Belmont’s Biggest Day Ever- Card Picks 5-11

P=Pace, S= Stalker, C= Closer

Picks include all horses being used in any bet whatsoever. Good luck.

Race 5: 12:54- Woody Stephens, 7f

1- Bayern (5-1) P

Had rough trip in Belmont and rough luck in Derby Trial DQ, now gets rail spot against a field loaded with speed. Still, shows a 98 Beyer from SA allowance win at 8f, which is second in the field, but figs have been in decline since then.

2- Financial Mogul (30-1) C

Closing type should get a nice pace to run at here, but may be a cut below in terms of talent, following a 6th place finish in the 7f Bay Shore last out, gets blinkers off 2 month layoff.

3- Havana (6-1) P

Highly regarded in his 2 year old season following 8f Champagne win over the BEL surface, but wasn’t sharp in return race following injury, finishing 3rd against weaker. A bit of a question mark as he attempts a return to form, far inside much of the speed.

4- Meadowood (15-1) S

Takes a class jump off 6f win at Pimlico in only his 4th career start, but is undefeated and shows the best late pace number from his last effort, but stretches out to 7f for the first time.

5- Coup de Grace (10-1) P/S

Winner of 7f Bay Shore in last attempt back in April, posting an 89 Beyer while rating off the pace, will need to improve on that figure here but could hit the board with similar racing tactics if the speed collapses.

6- Embellishing Bob (8-1) P

Winner by DQ in 8f Derby Trial after breaking maiden in third try, racing just off Bayern throughout in first stakes attempt. 94 Beyer appears competitive here, but seasoning remains a question against a speedy field.

7- Tonito M (20-1) S

Was 2nd after a rough trip in 7f race at SA in first US start following dominating wins on the Puerto Rico circuit, figures to get a nice trip behind the speed, and is eligible to improve off 83 Beyer number in second race off the ship.

8- Favorite Tale (12-1) P

Upset Havana in last start at 6f over this surface but was nowhere to be found in the Bay Shore, may prefer shorter sprints.

9- Spot (30-1) S

Closed from off the pace to win the 7f Swale at GP, but low Beyer of 87 was justified in two subsequent efforts, as he finished well off the board against tougher foes. Has yet to duplicate the turn of foot shown in the Swale.

10- Kobe’s Back (15-1) C

Will certainly get the right setup here to make his late run, which he demonstrated in winning the 7f San Vincente at SA four starts back, posting a 95 Beyer, which tops the field at the distance. Missed the win in the Bay Shore by just a half length and may see more pace here; for the runner with the best career late pace number of 105, he seems most logical to pick up the pieces. The choice.

11- Social Inclusion (7-5) P

By far the class of the field, but has seen declining Beyers since massive 110 in 8.5f allowance win at GP. Still, he’s talented enough to battle this type of contested pace and still have plenty left at this distance, must use defensively on top while seeking value elsewhere.

12- Top Fortitude (20-1) P

Rated and drew away impressively to win the 7f La Barrera last out, but sat behind pretty leisurely pace and 85 Beyer confirms this, will have tougher ones to chase this time around.

13- Pure Sensation (30-1)

Steps up in class following 2nd place finish ahead of highly regarded Havana in that one’s return, speedster draws wide and looks up against it.

Picks:

1) Kobe’s Back 15-1

2) Social Inclusion 8-5

3) Tonito M 20-1

4) Coup De Grace 10-1

Race 6: 1:32- Acorn, 8f

1- Fashion Plate (12-1) P

Didn’t run a lick in Oaks after the ship to CD, but had dominated SA on the lead. Gets a tough post against a speedy field that may give more pressure than she can handle.

2- House Rules (12-1) P/S

Races after a 2 month layoff shipping in from GP, Beyer figures between 80-90 are well below the best here, but she could conceivably work out a ground saving trip if she settles back. Breaking between two speed horses will make that a tough task, pass.

3- Fiftyshadesofgold (8-1) P

Chased division leader Untapable when a distant 2nd at FG, won at 7f in last but will face more pressure on the front end this time stretching back out, 94 Beyer is the second highest in the field, however. In the mix for a piece, but worried that the speed will be her undoing as she has never won beyond 7f.

