In the first of our new series of US Racing Tipsters, Tom Law of the Racing Post runs his eye over today’s action at Belmont Park and gives you his selections.
Race 1 – 1.30PM EDT
Percentage players won’t like the opener, a 9-furlong race on the main track for $12,500 claimers as not a single trainer in the field of seven features a strike rate of better than 10 percent at the meet. Rudy Rodriguez has the best of the bunch, winning at 9 percent, and he stretches Beautyinthepulpit out off a more than two-month freshening. Beautyinthepulpit, a former stakes competitor in the state-bred ranks is 4-for-9 at Belmont but is frequently overbet. He’s been the favorite six times in last seven starts and won only once – a state-bred $25,000 claiming event that does compare favorably to this spot.
Best Play might live up to his name as he drops to his lowest level since December for Bruce Brown. He’s run for $20,000 and $25,000 in his last two starts, both races off-the-turf events, and reunites with Manny Franco.
Selections: Best Play, Beautyinthepulpit, Marriage Fever
Race 2 – 2.01PM EDT
Likely field of seven for state-bred extended sprint going 7 furlongs on the Widener. Majestic Bloom and Cotton Candy Cutie exit the same race, a similar event May 14 at Belmont where they finished second and third, respectively, behind subsequent next-out stakes winner Ancient Secret. That was a strong race and they are clearly the two to beat. Cotton Candy Cutie might have the more upside of the two, since that race was her first off a layoff and just her second on grass. She’s been second in both of those attempts and both were at Belmont for Bruce Brown.
Tapa Liath comes out of a similar race for New York-breds albeit going 1 1/16 miles two weeks later. She’s been third in both her turf starts for Carlos Martin this year after breaking her maiden going 1 mile on Aqueduct’s inner track.
Selections: Cotton Candy Cutie, Tapa Liath, Majestic Bloom.
Race 3 – 2.32PM EDT
Three first-time starters line up against four others that have banged around the state-bred maiden ranks with anywhere from one to seven prior starts. D’Eloquent and Brooklyn Major are the best of those that have run and they’re familiar with each other. Brooklyn Major exits back-to-back thirds in similar spots, where D’Eloquent was fourth and sixth. Neither of those were lights-out efforts so perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere.
Samadi Sky was well bet in his debut nearly a year ago at Belmont, where he finished seventh. He’s since been gelded and Jose Ortiz, the meet’s leading rider, is back aboard for Bobby Barbara. Rick Schosberg does well first first-time starters and he sends out the Girolamo gelding Risener off a string of steady works.
Selections: Samadi Sky, Brooklyn Major, Risener.
Race 4 – 3.04PM EDT
One of the better races on the card but also one with a small field. Six line up for 1 1/8-mile allowance-optional on the grass, including last-out graded stakes competitors American Patriot, Kasseopia, Hunter O’Riley. Ray’s The Bar is no stranger to stakes company, finishing close third in last fall’s Grade 3 Pilgrim before traffic-filled 11th in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He’s the one to beat, mainly because he exits good comeback race May 12 at Belmont and because he goes for the white-hot Chad Brown.
Connections of Kasseopia had mild Triple Crown aspirations earlier this spring and one-time Kempton blowout maiden winner ran well in a couple Grade 3 races on synthetic tracks for Graham Motion. The Tapit colt Silver Beach won at Gulfstream back in late April and comes in with good spacing for trainer who always does well in this type of move.
Selections: Ray’s The Bar, Silver Beach, Kasseopia.
Race 5 – 3.36PM EDT
Biggest field on the card so far with 11 for $16,000 claiming race for non-winners of two lifetime on the main track at 1 mile. The public might be intrigued by the dropping Guyana Cat, who makes start No. 15 on the year after a fourth in 1-mile allowance at Parx last time. Low-percentage barn should scare you away, especially at a short price.
Hopefully the value comes in the form of Luckybuck Syndrome, who ran terribly in first start against winners back in late January. He’s since been gelded, freshened and is back in a more logical spot for Bruce Levine. Serious concern if he’s fast enough, although he might not need to be against this group. Gary Contessa fares well in spots like this and sends out Don’t Point, while Levine also sends out Howie’s Tiz, the probable favourite off a second in similar race May 26.
Selections: Luckybuck Syndrome, Howie’s Tiz, Mark Twain.
