and it looks like a good move in retrospect. They’re going 10 panels in this spot and you have to believe not too many are licking their chops to go that far, so point being, they might be coerced into taking it very slow early, which should have this gal near the slow pace. Call for the win in a contentious affair.
2. Wynning Ride: Baffert ships in with a well-bred miss who just might find herself on the engine in this paceless affair. She’s shown some tactical speed in the past and if no one wants to go, Desormeaux might very well take the initiative. She’s probably not good enough to wire these, but neither was Gabby’s Golden Gal in the Grade I Acorn and we saw how that worked for Mr. Baffert, didn’t we?
3. Don’t Forget Gil: Trying to get back to the form that won her the Florida Oaks in March but with each start, it seems further and further away. If the filly of old shows up she might be able to have a say, but until we see her it’s best to pass.
4. What A Pear: The queen of the inner dirt found the big girls much too tough at Keeneland, and the hangover seemed to knock her for a loop in the Bouwerie. Confident move to start in here right off the shelf, but thinking she was never good enough to win a race like this even during the midst of her big run this winter, so she’s definitely not now.
5. Devotee: Didn’t have much of a chance in her return to the States and so you figure she’ll be a better filly today. But the trend has been to ignore the Godolphin runners so far (Who would ever think you’d be hearing that?) and that seems to apply here as well.
6. Casanova Move: Eligible for an entry-level allowance race, yet she’ll be one of the choices in this Grade I, so right there you know it’s wide open. Gets bonus points for being about the only horse to close in the Acorn on that crazy Belmont speed biased day. Freshened since, and now with Pletcher, but heck, I wouldn’t even be enamored of her in that allowance race I was talking about, so I’m not too enthralled with 4-1 in a 10-furlong Grade I.
7. Hightap: Aside from when she stubbed her toe at Oaklawn, she’s been a model of consistency. Enters off wins in a pair of Grade III’s, so you know she fits. Has the speed to be right off the pedestrian pace that’s shaping up and very well could be the fresh new face in a division looking for someone to step up behind ‘Rachel. Huge threat.
8. Funny Moon: For Clement to toss her into the Acorn off just two lifetime races says a lot because he’s usually the patient type. So it didn’t work out that day, but it’s not like she didn’t have some trouble. Came back to drill an overmatched field so you know she’s back on her game. The issues arises in the fact that all three of her wins have come on off tracks, while her two runs on the dry stuff haven’t been too hot. Drew horrifically in here (don’t forget these 10-furlong races start on the turn) and will be a short number, so it’s worth trying to beat her on top.
Race 10. $20,000 maiden-claimer for 3-year-olds and up at 7 furlongs on the Widener turf.
1. Winloc’s Big D: Hoping it’s lucky 17 and no doubt he’s getting closer. But after failing three times in a row for 25k, he moves back up the ladder. Not my kind of play.
2. Fair Catch: Fits like a glove at this level and retains the services of Ramon, so you know he’ll be well backed at the windows. His last two would probably win this for fun as this is an extremely weak cast. Looks extremely tough to deny at low odds.
3. Indian Scout: Another moving up the ladder for a low (no) percentage trainer. Looks in too deep at this level.
4. Macho Mambo: Takes the biggest drop in the game after testing open maidens a few times to begin his career. Showed speed last out at the Shore and that can be a potent handicapping angle on this kind of drop. Not impossible.
5. Native Mambo: Another dropping, this guy from a trio of open affairs. He showed some zip too and there’s a good chance this guy is your pacesetter today. Could surprise.
6. Judge Well: Added the hood last time and got a bit ambitious opening up 12 early. That was at two turns in a paceless affair and he gets neither today so siding against.
7. Mugger Hugger: Yet to make an impact this year and rates as one of the longer shots on the board.
8. New York Bobby: Switches barns and Jacobson has been known to wake up new acquisitions, so maybe he’s worth a second glance. His first three starts last year weren’t bad and if he can run back to them, he could be interesting.
9. Smarteralex: Lifetime maiden has yet to get it done after 35 starts, so not thinking number 36 is going to be the charm.
10. Dontquityourdayjob: Adds the hood after making turf debut and he didn’t run that poorly last month. Needs to improve some more to factor but it’s only his third lifetime start, so it’s entirely possible he moves forward.
11. Peytons Heart (MTO): His pair of main track runs haven’t been much, so as weak as this field is, even if he gets some of them on the dirt, he’s no cinch.
12. Country Trick (MTO): Should be on or near the pace if he starts and he’s got some solid runs at this level. Clearly a win candidate if he’s in there.
Brian’s $54 Pk4: 7,10,11—5,7,9—1,2,7—2,5