The Belmont Stakes
Race 1 )
Bonita Springs – We will try and kick off the card with a longshot. We land on this filly who steps way up in class off the Linda Rice claim. This barn strikes with 32% of their freshly acquired stock and we like the fact that first call rider Ortiz sticks with her. She likes to settle early and make one run. This course was unkind to speed yesterday with the rail at zero feet and we see things going her way. She could run the race of her life on Belmont Day.
La Moneda – Is unquestionably a Turf filly. She comes to this off a very flat effort in a NWX2 that was originally carded for the grass. She took a shot at the lead over the sloppy main track. We will draw a line right through that subpar effort and look for her to hit back hard with a return to her favourite course ( 2-2 locally ). She draws the rail and Castellano can settle and pull the trigger at will. Big shot.
Table for Six – Ended a long layoff in the Mt Vernon which came up especially salty this year. She didn’t have the easiest trip in her comeback and wasn’t used. She should be much tighter with that one behind her. She is a pretty steady turf mare who likes to let the front runners go and pounce late. The under rated Alvarado knows her well and we wouldn’t be surprised if she beat them all. Don’t sell short.
War Canoe – Will get pounded by the betting public after hanging up a huge speed figure in The Mt. Vernon. She ran a handy third after drafting in behind the speed and making a wide move late. We don’t really see her as a stakes mare, as she did all of her winning in the claiming ranks. She is sharp and she gets a rider switch to Rosario. Lots to like, but we don’t see any value o we will call her underneath.
Race 2 )
High North – Trainer Brad Cox had high hopes for this son of Midnight Lute. He pointed him down the Derby Trail only to find the top colts were a little much. He looked strong in the Northern Spur as he outgamed Ike through a stretch long duel. He was hung wide through some testing fractions in the Peter Pan in a race that set up perfectly for a Blended Citizen. He has great tactical speed and some quick ones stretching out to his inside. Geroux should have him stalking and popping. The choice.
Mask – Is an obvious contender here. He did everything right and became a stakes winner in just his second trip to the post. He was favoured in an oddly run Pat Day Mile over a sloppy Churchill course that saw an improbable mud loving longshot post the biggest upset of Derby Weekend. He is bred to run on and should handle this additional yardage with ease. He graduated over this strip and has been training well locally. With Chad Brown calling the shots, we see him as a must use in the multi race wagers.
Rugbyman – This Wertheimer Brothers homebred is overloaded with pedigree power and has kicked off his racing career in fine style. He graduated in start number two over a very sloppy Belmont strip. He hung up a huge Beyer Fig that day and we wonder if he is more of a mudlark who thrived over the footing. Regardless, he is talented and this son of Tapit has plenty of upside. Big shot.
Breaking the Rules – Is Bred to run on and he boasts an easily recognizable Phipps pedigree. He has been focused on sprints and he has been working his conditions. We have to question this path for connections that usually break their maidens in long sprints and send them straight into stakes company. He is a perfect two for two sprinting and didn’t beat much. He gets a class test this day might be overbet based on his human connections. We’ll call him to grab a minor share.
Race 3 )
Pacific Wind – Is a daughter of the mighty Curlin. She tried stakes company as a three year old and landed on the fringes against some nice company. She made her four year old debut for Chad Brown in a NWX2 and she dusted an overmatched field. He followed that up with an easy looking score in the Ruffian ( Gr. 2 ) over this track. She is getting better with every start and we have noted her sparkling work tab. She gets plenty of pace to track and we see her watching the early battle and striking from close range. Her 7-2 ML could hold up with the presence of Abel Tasman in the line up. Value player.
Unbridled Mo – Is a seven time winner and amazingly, every single one of those victories have come at this trip. She has been well managed by Todd Pletcher, picking her spots against slightly lesser. She did become a grade one winner in her most recent where she took out the Apple Blossom over the very talented Unique Bella . She has enough tactical speed to stay in contact, but she does her best work from just off the pace. She draws the rail and that should give Velazquez plenty of options with the expected battle unfolding. This is her toughest challenge to date, but she has never been better and has hall of fame connections. Huge effort expected.
