BELMONT SUPER SATURDAY PICKS AND ANALYSIS

BELMONT SUPER SATURDAY STAKES PICKS AND ANALYSIS

 

Race 4: KELSO- 8f, 2:27 EST

A short field with an expected moderate pace lends us a shot to try for an upset here with the improving RIVER ROCKS as he steps up in class. He stretches out to 8f after winning three straight between 6f and 7f against allowance and optional claiming company. If he can carry his speed on the lead for an extra furlong or so, a reproduction of his field high 110 Beyer last out should be more than enough, and he gets a six pound weight break from the favorite. That is the seasoned ITSMYLUCKYDAY, who figures the be the biggest favorite on the entire card following his game stretch-running win in the 9f Woodward, posting a 108 Beyer. He’s certainly the one to beat, but at likely less than even money this might be the time to try, coming off a career effort and cutting back a touch from what we feel is his ideal range (8.5-9f). Front-running BRADESTER figures to be the other pace presence and has shown solid figures as well, posting a 108 Beyer when missing by a half length in the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup at 8.5f. Before that, he was beaten a length and a half at 8f by the favorite, so we give that one the slight edge here again.

Picks:

1) River Rocks 5-1

2) Itsmyluckyday 4-5

3) Bradester 3-1

Race 5: BELDAME- 9f, 3:00

This is probably the most wide-open stakes race of the day, and arguably a touch below the usual in terms of quality with division leader Close Hatches opting to pass, Princess of Sylmar retiring and Beholder running out west today. You can make a good case for any of them, but if you toss her last effort over a sloppy track, we like BELLE GALLANTEY best here. She defeated Princess of Sylmar at 10f two back when winning the Delaware Handicap on the lead, posting a field high 100 Beyer. Before that, she wasn’t disgraced when 5th in the 8.5f Ogden Phipps, beaten just under two lengths by Close Hatches while posting a similar figure. The pace isn’t expected to be too grueling here, but surprises happen, and a horse to watch in that case is ENDLESS CHATTER, who stands to save ground from her rail post just behind the leaders. She shows field high BRIS Last Race Speed and Late Pace Figures, and takes a class leap here off a three race win streak. FIFTYSHADESOFHAY has a win at 8f over this course to her credit in last year’s Ruffian and should be part of the early pace. She’s been better at shorter distances than this over her career but could hang around for a piece. A horse she easily beat in her last, STANWYCK, is another that could benefit from a pace meltdown, but has ground to make up on Fiftyshadesofhay based on her last. Three year old STOPCHARGINGMARIA bypassed the shorter Cotillion last weekend to run against older horses at a distance more to her liking; she’s 3/3 at 9f. Still, she seems a vulnerable favorite here stepping up to these and shows Beyers well below the top here (92 career high).

Picks:

1) Belle Gallantey 7-2

2) Endless Chatter 5-1

3) Fiftyshadesofhay 9-2

Race 7: FLOWER BOWL- 10f Turf, 4:07

My Beverly D selection STEPHANIE’S KITTEN has rounded squarely back into form recently, but still has found herself a tough-luck 2nd place finisher, losing two straight by less than a length closing from far off the pace. She stretched out to 9.5f for the first time in her career in her last and still could have used more ground; this is a 10f turf horse if ever there was one, and today is the day she proves that. Her lack of positional speed won’t be as obvious today with so many other runners that utilize a similar style, and the likely slow pace here should lead to a bunched up field that will lead to her being closer to the front than usual. Having said that, in a race with so little pace, VIVA RAFAELA is certainly worth a look as potential lone speed as she cuts back from 10.5 and 12f 2nd place finishes respectively in her last two starts. On form and figures, she’ll have some improving to do here in order to make an impact, but often pace can make the race, and it’s hard to picture who will go with her up front; dangerous at a price given that as she cuts back. ABACO closed to win the 8.5f Ballston Spa in her last, was just a length behind the top selection before that, and is 5-2-3-0 over the BEL turf course. The main concern here is that she may be better suited to a shorter race. The same can be said for STRATHNAVER, the horse she beat by a neck in that race; both like to come from off the pace. And what on Earth has happened to ALTERITE and TANNERY? We had support for the former in the Beverly D in her second try off a long lay, while the latter has been trending downward for awhile now. Either has the back class to surprise on their best day, but following 10th and 11th place finishes in the Beverly D, both are difficult to support here.