4- Sweet Whiskey (20-1) P/S

Stretches out the 8f for the first time and makes a class leap here, in a tough spot off a 7 week layoff.

5- Sweet Reason (10-1) S/C

Stalking style should suit here in third race off the layoff, as 2 yo form was solid and she’s had some tough racing luck since winning the 7f Spinaway. Still, will need to make up 7 lengths on favored My Miss Sophia following 3rd place finish in the 9f Gazelle last out.

6- Tiz So Sweet (20-1) P

Speedster moves way up in class on short seasoning, low speed figures suggest she will be up against it in a field loaded with front-running types.

7- Unbridled Forever (10-1) S

Figures to get first run on the speed if the pace collapses, and while well beaten by foes My Miss Sophia (6 lengths) and Fiftyshadesofgold (1.75 lengths) in her last two starts, she should see a much more favorable race shape here. Her speed figures are consistent and improving and she deserves a flyer here at long odds on a pace angle, the choice.

8- My Miss Sophia (6-5) P

On paper, she towers over this field with a field high 100 Beyer, and two wins and two seconds in her four career starts. However, she will see more pressure on the lead than she has before, too much to justify a play at these odds beyond defensive protection in exotics.

9- Artemis Agrotera (5-1) P

Her 8f win over the BEL surface in the Frizette last fall looks good here, but she races back after a 7 month layoff against more seasoned horses, and this combined with her front-running style could compromise her chances.

10- Lady Paradime (30-1) S

Takes a big class leap as she exits two wins over optional claiming company, but did show ability to rate off speed and close to win two back, which could be meaningful here on the bottom of deep exotics.

11- Risque Reality (30-1) S

Exits a third place finish against lesser and will stretch out to 8f having never run beyond 6.5f. Difficult to support.

12- Vero Amore (20-1) P/S

Cuts back in distance following runner-up finish in 9f Black-Eyed Susan, but 84 Beyer posted in that race doesn’t inspire confidence.

13- Euphrosyne (20-1) S

Well beaten in Black Eyed Susan, finishing 13 behind a slow race. Toss.

Picks:

1) Unbridled Forever 10-1

2) My Miss Sophia 6-5

3) Sweet Reason 10-1

4) Fiftyshadesofgold 8-1

Race 7: 2:14- Ogden Phipps, 8.5f

1-    Close Hatches (5-2) P

Sharp front-running winner of her two 2014 starts, posting a field high 100 Beyer in the 8.5f Apple Blossom, and has a win over this track in last year’s Mother Goose. Still, in head to head competition, she’s been squarely beaten by the other two powerhouses here, and we’re not sure she deserves such comparable odds, but perhaps this track will play more favorably.

2-    Antipathy (30-1) P

It takes balls to take on the two best 4 yo fillies in America off a career best optional claiming win, three back. No pun intended.

3-    Belle Gallantey (30-1) P/S

Winner of three straight, she’s shown some ability to rate off the pace and win, which counts for something here. Still moves up in class, but while there seems to be a huge separation between the top three and the others, she seems the best of the latter.

4-    Classic Point (20-1) S

Stretches out beyond 7f for the first time in her career, and oh my, what a place to attempt such a thing. Made a massive improvement in her last versus optional claimers, but was off the board by a combined 34 lengths in her prior three against stakes horses. Yikes.

5-    Beholder (7-5) P

Still the fastest filly on the block, but she may not have it as easy here as she had it winning the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. There’s a lot of pace to contend with, even if some of it is cheap speed, and she’s the only runner to have never run at BEL which is no small deal on a racetrack as nuanced as this one. Still, she very well may win on talent alone, but going to BEL from SA can’t be understated.

6-    Princess of Sylmar (9-5) S

Although she probably prefers a longer distance than this, she did handily win her last race coming in off a six month layoff following a tough campaign, and it would be hard to argue that the race shape doesn’t set up perfectly for her style. She settles outside all of the speed, and should be able to stalk and pounce on command if Pletcher has her ready to fire and get revenge. Interestingly, she has the top 2014 Beyer of the Big 3, a 101 in her return.