Unchained Melody – Is the price play in here with a big shot. She was touted as one of the best three year old fillies in the nation when she jogged in the Mother Goose ( Gr. 2 ) locally. Things went sideways in the Alabama when much was expected. She pressed the pace and buckled badly and had to be vanned off. With her pedigree and her early accomplishments, she could have easily retired to the breeding shed, but she resurfaced a month ago in The Ruffian and ran a credible fifth. She mixed it up early while taking a ton of mutual support. We’d have to expect that she will be much fitter this go round. Her works are sharp and she loses the hood. Rosario may try to settle her just off the pace and with the expected double digit return we would be inclined to give her a light dusting in the multiples. Dangerous.
Abel Tasman – Was the champion three year old filly and has banked over two million in her twelve race career ( winning half her starts ). After reeling off three consecutive grade ones, she proved mortal in her last two starts of 2017. She was odds on to take out The La Troienne on Oaks Day, but she sputtered to a fourth place finish after a mildly troubled trip. She is talented and represents the Bob Baffert barn and will be grossly overbet. Could she win, maybe, but we won’t be onboard if she does. Underneath.
Race 4 )
Monomoy Girl – Is the top three year old filly in North America. She is a neck short of a perfect seven for seven record. She has socked away $1.1 Million for her owners and comes to this off back to back grade one victories. Besides her obvious class edge, she makes her own luck with her brilliant tactical speed. If someone wants to mix it up early, she can sit. If no one wants to challenge her, she can wire them. She cleared off the fourteen hole in the Oaks and laid off the early pace. She put away a very pesky Wonder Gadot after a stretch long duel. She cuts back to a one turn mile, but has all the tools to deal with this classy bunch.
Caledonia Road – Is the richest filly in the line up, thanks to her victory in the BC Juvenile Filly. She earned a five month vacation off that big score and tuned up for this test with an easy looking allowance win over this course. She manhandled a short field in what was more of a public workout and should move forward in a big way. She will have to improve several points on the Beyer scale, but she is working well and has the class to have an impact here. Beware!
Talk Veuve to Me – Is a daughter of the hot young stallion Violence. She hasn’t missed the exactor in any of her three starts. She earned some serious black type in The Eight Belles with a great runner up finish behind Mia’s Mischief. She has brilliant speed and now stretches out to a one turn mile. She gets a noticeable rider switch to Jose Ortiz and very few ride this track better. We’ll expect that she’ll be sent and could take some catching if the track is kind to speed. A player.
Moonshine Memories – Was regarded as the best two year old filly last fall, but didn’t show up with her best in the Breeder’s Cup and lost the championship to Caledonia Road with a sub par effort. She got legged up for this with a runner up finish in The Angel Flight and she didn’t appear to be hard used. The Coolmore connections now owns in partnership. She feels live.
Race 5 )
Hard Study – Broke his maiden late in his three year old season with a $40K tag on his head. Since then, he has become a win machine for Team Pletcher. He looks to make it four in a row and is in career best form. He started this current win streak with a handy win over marathon specialist Scuba in the Birdstone ( 1 3/4 miles )at Saratoga. He loves the Belmont main track and has plenty of speed to make his own luck. We give him a strong call.
Hoppertunity – Is a rich veteran ( $4.4 Million ) who rarely wins these days, but he always finds himself in against the very best older horses around. He has challenged the likes of California Chrome, Gun Runner and Arrogate over the past two seasons, but usually hangs in for a piece. He did duck in for a win in the Tokyo City going this trip a couple of months ago, but that came against an overmatched bunch. He race south of the Bob Baffert barn and merits respect at this level.