Race 6 – 4.09PM EDT
State-bred maiden claiming races on the grass always draw an interesting cast of characters and this is no exception. Stormin Stephen rates the edge with two seconds and three thirds in his eight starts – all in maiden special weight events – for Christophe Clement. Son of Malibu Moon drops in for the first time in his third start off the layoff and Clement owns strong strike rates in maiden claiming and on similar drops in class.
Who looks good underneath? How about House Of Friends, another dropping in for top barn. Son of Include was a disaster in debut for Bill Mott but unlike many in the field – who have run poorly often – he can’t be thrown out. Lisa Lewis sends out Alexander David, a son of Harlan’s Holiday who cost $145,000 as a yearling, while Jeremiah Englehart runs the Frost Giant firster Thawed Out.
Selections: Stormin Stephen, Thawed Out, House Of Friends.
Race 7 – 4.41PM EDT
Staying on the grass for 9-furlong starter allowance with field of nine that might offer some value. Captain Moss might not offer as much value as the others exiting allowance race where he earned a big speed figure, following a win at $50,000 claiming non-winners of three level in his return to the grass. He’s the one to beat.
Plenty of others are capable, including Tom Morley’s Yowl, third at this level last time and second the time before that. He gets a new rider in Jose Lezcano, who excels in grass races. Lotta Gold made nice closing move to win his grass debut last time, but most likely against suspect competition so we’ll wait on him. Todd Pletcher sends out Gracious Plenty, who broke his maiden for $75,000 tag three back and second last time for straight $40,000 claiming tag. He also gets Jose Ortiz.
Selections: Captain Moss, Gracious Plenty, Verger.
Race 8 – 5.13PM EDT
Back to the main track and 9 furlongs for straight allowance for 3-year-olds and up. Conventional wisdom usually favors the older set in races like this so early in the summer, but the three aren’t exactly world-beaters and bring a combined record of 1-for-10 at Belmont to the table.
That leads us to the sophomores, led by Realm. An impressive winner of his debut last summer at Saratoga, Realm was thought to be one with a big future. He’s been winless in three subsequent starts – all this year – although each was better than the previous. Jose Ortiz jumps aboard for Barclay Tagg and this is as good a spot as any to finally land that second win. Lost Iron found stakes company too tough last time when seventh of eight in Grade 2 Peter Pan. He won going two turns at Aqueduct in race prior to that, but 9 furlongs at Belmont is just one turn. He looks like he needs pace to run at and might not get too much with only Cadeyrn showing early foot in his prior races.
Selections: Realm, Cadeyrn, Conviction.
Race 9 – 5.45PM EDT
The featured Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses Handicap features Grade 1 winners Wavell Avenue and By The Moon, last-out stakes winner Bar Of Gold and the late developing West Coast Chick. Wavell Avenue likes a good pace to run at – she got it winning last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint – and she figures to get it today with Bar Of Gold, West Coast Chick and Mayla all possessing early speed. Wavell Avenue has disappointed in her two starts this year, however, finishing third and fourth, but those were against Grade 1 company. She’ll concede anywhere from six to nine pounds.
Bar Of Gold nearly lasted in the Grade 1 Test going the same 7 furlongs she’ll run in this $150,000 stakes. She won the Critical Eye last time against fellow state-breds, tracking early and opening up in the lane. West Coast Chick might be the most in form at this point, exiting a good second in the Grade 2 Vagrancy last time after a victory at Keeneland in early April.
Selections: Wavell Avenue, West Coast Chick, Pangburn.
Race 10 – 6.17PM EDT
Another state-bred maiden claiming race on the grass for the finale, this one with a field of 12 and four on the also-eligible list. Toss the continual losers, the likes of Without Fear (0-for-19), Majority (0-for-9), Bluff Harbor (0-for-9) and Freedom Seven (0-for-7), not because they don’t have a chance but mainly because they most likely won’t offer any value. At least for a win bet or in the top spot of exotics.
Southern Union is close to getting into that group, with seven losses to open his career, but since moving to the grass he’s been fifth and third. He endured a somewhat troubled trip last time and should benefit from outside post this time for Jose Ortiz and trainer Bruce Brown. Brett The Jet drops in for a tag after three straight grass starts that aren’t as bad as they look on paper. He also gets Jose Lezcano, who rode him last time in swiftly run race going shorter.
Selections: Southern Union, Brett The Jet, Majority.