NOTE: I don’t think this race is bettable on any level. Watch and enjoy.

Picks:

1)    Princess of Sylmar (9-5)

2)    Beholder (7-5)

3)    Close Hatches (5-2)

Race 8: 3:00- Just A Game, 8f T

1- Ready Signal (30-1) C

Ran a respectable fourth behind a couple of foes here when stepping up to graded company for the first time, speed figs are still a cut below and she won’t have much pace to attack here, prefer other off-the-pace types.

2- Strathnaver (20-1) C

Exits an even 4th on the poly at 8.5f in her last following a long layoff, not sure she’s quite sharp or fast enough to contend here and running style won’t help.

3- Dame Marie (20-1) C

May have moved too soon in the 8f Turf Mile last out, where she was unable to hold on through the stretch, losing narrowly to one of today’s foes. Would be a live bomber with more pace signed on and a better timed move, but looking elsewhere.

4- Somali Lemonade (8-1) P

Appears to be in career form after switching tactics to racing near the lead, winning her last two including a field high 96 Beyer. She shouldn’t have much pressure up front and should have plenty in the tank having raced beyond this distance many times. Playable.

5- Coffee Clique (10-1)

Stalked and emerged victorious in her last, posting a competitive 95 Beyer. She’s been working well and has the look of an improving filly, and should sit close enough to the pace to be in contention late.

6- Stephanie’s Kitten (4-1) S

Defending champ was arguably the division leader a year ago before injury knocked her off course. Her last place finish after a ten month layoff last out wasn’t as bad as it looked as she missed the win by only 3 1/4 lengths, but now she runs back after nearly two months, probably prefers a hotter pace, and may not be as sharp as some of these. Moves up on softer turf.

7- Unlimited Budget (20-1) S

The always experimental filly who took on the boys at Belmont last summer tries turf for the first time, difficult to endorse.

8- Waterway Run (6-1) S

Exits a good win in the 8.5f Beaugay over good turf, where she stalked and overtook a moderate pace. 90 Beyer there isn’t quite at the level of the top contenders, but she’s worth a look.

9- Discreet Marq (5-2) P

Remarkably consistent, and has finished first or second in her last eight races. She’ll meet a tougher field here but figures to get away with pretty easy fractions on the lead, and is 3/5 at BEL. The 95 Beyer she posted when just nosed for the win last time out in her first off the layoff ranks with the best here, and she is eligible to improve, especially with a slight cutback. A single for me in the Pick 4.

10- Better Lucky (3-1)

Runner-up last year, but tough to figure following well beaten 2nd at 7f over the KEE poly in first race off a five month layoff. Was nosed out by a half a length by the top choice back in December, and that one seems sharper, but she deserves a look based on career form, as she’s never missed the board at this distance.

Picks:

1) Discreet Marq 5-2

2) Somali Lemonade 8-1

3) Coffee Clique 10-1

4) Better Lucky 3-1

Race 9: 3:48- Met Mile, 8f

1- Palace Malice (8-5) S

Arguably the best horse currently in training, he tries 8f again after winning in his two prior 2014 starts at that distance. He gets a tough post, but running style should suit, as he figures to drop back, save ground and make one run on the speed. His high Beyer of 113 creates some separation even among this contested, high quality field, but at such low odds, he can’t be the only play…but he won’t beat us on top either….he’s quite accomplished over the BEL surface.

2- Vyjack (30-1) P/S

Returned from nearly a year layoff with a 7f win over optional claiming company, but this seems an awfully tough spot to make a comeback, especially for a horse who really lost his form last year. He can beat me.

3- Scary Charly (50-1)

Scary indeed. He looks hopelessly outclassed, stepping up into one of the deepest races of the year so far right after breaking his maiden…on his 7th try.

4- Goldencents (10-1) P

Defending BC Dirt Mile champion returns from a 6 month layoff and gets slapped with a disrespectful morning line. Still, there’s reason to worry as he switches surfaces back to BEL, where he did finish 2nd as a 2 yo in the Champagne, but his glory days have come on the SA carousel. With so much speed in here we feel he may be compromised, and he hasn’t been as effective over one turn miles as two turn miles (1 for 6), and that’s an important bit. Try to beat.