War Story – Is the defending champion who met a pretty easy looking bunch last year. He seems class conscious. He tackled Gun Runner four consecutive starts last season and had no impact. He got braver with a return to his correct level. Like last year, he used the Charles Town Classic as a springboard to this race. He is six and could be losing a step, but he can run all day and has Castellano calling the shots. Contender.
Take Your Guns – Has a similar profile to his stablemate Backyard Heaven who was a rapidly improving allowance runner before he destroyed a classy group in the Alysheba. He beat some classy old underachievers in his most recent and looks ready to take the next step into stakes. He is a John Gunther homebred with a run on pedigree. We don’t see as a threat for the win but he could grab a share at mid range odds. W
Race 6 )
Disco Partner – Just loves nothing more than a turf sprint. He is the defending champ who has taken seven of his nine career victories over this very course. He kicked off his six year odd season over a boggy Keeneland course in The Shakertown. He wanted no part of that marsh and checked in a well beaten third as the choice. He has been on the bench for the last couple of months and shows up to this off steady works and is a well documented “ fresh “ runner. Turf sprints are almost always won by proven turf sprinters. He has speed to follow and Irad Ortiz Jr rides. He looks like the one.
Holding Gold – Has some nice longshot potential for those hunting a price. He is the richest North American son of Lohnro. He traveled to Dubai for the Al Quoz Sprint and after a terrible start, Castellano wrapped up on him. Two starts back, he romped in The Colonel Power and that Race came back especially live. He was a close up third to Disco Partner in last years renewal and judging by his sharp works, we think that trainer Casse has him fully cranked. The upset special.
Blind Ambition – This son of Tapit has been a tough read. He represents the Pletcher barn and would be viewed as a third line player for this powerhouse. He does like a turf sprint and he two best races to date have come right here. He looked to be outgunned in the Elusive Quality, but a serious flood of support showed up for him and he jogged while posting a huge new top Beyer wise. His follow up works are standard ( for this barn ) half mile breezes and Velazquez sticks around. He cuts back today and looks like a real threat from close range.
Pure Sensation – Won this race two years ago and is in fact a double stakes winner over this course. There were no illusions about his strength, it has been turf sprints for him since day one. He rattled off off three important stakes in a row as a five year old, he slowed down a touch at six and now at seven, he is still competitive but maybe he could be getting tired. His latest work pattern indicates some pampering, but he does like it here, so, we will call him underneath. Tri Factor.
Race 7 )
Strike Power – We watched this guy kick off his career with a take no prisoners maiden score. He was a hundredth of a second off a track record that day. His follow up was equally impressive with a romp in The Swale, going this specialized trip. His connections got some Derby Fever off of those lines. He looked great in The Fountain of Youth but fell apart in The Florida Derby and was stopped on. He has relocated and now calls Belmont home. He cuts back to a long sprint, which is what he always wanted to do and his works are sizzling. He draws the twelve hole but has more than enough speed to clear off that impost. We’ll expect him to be on the lead as soon as the gates spring open and he will be hard to catch.
Kanthaka – All three of his wins have come at this trip. Jerry Hollendorfer shipped him across the country to compete here when he could have easily found suitable spots closer to home. He likes to set up shop mid pack and make one run through the lane. He may be at a tactical disadvantage as Strike Power looks like the lone speed, but he does have Flavian Prat calling the shots, so he should lay close enough to make a late bid. Clearly a contender.
World of Trouble – Was a private purchase over the winter and once he moved to the Jason Servis barn, his stock rose immediately. He won a minor stake ( going this trip ) and went to the gate as the public’s choice in the Tampa Derby. He ran an OK third that day and has been tested ever since. He is a son of Kantharos who should enjoy the turnback in distance. This barn is on fire so we wouldn’t dismiss anything they send out currently. A player.
Engage – Is a perfect two for two locally and has never missed the exactor in his five race career. He calls the Chad Brown barn home and this sharp operator has focused him on sprinting only. He likes it here and has the right human connections in his corner. This is a class hike, but, he may be up the challenge. For a piece.
