BELMONT SUPER SATURDAY PICKS

We’ve got a huge day of horse racing coming up on Saturday with six stakes races at Belmont and another four at Santa Anita. I’ll be vacationing in Portugal this year during the Breeders’ Cup and likely won’t be able to see most of the races live, which means that my analysis and betting angles won’t be as in depth as they usually are. (Maybe this is for the best- I was in San Francisco last year for the Breeders’ Cup, bet the races very sparingly and had perhaps my best Cup day ever). As a result, Saturday is my Breeders’ Cup. And we’ll be seeing a lot of these runners back in five weeks. It looks to be a bit of a chalky day, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t money to be made. I’ll be concentrating my efforts on the Belmont card.

BELDAME- 9f, 1:58 CST

It’s difficult to see this one as anything more than a two horse racing between a couple of the nation’s most accomplished distaffers. ROYAL DELTA has been a force following her win in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. While arguably at her best with a bit more distance than this race offers, she does have a dominating win at this distance to her credit in the Fleur de Lis three starts back, and finished a hard closing second into lone speed in her last outing, the Grade 1 Personal Ensign. She bested her main rival here, IT’S TRICKY, in that race, although that one did well to get back into the race after a very bad stumble at the start, and should be more forwardly placed here. She had won all three of her starts this year prior to that race at slightly shorter distances than this. While she has lost to the top choice in each of their last two meetings (she was 2nd in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic), it is interesting to note that she is 2 for 2 over this Belmont course and has never lost a one turn race, which this will be due to the configuration of the track at Belmont. The field separates considerably after those two, but looking for value, CASH FOR CLUNKERS figures to be a part of the early pace and only missed the second choice by 3/4 of a length two starts back. The other entries here, Go Unbridled, Maristar, Acting Happy and Disposablepleasure have spent 2012 racing against allowance company and being crushed by the best of the three year class, respectively.

1) Royal Delta 1-1

2) It’s Tricky 7-5

3) Cash For Clunkers 8-1

KELSO, 8f, 2:30 CST

This is another race where two horses look to be a cut above the rest, although there is a bit more intrigue underneath. Unless the course comes up wet, SHACKLEFORD is the horse to beat. Throw out his 8th place finish over a muddy track in his last race, and look toward his impressive Met Mile win over this course at the same distance while facing Grade 1 foes. The horse who finished three lengths behind him in that race, TO HONOR AND SERVE, flattered him by taking the $1 Million Woodward Stakes in his last outing, battling down the stretch to hold off one of the nation’s top older horses in Mucho Macho Man. He does have a dominating win over the Belmont track at this distance as he won the Grade 3 Westchester back in April, and seems to have been on the improve since then. TRICKMEISTER has shown early speed in all of his races this year and has hung with tough competition early before fading late in longer races. This distance could suit him, and he did finish ahead of the second choice over this course in the 9f Suburban after setting the pace, though he had the tables turned on him in the Woodward last out. There appears to be plenty of early speed signed on here outside of Shackleford and Trickmeister, including Tapizar, who has an allowance win over this course to his credit and won his last start, an 8.5f Stakes at Mountaineer, as well as the less threatening Pacific Ocean. Jersey Town has run against top competition and was actually 3rd in this race last year in a short field and could benefit from a pace meltdown but would be a surprise. Isn’t He Clever won back to back allowance races over this track back in June but has never been competitive against stakes company. Gallant Fields finally won an allowance claimer in his 7th attempt last out, and Golddigger’s Boy, a well beaten last place finisher in last year’s race, was defeated by Pacific Ocean in his last.

