IF YOU PLAN ON ENJOYING THE JULY 4TH HOLIDAY, DON'T FORGET THE SIX PACK...
6 GRADED STAKES HIGHLIGHT BELMONT SATURDAY CARD!
PART II - All-Stakes PICK 6 Preview
We mentioned in PART I of this article that as is often the case over the course of the July 4th holiday even hard-line thoroughbred bettors tend to focus more on travel, the beach and barbecues and have already tucked opening day at Saratoga (this year, Friday, July 24) in the back of their minds.
That might be all well and good from an entertainment standpoint, but if you only gazed upon the AMAZING JULY 4TH RACING LINE-UP AT BELMONT PARK you'd quickly discover that you would not only ignore great racing but an opportunity to begin building the Saratoga Bankroll everyone wants to have as racing heads north.
When we say AMAZING RACING LINE-UP Saturday at Belmont we mean just that. On the 11 race program there are 6 Graded Stakes Races...in order Races 6-11:
Grade III Victory Ride Stakes - 6½ Furlongs (Dirt)
Grade III Dwyer Stakes - 1 Mile (Dirt)
Grade III Belmont Sprint Championship - 7 Furlongs (Dirt)
Grade II Suburban Handicap - 1¼ Miles (Dirt)
Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational - 1¼ Miles (Turf)
Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational - 1¼ Miles (Turf)
These races will comprise the PICK 6 as well as running Pick 3's the Late Pick 4 (Races 8-11) and running Daily Doubles...not to mention the vertical Win & Exotics in each race.
What makes these races particularly interesting is that in three of them there should be definitive favorites, each of which could have chinks in the armor. The two features races, the Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes on the turf at a mile and a quarter for three-year olds and the Belmont Oaks Invitational, also on the turf at a mile and a quarter and for three-year old fillies have drawn full fields that figure to go deep in contention.
The sixth stakes race on the menu, the close-the-PICK 6 Belmont Sprint Championship is equally competitive as last year's Sprint Championship winner Clearly Now and pace setting fourth place finisher Moonlight Song return in 2015 but are joined by Grade I winners Private Zone and The Big Beast as well as four other Graded Stakes winners or placed competitors in the eight horse field.
WILL PROMISE ME SILVER OR MISS ELLA, AS WELL AS TEXAS RED OR TONALIST JUSTIFY THEIR EXPECTED SHORT-PRICED OFF ODDS?
There is no question that the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (Race 8), the Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (Race 10) and the Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes (Race 11) are the kind of competitive races that a serious PICK 4 or PICK 6 player is going to have to reach rather deeply into in order to construct a horizontal ticket.
On the other hand, if one were to read some of the early previews of the other three races, the Grade III Victory Ride Stakes (Race 6), the Grade III Dwyer Stakes (Race 7) or the Grade II Suburban Handicap, you'd see a consensus that there are definitive horses to beat in each race.
GRADE I WINNERS MISS ELLA AND PROMISE ME SILVER STAND OUT ON PAPER BUT...
In the short 6 filly field signed on for the Grade III Victory Ride Stakes there are likely to be 99% of horizontal wagers that include one or both Miss Ella and Promise Me Silver. Based on their past performance lines and resumes this appears logical, but both of these fillies are not only coming off losses, but are coming off atrocious performances.
In what could be considered her first real test, in a career that included to that point, 8 straight races to begin her career, the Texas bred Promise Me Silver broke a bit awkwardly, rushed up and quickly retreated (beaten 22 lengths) when challenged in the Grade I Acorn over this surface 4 weeks ago.
Also failing miserable in that same Grade I Acorn was Miss Ella, a prior Grade I winner who was, arguably, making only the third start of her career. That being said, she wilted at the top of the lane and was beaten 13 lengths.
Those that will forgive each filly will point to the one mile distance of the Acorn and that the Victory Ride is at 6½ furlongs but even at that point in the Acorn they were finished.
Either or both could regroup but there are interesting challengers signed on.
Irish Jasper brings a two race win streak into the race, a win in the Belle Harbor Stakes at Aqueduct in April and a victory in the Grade III Miss Preakness Stakes on Preakness eve Friday. Enchanting Lady turned in the best last out speed figure of any in this field when a rallying second over the course in the 6 furlong Jersey Girl Stakes here on Belmont Stakes Friday. Wayne Lukas' Super Saks looks to have finally begun figuring it out and brings dangerous speed to the fray while Kathballu ships in from CD after a definitive allowance win in her most recent.
BC JUVENILE WINNER TEXAS RED RETURNS
In the Grade III Dwyer Stakes, to be run at a mile on dirt, Breeders' Cup Juvenile upset winner Texas Red returns to the track for the first time since being sidelined following his runner-up effort in the Grade II San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita on February 1.
As the 9-5 ML favorite it remains to be seen if his prior accolades (he was considered the top 3-year old contender for the Triple Crown before being injured) will carry over on the tote on Saturday. The Keith Desormeaux trained son of Afleet Alex has not missed a beat in the morning with a serious of evenly spaced stamina and speed drills and appears ready. However, despite a relatively short seven horse field, Texas Red will meet some improving three-year olds.