5- Moreno (10-1) P

Wheels back quickly after a solid 4th place finish in the 9.5f Pimlico special, where he landed just 1.75 lengths from the win after holding the lead in the stretch. Son of Ghostzapper seems to always have the lead at the 8f mark, but connections insist on racing at longer distances…could this be his race? Look back at last year’s Jim Dandy, and you’ll see he was just a half length behind winner Palace Malice, the heavy favorite here, at the 8f mark. He’s 2/2 at BEL, and the cutback should help with the quick turnaround.

6- Central Banker (8-1) Scratched

7- Capo Bastone (30-1) C

His victory at 28-1 in last year’s King’s Bishop looks just as unbelievable now as it did then, as he’s lost his three races since by a combined 26 lengths. That was a race that he won based on a total pace meltdown, which isn’t impossible here, but this is a much tougher field with more consistent stalkers and closers.

8- Declan’s Warrior (30-1) C

An effective closer at shorter distances as a 3 yo, he really lost form at the end of last year. His most recent start at this distance led to a nearly 10 length thrashing at the hands of Palace Malice. Should be coming late, but he doesn’t look playable here.

9- Normandy Invasion (5-1) C

Popular 4 yo returns after a two month layoff, last seen easily beaten by leading HOY candidate and race foe Palace Malice. There’s a strong feeling though that a one-turn mile is right in his wheelhouse, and he’ll get a chance to prove it. Difficult to elevate him above the favorite based on the result of his last race, but certainly in the mix, as he figures to drop back and pick off the pace late.

10- Clearly Now (10-1) S

Tough-luck colt is clearly talented but can’t ever seem to get up for the win. This distance may be a bit further than he wants to go, although he’s certainly a grinding type that keeps coming, but just doesn’t seem to have the turn of foot or will to win to get to the wire first. He’s playable underneath in exotics, but we’ve lost enough money on him at this point that I can no longer bear to include him. Now watch as he ruins the trifecta.

11- Broadway Empire (20-1) P

Speedster does show a 9f win in last year’s Oklahoma Derby, but all of his wins have come in wire-to-wire fashion. That would be a difficult way to win among the likes of these.

12- Romansh (15-1) S/P

Cuts back in distance following a win in the 9f Excelsior at AQE; seems somewhat of a forgotten horse, but not sure he has the pure speed to make a meaningful impact here, especially layed off since March.

13- Shakin It Up (6-1) S

Ran a solid 2nd last out in the 7f Churchill Downs Stakes on Derby Day, closing well to post a 107 Beyer, which is good for 2nd highest in the field. He does have a win at 8.5 to his credit this year, and in all his 7f races, whether wins or losses, he seems to be begging for more ground. He figures to sit a solid trip just outside the speed, and is tactical enough to save ground despite a wide post. The pick.

Picks:

1) Shakin It Up 6-1

2) Palace Malice 8-5

3) Moreno 10-1

4) Normandy Invasion 6-1

Race 10: 4:42- Manhattan, 10f T

1- Imagining (7-2) P

Exits win in 10.5f Manhattan with field high last out Beyer at 10f or beyond (98) and is 5/8 lifetime at BEL. Boasts an impressive pedigree (by Giant’s Causeway out of an AP Indy mare) for this distance and is tactical enough to sit just off the main speed, both of whom are drawn well outside and have never raced beyond 9f. The key question is whether he will settle behind the speedy Fire Iron or go with him; but he seems professional enough to relax from this post, in which case we feel he is a lock for the exacta and a must use in multi-race wagers.

2- Hey Leroy (12-1) S

Shows field-high Beyer for 2014 (101), although that was at 8f, in fact, he’s never raced beyond 8.5f and figures to be challenged heavily on the stretch out.

3- Rookie Sensation (12-1) S

Faded and lost lead in only prior attempt at this distance, but has been closing well from just off the pace at shorter distances recently, would need to improve speed figures in his first try over the BEL surface; has backers, and they are legion. We feel the pace here is overstated and will be subdued; Wise-guy horse.