1) Shackleford 2-1

2) To Honor And Serve 8-5

3) Trickmeister 8-1

VOSBURGH, 3:04 CST

It’s awfully tough to go against SEAN AVERY here after the six-year old gelding posted an effortless 6f win over this track in his return following a 13 month layoff, drawing away through the stretch. He should be sharper here and we will cut him some slack for the 92 Beyer he posted in that race, as he was running into a fierce headwind. Speaking of Beyer figures, the only horse entered here that has posted a triple digit number is FORT LOUDON, who ran a 103 back in July when he won the Grade 3 Carry Back. He wasn’t disgraced when finishing 2nd in his last in the 7f King’s Bishop against a deep field of ten, turning the tables on some of the foes he lost two when a flat 5th in the 6.5f Amsterdam. He is expected the stalk the pace setters and be moving up late. CAIXA ELECTRONICA is always interesting for his deep closing style, which was best demonstrated in winning the 6f True North here on Belmont Day.  He is always coming late but has been off the board in his last three, and it appears he needs fractions of sub :22/:45 on the front end for his ground-saving style to be effective. There is some speed here with Little Drama, Royal Currier and The Lumber Guy (who comes off a 4-month layoff and shortens up here, and you get him in the entry with the top selection), but I’m not sure he’ll get quite the pace he needs. The Kelso might have suited him better, although this field appears more beatable. Another horse that could benefit from a hot pace is Rothko, who closed well to win the 6f Aristides at Churchill. Filling out the well-balanced field are Zero Rate Policy, 2nd to the top choice in his last effort but well beaten by the front-running Little Drama two back, 3-1 morning line favorite Justin Phillip (6th in this race last year as my pick to win), who was caught late to just miss the win here at 6f on Belmont Day and has hit the board in his last five, and Poseidon’s Warrior, who upset the Vanderbilt field over a sloppy track after missing the board in his prior two.

1) Sean Avery 7-2

2) Fort Loudon 6-1

3) Caixa Electronica 6-1

FLOWER BOWL, 10f, 3:38

The Irish mares look toughest in a very compelling and competitive edition of the Flower Bowl. Coming off an impressive closing win in the 9.5f Beverly D against a deep, talented field, the classy I’M A DREAMER stands to only benefit from the added distance here. Another invader is DREAM PEACE, who had her coming out party when finishing 2nd in a strong Diana field, finishing the 9f race willingly and posting a 101 Beyer after missing the board in graded stakes company overseas in two prior starts this year. She’s been flattered since, as the horse she beat handily by three lengths for the place spot in that race, ZAGORA, went on a bit of rampage after that, winning the 8.5f Ballston Spa Stakes impressively and posting a field high 103 Beyer. She’ll be tested here at a longer distance than she has ever run before, but has  been finishing her races well. One horse that should have no trouble with the distance is Hit It Rich, winner of 2 of her last 4, including the 11f Glens Falls and 12f Orchard. However, her 3rd place finish over this course behind Mystical Star and Aruna at this distance wasn’t flattered when those two were crushed by the top choice at Arlington. Another with no distance limitations is Starformer, who won the 11f Robert G. Dick Memorial, a Grade 3 race, but she takes a big leap up in class here. Coming back to the States after a second place finish in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf is Nahrain, who may have caught a weak field that day and has been off the board in two of her last three across the pond. Rounding out the rest of the Americans are Halo Dolly, winner of the 8.5 f Yellow Ribbon at Del Mar but untested beyond that distance, Hessionite, a winner of her last three ungraded stakes who will be facing a more challenging field, and Bizzy Caroline, who was an easily beaten second in the Glens Falls and a distant 5th in the Modesty prep at Arlington.