Picks:

1) Stephanie’s Kitten 5-2

2) Viva Rafaela 5-1

3) Abaco 7-2

Race 8: VOSBURGH- 6f, 4:41

It is tough to overlook the favored division leader PALACE in this spot, as he comes off three wins in his last four races, all at 6f-7f, and shows a 5-3-2-0 career mark at BEL. The 107 Beyer he earned in the 6f Vanderbilt two back tops the field for this year, and he should enjoy a ground saving trip from the rail where he can sit behind the considerable speed up front, as five of the eight entered are confirmed front-runners.  SALUTOS AMIGOS has finished just behind the top pick in two recent races, beaten less than two combined lengths. He posted a career high 106 Beyer in his most recent race, a 6.5f Optional Claimer when beaten just a over a length by our pick in the Kelso, River Rocks. He’s worth an extra look if that one wins and flatters his form, and is another that stands to benefit from a speedy pace up front. He owns the field high last out Beyer and BRIS figures. Of the speed horses, defending Vosburgh winner PRIVATE ZONE, who will move back to dirt in his second race off a long layoff, is probably the most intriguing. He was our BC Sprint pick last year, and after throwing a clunker there is admittedly an inconsistent type that is hard to figure, but we know that at his best he is capable of beating top company, and the 5f turf race he contested in his last was clearly a tune-up for this. He seems most capable of surviving the speed duel based on freshness, and it’s worth noting that he used a similar strategy coming into this race last year, switching surfaces from a 6f polytrack race at DEL following a long layoff. A scary horse that offers value is the deeper closing three year old COUP DE GRACE, who was a winner of the 6.5f Amsterdam two back, posting a career high 102 Beyer. He didn’t have as much pace to run into when 3rd in the Kings Bishop last time out. He should get more here, and while we think the class jump and cutback in distance is a bit too much to overcome to support him on the win line, it bears mention that he holds the field high Late Pace figure in a race that figures to fall apart on the front end. HAPPY MY WAY certainly fits here, missing by just a length to the top choice in his last, but may see a repeat performance of leading and fading based on the company he figures to have up front.

Picks:

1) Palace 2-1

2) Salutos Amigos 6-1

3) Private Zone 7-2

Race 9- JOE HIRSCH TURF CLASSIC- 12f, 5:16

A highly contested rendition of this event, as six of the seven runners have strong arguments for the win spot (we’ll go ahead and advise against playing Medal Count in this spot, but crazier things have happened). We’ll take a stand here with last year’s runner-up BIG BLUE KITTEN, who stretches out to his ideal distance in his third off the layoff following two sharp efforts at 8.5 and 9f, where he posted 102 and 103 Beyers. He’ll have to close into a likely slow pace but has shown more tactical speed than the other closers here. A reproduction of the 104 Beyer he ran here last year when nosed for the win should get the job done, and his coupling with stablemate REAL SOLUTION makes this a playable single here. That one comes off a disappointing effort in the 10f Arlington Million, and has never won beyond that distance, but was just behind today’s foe IMAGINING at 11f three back over this course when forced to close into plodding fractions, and wasn’t disgraced when 3rd here last year, missing the win by only a length. While not one that we would use otherwise, getting 5-2 on two live horses here seems like pretty decent value if that morning line holds. Elsewhere, the three horses exiting the 12f Sword Dancer at Saratoga appear difficult to separate after finishing less than a length apart there. The aforementioned IMAGINING does have a win over this course at 11f and was just nosed for the Sword Dancer win after setting pretty impressive fractions there, but was flat in the race in between over this course. He figures to be the one to catch on a likely easy lead, with the seasoned TWILIGHT ECLIPSE, 3rd in the Sword Dancer, perhaps the only other pace presence. MAIN SEQUENCE has risen to the top of this division following deep closing victories in the Sword Dancer and United Nations, and must be respected as the favorite, but might be worth trying to beat for the win at 2-1 in a short field that will offer less pace presence. His winning Beyers of 100 and 102 in those races are impressive but by no means tower over these foes.