Promises Fulfilled exploded for an improbable win in The Fountain of Youth. He didn’t do much since but has been rested and is working lights out for trainer Romans. Saez takes the call. Nice exotics booster?
Race 8 )
Off Limits ( Ire ) – Took a while to get things figured out but at the the ripe old age of five, she stamped herself as one of the top grass mares in the country. She came up just short against her stablemates Sistercharlie and Fourstarscrook in the Jenny Wiley and that Race came back very live as those two barn buddies came back to run one two in the New York Stakes. She is a three time winner over this course and we expect her to save ground under Javier Castellano with her inside draw. Settle early and fly late. The choice.
Proctor’s Ledge – Was a last minute sniff out for this handicapper in the Distaff Turf Mile. She came first up into some ugly weather conditions, but Velazquez rode her with complete confidence and she drew off as she pleased. That was her best race to date and being a daughter of the late developing Ghostzapper, we think that she will only get better. We like the fact that Velazquez sticks with her. Big Shot to repeat.
A Raving Beauty ( Ger ) – Kept some good company and Europe at three and four but never really established herself as a top filly. She relocated stateside this year and now represents the Chad Brown operation. Not surprisingly, she was well prepared for her North American debut and she romped in the Beaugay. She didn’t beat a whole lot that day, but we give her marks for style. She could improve again with a race under her belt, if she does, she could be the one.
On Leave – Is a turf mare who competes at the highest levels and usually runs a race. She has done the bulk of her winning over the Belmont turf, but she is a speed type and prefers the inner course. She picks up a new rider this day as both Ortiz brothers have gone elsewhere, but Manny Franco is a fine replacement. She draws the rail and should settle in right behind Lull and La Colonel early. Nice mare should grab a share.
Race 9 )
Bee Jersey – Is a Chuck Fipke homebred who competed in The UAE as a three year old against the likes of Thunder Snow, but never really made a name for himself. He relocated stateside late last year and has been brought along slowly by hall of Famer Asmussen.
He utilized his speed for a wire to wire romp in the Steve Sexton. While we see a few sprinters stretching out, we don’t imagine that anyone will try and go with him early.
He has been managed so well, it appears that he is now ready to take in the best milers in the country. He looks well spotted and should be hard to catch.
Awesome Slew – Is a hard luck runner with a ton of talent. He hooked the freakishly fast Army Mule in the Carter ( where is he ? ) and missed by a neck in the Churchill Downs. He is a deep closer who has a very dependable late move. He draws the outside, will have to drop back and ride the rails to the top of the turn. Velazquez is reunited and knows him well. Contender once agin.
Warrior’s Club – Was largely ignored when he took out The Commonwealth at 23-1. He was once again dismissed in the Churchill Downs and came up a head bob short at the very same 23-1 odds. He is a better seven furlong horse, but the one turn mile should suit him just fine. We love the rider switch to Saez and will be looking for him to make a move from close range at double digit odds. No Respect.
One Liner – Is a son of Into Mischief who is bred to thrive at this trip. He hasn’t been rushed along and thrown to the wolves, he has been expertly managed by Todd Pletcher. He is a speed oriented runner who should get a soft trip in behind Bee Jersey. Like that one, he looks set to create a higher profile for himself as one of the best dirt milers.
For those spreading in the multi leg wagers, it might be wise to throw Ransom the Moon on your tickets. Phil D’Amato has done wonders with this Sam Son Farm castoff. Sharp connections didn’t make this trip for the air miles.
Race 10 )
Hi Happy ( Arg ) –
Beach Patrol –
Channel Maker –
Robert Bruce ( Chi ) –
Sadler’s Joy – Is as steady as they come and he takes on all comers. He never wins out of turn but usually grabs a healthy cheque. His regular pilot Leparoux is absent but he picks up Castellano. Consider.
Race 11 )
Vino Rosso –
Race 12 )
Slim Shady ( GB ) –
Patrick’s Day –
Battle of Blenheim –