4- Grandeur (5-1) C

Narrowly beaten 3rd in his last over this course, he gets first time Lasix here, but running style may lend better to a distance a bit longer than this, especially in a race without a ton of pace. Shows the best class in the field, but tended to fall back too far early in races earlier in his career. He stayed within 2.5 lengths from the pacesetter under easy fractions last out over this course right after the ship from Europe, and as one that’s been waiting for his breakout win for over a year now, if that change in tactical style plus the addition of Lasix isn’t enough, what is? He’ll see more pace here than last time for sure, which could help, and he is a Euro type that has done his better running on firmer ground. The pick, and if we’re wrong, we’re done with him.

5- Boisterous (8-1) S

Exits a respectable 3rd in 9f Turf Classic at CD, is 6/11 lifetime at BEL but has been inconsistent recently against top company, beaten easily by both Imagining and Seek Again in 2014. Certainly a horse for the course, but his overall inconsistency and descending form while others look ready to explode makes him tough to support.

6- Seek Again (3-1) S

Improving 4 year old gave Wise Dan all he could handle in 9f Turf Classic, shows a win at this distance from December, would need to improve speed figures (94 Beyer in last, 93 in 10f win) but should be in the mix late. The feeling here is that the Man O’War over this course was the better of the two races, and he’ll take heavy action simply due to how close he was to beating the Horse of the Year. He’s proven at this distance, interestingly in the same race that drew us towards the top pick a year ago, but seeing as how all of his other races have come up much shorter and his figs are below, we’ll try to beat him for the win, using him defensively in the second and third spots.

7- Five Iron (15-1) P

Came out of nowhere to win 8.5f Fort Marcey at BEL wire to wire at 20-1 odds, posting an impressive 100 Beyer. Figures to be the one to catch on the front end, but has never raced beyond 9f so this may be beyond his scope, especially following a somewhat freaky career effort. Will probably have the most impact on the race, without standing a real chance to win it.

8- Real Solution (5-1) S

Seeking a return to the winner’s circle in 5th start since Arlington Million victory by dq, but this is his ideal distance and he looked much improved in 2nd place finish in Man O War, just 3/4 of a length behind Imagining. Will need to run closer to the pace this time, which has been a problem, as well as his tendency to hang in the stretch. A sentimental favorite of ours that is hard to play on top this time, but always seems to find his way onto the board.

9- Kaigun (15-1) S/C

Former claimer has finished a combined 2.25 lengths behind Wise Dan in his last two races, staging impressive late runs, but he’s another that will stretch out from 8 and 9f races here. Still, looking at the ground he gobbled up over the reigning Horse of the Year over his last two races, which equates to over a length on average over the final furlong, we get the sense of a rapidly improving gelding that deserves a shot to make another run into the trifecta,

10- Chamois (15-1) P

Nosed out for the place by Hey LeRoy in last, he’s winless at BEL and has never run beyond 8.5f, will contend for early lead from wide post. Runs back quick from 5/17 start off a six month layoff. Trainer admitted that he is running back too quickly and probably won’t win, which we never like to hear a trainer admit. Could be an addition to the pace of a race where the pace scenario looms large.

Picks:

1) Grandeur

2) Imagining

3) Real Solution

4) Seek Again

5) Kaigun

Race 11: 5:52- Belmont, 12f

1- Medal Count (20-1) S

His Derby was much better than it looked, as he had to check hard into Danza when moving late and still managed to finish a respectable 8th. He’s fresh, having skipped the Preakness, and while his dirt form draws comparisons to Dullahan, another Dale Romans trained colt who floundered in this spot, his pedigree leaves no questions regarding distance concerns. A live exotics player.

2- California Chrome (3-5) P

There isn’t much more to be said about this spectacularly professional colt, who will try to become the first Triple Crown winner of our lifetime here. His running style suits perfectly for this race, as he is able to rate and push a button at any desired moment. A win here would not surprise, but if we didn’t want him at 5-2 in the Derby, we can’t take him at the inverse of that in the toughest Belmont in recent memory. His Preakness was certainly not as strong a race as his Derby, and for as many Triple Crown hopefuls as we’ve seen succumb to the grueling distance of this race, he’ll be played only very narrowly on top, but with much respect underneath.