1) I’m A Dreamer 3-1

2) Dream Peace 5-2

3) Zagora 7-2

JOE HIRSCH TURF CLASSIC, 12f, 4:12 CST

A small field of six is led by the red hot POINT OF ENTRY, who comes off a four race win streak that includes dominating victories in the 12f Sword Dancer at Saratoga, the 11f Man O’War over this course, and the 12f Elkhorn at Keeneland. He seems to have a stranglehold on his competitors at this distance and is the most likely single of the day in multi-race wagers. Looking for value in a horse that might be rapidly improving and be begging for added distance, we land on FINNEGAN’S WAKE, who closed hard to take place honors in the 10f Secretariat Stakes on Million Day. Dale Romans should have the three-year old ready to make a strong late move. I’ve lost a lot of money betting against LITTLE MIKE this year, first when he stretched out to 9f and won the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Derby Day and again when he stretched out to 10f and wired the Arlington Million. As he stretches out again to try 12f for the first time, I’ll try to keep him out of the winner’s circle and the exacta yet again for the same reasons that have burned me before. Third time’s a charm right? Again, he looms as lone speed. Also making the trip in are Hailstone, who is tested at this distance and beyond was but a distant 6th in the Man O’War, Treasure Beach, who has been off form all year and didn’t prove otherwise when 6th in the Million, and Kindergarten Kid, who though Grade 3 placed at this distance was winless in four Allowance Optional Claiming Races earlier this year.

1) Point of Entry 4-5

2) Finnegan’s Wake 10-1

3) Little Mike 2-1

JOCKEY CLUB GOLD CUP, 10f, 4:46

The Horse of the Year battle heats up as three of the top contenders try to separate themselves and earn likely favorite status for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (even though the winner of this race rarely wins that one). Also, the top four finishers from the 9f Whitney at Saratoga, among the year’s most important races up to this point, return here. I sometimes forget how rarely horses in the Classic division even run at 10f. Amazingly, only four horses in this field have ever won a dirt race at 10f or further in their career, and only one of them has won at 10f this year. FLAT OUT won this race last year and has been steadily improving in his four starts this year, all at shorter distances than his ideal 10f, and all away from his favorite Belmont track. In his last and strongest race of 2012 so far, a 3rd place finish in the aforementioned Whitney, he was coming late, closing to just miss the place spot. I think he will enjoy the return to this race track along with the added distance. The horse that just nipped him for 2nd in that race, RON THE GREEK, is the only horse in this field to win at 10f on dirt this year. He is more of a deep closer that needs a strong pace up front, and this race is shaping up to have much less pace than the Whitney did. Still, he must be respected at this distance as he makes his first career start over this track.  FORT LARNED enjoyed a perfect trip from right off the pace when he won the Whitney, and has fared well against top company elsewhere, winning the 9f Cornhusker and 9.5f Skip Away on the lead. He is likely to be the lone pace factor here, but will have to hold off a whole race full of closers as he tries 10f for the first time, and will also be making his first start at Belmont. Hymn Book is a stalker who won the 9f Donn Hcp. this past winter and finished 2nd in the 9f Suburban over this track in the summer, and should get some attention as well, but he appeared a cut below the top three when he finished a distant 4th in the Whitney. A couple of four-year olds from last year’s Triple Crown trail will try their hand at this race, although both have seen better days. Stay Thirsty hasn’t won a race since winning last year’s Travers, and despite a respectable 3rd in this race last year, has been off the board in his last two against top horses in one-paced efforts. Ruler On Ice won last year’s Belmont and was 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but looks much less capable this year, having finished 8th in the Donn before moving into allowance company, where he has also been winless. San Pablo is a horse that is improving and that could be near the likely soft pace, coming off a win in the 9f Iselin Stakes, but will need to take another step forward to be a threat to hit the board here. Fast Falcon and Atigun are hard closing three-year olds who made a name for themselves with 3rd and 4th place finishes in the Travers respectively, although the form of that race took a hit when the first place finishers finished off the board in a weak Pennsylvania Derby last Saturday. Game Ball makes a wild move from 12f turf races to the dirt, and is well deserving of his 50-1 morning line. I’m looking for a complete symmetrical reversal of the Whitney finish here.

1) Flat Out 3-1

2) Ron The Greek 5-2

3) Fort Larned 7-2

EARLY PICK 3: Royal Delta, It’s Tricky/ Shackleford, To Honor and Serve/ Sean Avery, Fort Loudon, Caixa Electronica

LATE PICK 3: I’m A Dreamer, Dream Peace, Zagora/ Point of Entry/ Flat Out, Ron The Greek, Fort Larned

 

 

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