Chief among the challengers are Biofeld, Tommy Macho and Speightster.
Biofeld, a Todd Pletcher trained son of Quality Road will make just his second start as a three-year old after an even third in a stakes race sprint at CD in late April. He will need to improve off that effort but if he runs back to his undefeated 3 race juvenile campaign in which he won both the Grade II Futurity over this surface and the Grade II Nashua at Aqueduct he will be tough to handle.
Tommy Macho made 2-0 for 2015 in his late developing 3 race career when he destroyed older upper level allowance horses on Belmont Stakes day and is the second of the uncoupled Pletcher entry.
Also showing brilliance during the late stages of his career is Speightster, a Bill Mott trained son of Speightstown who has been unchallenged in his two win career, including a hand-ridden allowance tally over this course in his last. What also makes him interesting is that Mott is not known for having his runners fully cranked at first asking but this guy roared out of the gate in winning his debut.
The field is completed by Bridget's Big Luvy who goes turf to dirt for Jeremiah Englehart, Hollywood Angel who ships in from PARX following back to back wins in a 25K claimer and NW3L open allowance and Smart Transition, who shipped in from Santa Anita and was third in the Tommy Macho allowance.
TONALIST TABBED AT 3-5 IN SUBURBAN
It is difficult to argue the merits of a multiple Grade I winner who has tallied 5 of 11 in his career and 4 of 5 over the Belmont main track. And it would be equally difficult to dissuade either a PICK 6 or PICK $ player that were they looking for one single in the horizontal combos, this Ninth Race Suburban Handicap ML favorite would be the one.
Tonalist dropped his first decision over the Belmont surface when he rallied too late in the Met Mile when second to Honor Code on Belmont Stakes day and is back in his wheelhouse at the 10 furlong distance. If you are looking for any questions to ask, you might want to decide if the switch back to blinkers off in which Tonalist won the Grade III Westchester and was 5th in the BC Classic when hoodless is a factor.
Lining up to try the prohibitive favorite will be the late developing Coach Inge the winner of the mile and a half Grade II Suburban over this course in his most recent and the possibly re-emergent Mylute who was prominent on the Triple Crown trail in 2013 and made his first start of 2015 a decisive winning one in an upper level allowance here in his last.
Both Neck And Neck and Effinex had troubled trips in the Suburban but had turned in a series of solid triple digit BRIS speed number tries prior to that so would not be an improved surprise. Only rail horse Street Babe, who has been up the track in the Grade II Charles Town Classic and a minor stakes at Penn in his last two appears out of contention.
GRADE I WINNERS & DEFENDING CHAMP CONTEST COMPETITIVE SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIP
A pair of Grade I winners The Big Beast and Private Zone will go to war in the 7 furlong Grade III Sprint Championship, to be run as Race 11, the final leg of both the PICK 6 and Late PICK 4 and will be joined, from among others by last year's Sprint Championship defending champ Clearly Now and longshot Superfecta finisher Moonlight Song.
Private Zone has a trio of Grade I scores on his slate including both the 2013 and 2014 Vosburgh Stakes over this surface. He has hit the board in all his Graded Stakes in 2015 and shortens up after a solid third in the Met Mile on Belmont Stakes day.
The Big Beast won the King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga last August and was victorious in a six-furlong allowance in his 4-year-old debut at Oaklawn in March, but must reverse his fourth in the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct in his last race on April 4.
Also exiting the Carter is second place finisher Green Gratto who is signed on here after finishing third behind Stallwalkin' Dude, who he'll meet again on Saturday, in an allowance on May 1 and a win in an allowance race on the Belmont Stakes day undercard.
Not to be ignored is three-time grade III winner Clearly Now, who won last year's Belmont Sprint Championship and will have the blinkers removed as trainer Brian Lynch will look for a reversal of the non-show effort in the True North.
Also returning from last year's Sprint Championship is Moonlight Song, who set the pace, dug in inside the furlong marker and held for 4th. The NYSB gelding hasn't raced since last October but he has been tearing up the track with bullet after bullet and would not be a surprise on the front end out of the gate on Saturday.
Completing the field are a very live Stallwalkin' Dude who has 4 straight wins followed by a pair of runner up finishes in the Grade II True North two back and in the Donald LeVine Memorial Handicap at PARX two weeks ago. Also adding speed will be Grade III winner C. Zee and Graded Stakes placed Bay Of Plenty.
THREE YEAR OLD TURF MARATHONS HIGHLIGHT JULY 4TH CARD
Of the six Graded Stakes Races on the July 4th Belmont Card the 10 furlong grass Grade I Stakes are by far the most competitive.
The Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes has drawn a field of nine while the Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes has a full field of fourteen. Let's take a look at the two races with a brief preview of each of the runners starting with the rail.
Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes
Takeover Target (5-1) - In just his third career start in last, over the turf here, he took the lead in deep stretch and was caught in the final jump in the Pennine Ridge Stakes by Divisidero who he'll meet again in here. Hot turf trainer Chad Brown always sends them out ready.