3- Matterhorn (30-1) S

Exits a well beaten 4th over a sloppy BEL track in the Peter Pan, and doesn’t appear to have the seasoning or the pedigree to contend here.

4- Commanding Curve (15-1) C

Getting no respect on the Morning Line, the Derby runner up comes in fresh after skipping the Preakness, but undoubtedly will draw comparison to last year’s runner up Golden Soul, who was nowhere to be found here. He received a favorable trip in the Derby, but let’s not forget that he finished the final ¼ faster than any other horse in the field and was the only colt making up ground through the final stretch. That doesn’t always translate to a Belmont winner, but he should probably be used underneath in exotics.

5- Ride on Curlin (12-1) C

The expert consensus seems to be that he is a tired colt after his career effort in the Preakness, but he’s been a favorite of ours since the winter, and we can’t help but love his throwback style. We’ll play contrarian here, and argue that he has actually improved with every race, even under a tough campaign, similar to how Oxbow and Will Take Charge matured last year. A more logical comparison would be Palace Malice, another Curlin colt, who got better with every race last year just as his sire did, and has continued to do so in 2014. One man’s tired colt can be another man’s improving colt, and his workouts got better at BEL as the week went on. We give him a strong look to hit the exacta based purely on his toughness.

6- Matuszak (30-1) C

Son of Bernardini was crushed in his last by a colt that opted against this race and will run in Race #2 on the undercard. What does that tell you?

7- Samraat (20-1) P

Hard-trier actually ran a great Derby, but simply doesn’t appear to have the genetic configuration to contest a race of this length, especially as he will be expected to press along with California Chrome early. He will be in requirement of an oxygen mask by the 10f point if that is the case, and those last two furlongs could be a long, long run.

8- Commissioner (20-1) S

Deserves a look if only for his potential based on pedigree. He’s by Belmont winner A.P. Indy out of a Touch Gold mare, also a Belmont winner (and Triple Crown crusher), and you don’t see that very often. Sure, up to this point he’s seemed a one-paced grinder that can’t accelerate, but those are the types that often get up for this race. He’s been improving and hasn’t yet run a race suited for his running style, and much crazier things have happened than him winning this race (Da’Tara? Sarava?) Still, we’ll try not to get too carried away as his prior form is still subpar, and use him underneath to spice up exotics, but if he drifts up above 40-1 and there’s a live Pick 4 on the line, a win bet to hedge is mandatory.

9- Wicked Strong (6-1) S

Our Derby pick ran incredibly well over an impossible trip to finish a solid 4th, and wisely skipped the Preakness to freshen up for this. The big misconception about this colt is that he is some sort of deep closer, which can spell disaster in a race this long, but with a much smaller field and less absurd post, he should be able to stake out a trip similar to the one he had in the Wood Memorial, settling just off the pacesetters and then letting loose with one big run. We’ve had a decent history of picking Triple Crown spoilers (Victory Gallop, Touch Gold, Empire Maker all correctly picked as winners), and this one deserves another shot at overlayed odds. The choice.

10- General A Rod (20-1) P/S

You have to respect his connections for contesting all three legs of the Triple Crown, as this is a solid colt that always fires but just can’t seem to find that turn of foot; he’s more of a one-paced grinder that just keeps coming, and that isn’t the worst style in the world for a race like this. He figures to be part of a soft early pace and could certainly hang on for a piece, but he is difficult to support on top.

11- Tonalist (8-1) P/S

This is the most polarizing colt in the field, coming off a strong win over the slop on this BEL surface in the 9f Peter Pan, posting a 101 Beyer. Still, we find it difficult to see a Tapit colt stretching out this far successfully and having any kind of impact. There is so much going against him here- the wide post, the front-running style against more seasoned colts, the seeming affinity for sloppy tracks on an 80 degree summer day in New York- and we’ll try to keep him off the board entirely.

Picks:

1) Wicked Strong 6-1

2) California Chrome 3-5

3) Ride on Curlin 12-1

4) Commissioner 20-1

5) Medal Count 20-1

6) Commanding Curve 15-1

7) General A Rod 20-1

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