Picks:

1) Big Blue Kitten 5-2

2) Imagining 3-1

3) Real Solution 5-2

Race 10- JOCKEY CLUB GOLD CUP- 10f, 5:50

In a race with a moderate to fast expected pace, we’ll give the slight edge to the older horses as they face off against the three year old invaders. Flat Out won this race two years in a row and was third last year while virtually ineffective elsewhere over that time span, so the horse for the course angle works in this race. ZIVO fits that profile to a tee, boasting a 6-4-0-2 career record at BEL. Winner of the 10f Suburban over this track, a key race where he easily defeated four of today’s foes, he closed to overtake the speedy Moreno by a comfortable three lengths. He had a rather brisk pace (:46.4/ 1:10.3) to close in to and will need the same here, but we believe he will get it with the main speed drawn next to each other on the far outside. While a closing 4th in the 9f Woodward in his last, he posted a 102 BRIS Late Pace Figure, coming home in :12.8 over his final 1/8, and posted a career high Beyer. He had won six straight before that and now shows three straight ascending Beyers (96, 100, 103). Of the three year olds, we’re still a sucker for WICKED STRONG. At this point, the consensus for a logical person would be that he is a 9f horse, but we can’t help but feel like he got a lot out of his huge try when 2nd in Travers. He has beaten Tonalist twice now since adding blinkers, and we’re not buying that he didn’t like the BEL track as he broke his maiden there at 8f. He’ll need to relax off the leaders a bit more than he did in the Travers, and blinkers stay on, but he stands to receive a ground-saving trip from the #3 post. His pedigree still says 10f should be no problem, and the feeling here is that this improving sort with four straight ascending Beyers dating back to Derby will be ready for a peak effort. Looking for a big price with a real chance, we land on STEPHANOATSEE, whose 105 BRIS Late Pace Figure when 5th in the Woodward is tops in the field, and he came home his final 1/8 in :12.4. His only prior attempt at this distance was a disastrous last place finish in last year’s Big Cap; toss that, and he should be right there at the finish at a big price. The horse for the course angle can also apply to TONALIST, who is 2/2 over the track. Still, we’re inclined to continue to view the Belmont result as somewhat of a fluke, and it’s in our DNA to be skeptical of Tapit progeny beyond 9f. He’s finished behind Wicked Strong twice in a row now, but should benefit from the removal of blinkers today by being placed more tactically. Rapidly improving Travers winner VE DAY certainly deserves a look, but it’s hard to know how much that race took out of him and whether he is ready to take another step forward. In short, the feeling here is that he’s a bounce candidate, and his BRIS Late Pace Figure of 87 would seem to indicate that he wasn’t closing as fast as he appeared to be, but rather the horses in front of him were backing up. We didn’t have him at 20-1 that day so he’s difficult to support at a quarter of that as he steps up against elders. MORENO will be a force in here as well but draws a tough post with a bonafide rabbit to his outside. His 10f races have all followed the same pattern, as he leads, battles gamely and fades, and we don’t see that changing today. Finally, for those looking to take a true shot in the dark, it’s worthy of mention that 20-1 MICROMANAGE actually holds the top BRIS Prime Power figure in the entire field. It’s not by a large enough margin to be statistically significant, and it sure is tough to look past his 7 length defeat in the Suburban at the hands of the top pick, but he has wired races far longer than this (up to 14 furlongs). You have been warned.

Picks:

1) Zivo 6-1

2) Wicked Strong 3-1

3) Stephanoatsee 20-1

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