BELMONT DAY PICK 6 PICKS AND ANALYSIS

RACE 6- Brooklyn, 12f, 2:34

In a preview of the main event, the Pick 6 will lead off this year with the 12f Brooklyn, a marathon dirt race for older horses, most of whom don’t make a habit of running this far on a regular basis since there are very few Stakes races on dirt at this length. Therefore, the race is a bit of a crapshoot, but we won’t try to overcomplicate things. What we are looking for, then, is a horse that has run on well at a shorter distance and appeared to want the extra ground. Look no further than EFFINEX, who is 2/2 this year and comes off a hard closing win at 10f in his last, posting a field high Beyer of 107 and giving no indication that he was done running. This will be his third race of the layoff and he seems the most obvious win choice. There is one horse in the field that has actually won at 12f recently, and that is SKY KINGDOM, who emerged victorious in the Grade 3 Tokyo City at Santa Anita in late March (101 Beyer). He’s been laid off since March, but has been working well, and if you’re looking for a horse that’s already proven on dirt at this distance, he could be your play. NECK N NECK has never run beyond 9f but shows the field high BRIS Late Pace Last Race figure and seems to always be making up ground late, we’ll give him a shot to grab a piece at decent odds. COACH INGE finished well behind the top choice two back over the slop but returned to crush his foes last out again over an off track at 9f. Interestingly, he shows both the field high Early Pace figure and the second highest Late Pace figure for that effort. Do the math, and that’s good for the best all around last race BRIS speed figure (108) and a competitive 104 Beyer, but the question remains whether he is a slop specialist.

*** Red Rifle is assumed to scratch and run Friday, if not, he would be in the mix here.

Picks:

1) Effinex 7-2

2) Sky Kingdom 6-1

3) Neck N Neck 10-1

4) Coach Inge 5-1

RACE 7- Acorn, 8f, 3:15

Perhaps the most wide open race on the entire card, and that’s saying something, the trickiest part of handicapping this race is trying to determine how the pace will play out. On paper, 8 of the 12 runners project as pace or pressing types, which would seem to suggest a hot pace and potential meltdown scenario. The key would seem to be the new shooters: undefeated PROMISE ME SILVER and lightly raced MISS ELLA, both of whom have never raced beyond 7f and like to go fast up front- like :46.0 for the half fast. We’ll play against them as potential underlays against this company given the likely pace scenario, taking notice of the fact that PROMISE ME SILVER was actually losing ground late in her last at 7f and that this may be further than she wants to go. CONDO COMMANDO will take action here on the cutback from 9f, which is a solid angle that should see her stick around awhile, but her speed figures have now declined in four consecutive races, and hooking up inside more speed here isn’t the sort of proposition that leads us to believe that trend will be reversed. So what does that leave us with? It leaves us with total chaos, so why not take a giant stab at a price here. DANZATRICE draws a wide post outside all the speed which shouldn’t be an issue; she demonstrated in winning her last, the 8f Parx Oaks, that she can succeed running wide. What’s most interesting is that she shows the field high last out BRIS (98) and Beyer (85) figure for this distance, so if the 7f runners don’t want to stretch out and the 9f runners need more ground, it could be right in her sweet spot. Her Late Pace Figure of 104 is among the best in the field and could come in handy if the leaders begin to fall back; she isn’t a dead closer and should be close enough to the pace to be in great striking range. She fired a bullet work on May 31st and comes in third off the lay sitting on a big effort. Morning Line favorite SHOOK UP seems to have a case of seconditis, but there isn’t much else negative to say about her, and the Kentucky Oaks runner up looms a major player here. OCEANWAVE probably wants more ground than this to see the winner’s circle, but the race shape sets up for the deepest closer in the field to make a late move and grab a piece.

Picks:

1) Danzatrice 15-1

2) Shook Up 7-2

3) Condo Commando 4-1

4) Oceanwave 12-1

RACE 8- Just A Game, 8f turf, 4:00

Just as it did last year, this race looks fairly devoid of speed, with only three of ten runners having ever shown the desire to race on the lead, and all of them having taken back off the pace at times as well. We’ll look towards runners that figure to be forwardly placed and that enter this race in the right stage of their form cycle. Third off the lay, TEPIN has become a different horse since getting a jockey switch to Julien Leparoux, undefeated in her two starts this year. She flashed early speed and wired the Distaff Turf Mile in her last, posting field high Beyer and BRIS speed figures in the process. A similar forward trajectory here wins easily at a nice price if this morning line holds. Defending champ COFFEE CLIQUE also has two races underneath her this year and probably needed them. Following a bullet work on May 31st, she is probably due here, and wasn’t disgraced when finishing second last out  just a length and a half behind the top choice. She rarely falls more than two lengths off the early pace and should be in striking range even if they go slow up front. DISCREET MARQ has been a monster at Belmont, winning five of eight starts, and exits a 8.5f win in her first start of the year where she wired the Beaugay Stakes. As many of her wins have been over her career, she was allowed to set super soft fractions on the lead (:50.4/ 1:13.4), which may or may not work to her advantage here. We are quickly reminded of her 4th place finish last year in this race as our top selection when the pace went faster than expected. Still, she has the back class to be impactful here and is always a risky mare to overlook given her proclivity to steal races on the lead when the pace presence looks to be lacking as much as it does here, especially on the cutback. Given the likely race shape, it is difficult to support any of the closers, but if we have to, LADY LARA appears best. She gets a pass for her last, when she pulled between horses on the first turn. She may find herself too far back early, but also enters third off the lay, has a win over the course at this distance, and fits on speed figures if she returns to peak form. Notably, we will take a stand against morning line favorite BALL DANCING, who is more of a 9f closer that appears to need more ground than this to get to the winner’s circle. She’s also arguably benefited from softer turf in two of her last three races and enters of an eight week layoff. By transition, we’ll also toss FILIMBI, who has finished a combined 7.5 lengths behind Ball Dancing in her last two starts, enters off an equal layoff and comes from even further back.

Picks:

1) Tepin 6-1

2) Coffee Clique 7-2

3) Discreet Marq 6-1

4) Lady Lara 12-1

RACE 9- Met Mile, 8f, 4:49

This highly contested running figures to be quite speed laden, especially with both of main controlling speed horses both drawn right on the rail. This could set up extremely well for the versatile TONALIST, who is a remarkable 4/4 lifetime over this track at all different distances, winning at 8f, 9f, 10f and 12f. He exits an 8f win over this track in his last, where he posted field high Beyer (111) and BRIS (106) numbers for the distance. He figures to be awfully tough sitting outside the main speed, and until he loses at Belmont is very difficult to oppose on top even given likely short odds. BAYERN is another that has been successful at multiple distances, having won the 7f Woody Stephens over this track a year ago and wiring the 10f Breeders’ Cup Classic last fall. He threw in a real clunker without an apparent excuse in his first race off the layoff, finishing a distant 6th in the 7f Churchill Downs Stakes five weeks back. Perhaps he needed the race, or maybe it was just another one of many difficult to explain off-days this colt has had in his career. It bears mention, however, that following his two previous worst career races- a 9th place finish in the Preakness and a 10th place finish in the Travers- he won both his subsequent races by a combined 13.5 lengths. A sharp recent workout gives every indication that pattern could continue here, and he should benefit from the added furlong this time. With so much speed lined up in this race, it seems logical to consider a closer, if you can find one. KOBE’S BACK certainly fits that bill. He is one that has made a career out of gobbling up ground late in 7f races as he did in his last, winning the Grade 3 Commonwealth and posting a field high BRIS Late Pace Figure in the process. He has a layoff to contend with but gets the extra ground he appears to be begging for, and gets a perfect setup with so much pace to run into. A more obvious closing choice would be HONOR CODE, who made up 5 lengths in the stretch of the 8f Gulfstream Park Handicap two races back to get up for the win. But it’s hard to dismiss his last race in the 8.5f Alysheba where he didn’t run a lick and appeared disinterested throughout. He certainly has the talent to capitalize on a pace meltdown but appears difficult to trust based on that effort. The horse he overtook on the lead at Gulfstream that day was PRIVATE ZONE, and that one is as gritty as they come. He looms as pure speed from the rail and may find this distance a touch too taxing just as he did at Gulfstream. He does have one win at 8f to his credit but figures to face more pace pressure here. WICKED STRONG has long been a personal favorite but faces the opposite problem here; he is more of a 9f horse that probably needs more ground than this. He finished 4th in the same Gulfstream race. PANTS ON FIRE has been serviceable enough at a mile but appears on the downswing of his form cycle based on his last race, and picks a tough spot to reverse that momentum.

Picks:

1) Tonalist 5-2

2) Bayern 7-2

3) Kobe’s Back 20-1

4) Honor Code 6-1

RACE 10- Manhattan Stakes, 10f turf, 5:46

A wide open affair that appears to have very little pace presence, this edition of the Manhattan showcases an interesting mix of 12f horses cutting back, and 8f horses stretching out, with no evidently dominant 10f runners (only four horses here have ever won at this distance, with just six total wins between them). While the pace doesn’t figure to be lively, there is one eye-catching closer who seems to close every time regardless of the pace, has won 3 of 5 starts over this turf course, races at this distance for the first time and may find it right in his wheelhouse. That’s BIG BLUE KITTEN, who makes his second start off the layoff following a hard closing win at 9f last out. We really like the stretchout for him here after closing into moderate fractions in his last, and see no reason he can’t do the same with the added distance over a turf course for which he has a proven affinity. The feeling here is he may find a stronger finishing punch in his first career start at 10f than he typically has left in his 12f races. Additionally, trainer Chad Brown is fitting his other runner SLUMBER with blinkers. This horse is usually not placed forwardly; could this be an effort to ensure a more honest pace for the closer? Another typical 12f horse that is cutting back for this in his third off the lay and figures to be on the lead is WAR DANCER, who took them a long way on the lead in the 11f Man O’War last out before settling for 2nd in the final strides. He shows a win at this distance from his three year old campaign and should benefit from the cutback if he’s the one to catch on the front end. He has some form questions to resolve, having lost to three of these foes in his last six races, but should get a favorable setup to turn the tables. Man O’ War winner TWILIGHT ECLIPSE must be respected on class, but there’s reason to wonder if he needs a bit more distance than this, and to doubt whether he is capable of duplicating another career effort at this point in his form cycle. He does show the best last out and overall Beyer speed figure in the field however (104), so he’ll be included in multi-race wagers. FINNEGAN’S WAKE has done nothing wrong recently, winning four of his last five races, including one at this distance. One could argue that he has been beating weaker competition out west, but he does have a win over this distance over the second choice from last summer, and seems to fit well enough on form. In that particular race, the Arlington Handicap, he changed tactics and raced near the lead in order to adapt to a plodding early pace. He’s a versatile and proven winner that isn’t our top choice for outright bets, but must be included for multi-race wagers as well. HYPER deserves consideration as well from the rail. He was a distant third in the Man O’War, but that came after being layed off for a year and a half. An old-timer at eight years of age, he does have a win over Finnegan’s Wake at that distance from two years back, for whatever that’s worth, and if nothing else should be expected to move forward from his last.

Picks:

1) Big Blue Kitten 5-1

2) War Dancer 5-1

3) Twilight Eclipse 7-2

4) Finnegan’s Wake 4-1

RACE 11- Belmont Stakes, 12f, 6:50

Contrary to popular belief, the marathon distance of the Belmont does not correlate strongly to closing tactics. In fact, the winner of this race has been within one length of the lead at the quarter pole in nine of the last ten runnings, and six of the last ten winners have been on the lead at that point. This would seem to bode well for AMERICAN PHAROAH, who will seek to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. By all accounts, the colt has been masterful over the track this week, showing no sign of fatigue following his Kentucky Derby and Preakness wins. If anything, he appears to be flourishing and strengthening by the day. What has always impressed us most about him is his professionalism and ability to relax near the lead, a style that should suit him well here and potentially create some separation from the field. It bears mention that while the Mr. Prospector line has won 15 of the last 23 runnings of this race, only two of the six runners that qualify under that criteria here have descended from a winner of this race, as his grandpa Empire Maker was victorious in 2003. The other is MATERIALITY, whose sire Afleet Alex romped in this race in 2005, and he appears to loom the most dangerous potential spoiler. Lightly raced and making just his fifth career start, he is another that figures to be forwardly placed and has the pedigree to carry his speed the entire distance. His inexperience cost him dearly in the Kentucky Derby, where his failure to break from an inside post at the start cost him all chance at hitting the board. What was most impressive about that effort, though, was that the colt was able to adapt to different tactics than ever before as a result, racing far back and making a strong late move to finish a respectable 6th; he actually closed more ground on the winner than any other runner that day and galloped out strongly. Trainer Todd Pletcher has been on fire at Belmont, so those looking for value in outright bets should give him a close look. We were strong supporters of FROSTED in the Derby, and he was far from a disgrace there, suffering a horribly wide trip and covering more ground than any other runner while still managing a 4th place finish, also closing ground on the winner. He has been working well and should be primed for a big race. The one lingering doubt with him is if he has quite as much tactical speed as the top two preferences here, and in a race that appears chalky for the win, it’s difficult to make a case to use three horses on top; we have to take a stand against one. While his grandsire AP Indy won this race, it’a hard to imagine a Tapit colt winning two consecutive editions of this race. One colt that could be improving rapidly enough to crash the party at big odds is KEEN ICE. He ran the best race of his life when a solid 7th in the Kentucky Derby, the only other of the three horses to make up ground on the winner in the final furlong. His breeding has always kept him a live longshot in our eyes, and while he may be too far back early to be seriously considered for the win, he appears very useful in the 2nd spot in exotics. MUBTAAHIJ still has the best pure distance pedigree in the field, but wasn’t as impressive in the Derby and hasn’t looked great over the track this week. His pedigree will keep him on the bottom of the tri but we look to others for the top two spots.

MADEFROMLUCKY won the 9f Peter Pan over this track, and that experience worked well for last year’s winner Tonalist. He may have a say in the early pace but looks a cut below these as he looms the wise guy pick as horse for the course. The feeling is that he is just not bred for this distance. TALE OF VERVE exceeded expectations when a distant 2nd over the sloppy track in the Preakness. He seems be a bounce candidate wheeling back so quickly from that effort, which was undeniably slop-assisted. FRAMMENTO is another late mover but isn’t bred well for this event, showing the lowest 12f Tomlinson Distance Figure (244); doesn’t fit.

Picks:

1) American Pharaoh 3-5

2) Materiality 6-1

3) Frosted 5-1

4) Keen Ice 20-1

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