Bolo (7-2) - Began his career on the turf as a juvenile, including a decisive win in the Eddie Logan Stakes at Santa Anita. Connections tried the Triple Crown prep trail and he ran third in both the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby before getting in a bit deep in the Kentucky Derby. Made his return to grass with an easy workout-allowance win at Santa Anita and is a major factor here.
Divisidero - (4-1) - Has come to form nicely with three wins from four career starts...all on the lawn. In his most recent he copped top honors here in the Pennine Ridge Stakes as he stayed on in the final strides. In his 2015 debut he garnered top honors in the American Turf Stakes at CD. Like each of the seven North American runners in the race he has never been 10 furlongs but like the two to his inside he handled 9 furlongs in his last and the son of Kitten's Joy should like the added panel.
Caandal (8-1) - Tough runner to get a handle on. The European shipper makes his NA debut and does so just two weeks removed from the Prix Ridgeway Stakes in France two weeks back. He did finish second in a Group II test at Longchamps two races back and has already travelled the 10 furlongs plus in 4 of 5 lifetime starts. Might be this good.
Force The Pass (8-1) - Live longshot has done little wrong with three wins and a pair of seconds in 5 career starts, all on the grass. The Alan Goldberg trained son of Speightstown has never been beyond a mile but the female line (out of a Dynaformer mare) indicates 10 furlongs is in his blood and he has closed ground through the lane in every one of his 5 starts.
Closing Bell (20-1) - Terrific connections (Bill Mott) and classically bred (Tapit) but the colt might be reaching a bit deep in here as he is coming off a MSW win on dirt in just his second career race last time out. This could be a case of Mott trying to see what he has as the colt did make his debut on grass but only a major step up would get him just a minor award.
Postulation (10-1) - The Juddmonte Farms gelding makes his ninth career start and first in North America after winning the Tri Equestrian Silver Stakes at the Curragh (Ireland) in his last at Saturday's 10 furlong distance. Regular rider Patrick Smullen makes the trip to pilot the son of Harlan's Holiday as the connections look to build on the runner's 8-3-3-1 mark.
Startup Nation (6-1) - The second of the uncoupled Chad Brown entry this son of Temple City was a close enough third after a late rally behind Divisidero and Takeover Target in the Pennine Ridge in his last. The colt appeared on track as a juvenile and was improving when he had a tough trip and checked in eleventh, although beaten less than 4 lengths for it all in the amazing BC Juvenile Turf last fall and the Pennine Ridge was his first since that try so he wouldn't need to improve much.
Granny's Kitten (6-1) - Another well-bred lightly raced three-year old colt the son of Kitten's Joy will be making just his fourth career start and third of the season after a return win in an allowance win at CD and a solid rallying third in the Penn Mile Stakes, beaten less than a length for it all by Force The Pass. Julian Leparoux, who was aboard for the easy allowance win two back returns to the saddle for trainer Mike Maker.
Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes
Pine Needles (20-1) - Arguably the best bred 10 furlong filly in the race the daughter of Giant's Causeway has done little wrong in her 4 race career. She made the pace and was only beaten a ½ length by Lady Eli, who has been installed as the 2-1 ML favorite. It is doubtful you'll get 20-1 on a Christophe Clement filly (one of his two uncoupled runners in the race) but this race is deep enough in contention that she should be a decent price.
Lady Eli (2-1) - One of these accomplished fillies had to be anointed with favoritism and since this gal is a perfect 5-for-5 in her career, a winner of the BC Juvenile Filly Turf and her two 2015 starts it makes sense that the honor fell here. The Chad Brown trained Devine Park miss, the best of his three uncoupled contenders in the race has never failed to fire late and in her last overcame a very rough trip to claim victory. She is the one to beat but buried well inside in this 14 filly field she'll have to run the race of her life...even if already undefeated.
Sharla Rae (30-1) - By far the most seasoned old the lasses signed on for this the Doug O'Neill trained daughter of Afleet Alex has won 4 of 11 lifetime (all on the west coast.) However, she has yet to win in three turf starts and followed home Spanish Queen, who also makes the trip east for this, in her last two starts including second at 48-1 in the Grade II Honeymoon Stakes at Santa Anita two back and an even fifth at this 10 furlong distance in the Grade I American Oaks in her last. There have been worse 30-1 shots.
Itsonlyactingdad (20-1) - Another well-bred daughter of Giant's Causeway and another longshot that wouldn't have to improve much to surprise in here. She faced Lady Eli in the Wonder Again in her last and was making up ground through the lane after staying in contact with the slow pace throughout the race. Todd Pletcher has been a monster at the meet (38% winners from over 100 starters) and isn't running for the sake of it.
Miss Chatelaine (20-1) - The daughter of Pulpit is the fourth of the runners to exit the Wonder Again Stakes here and despite her sixth place finish was only beaten a total of 3 lengths in an even effort. The second of the two Clement trained fillies she is another lightly raced competitor (3 career starts) who could improve. She is another who contributes to making this the best betting race of the day.
Spanish Queen (7-2) - The Richard Balthus trained daughter of Tribal Rule has so far outrun her mile breeding, especially with her 10 furlong win in the Grade I American Oaks at Santa Anita in her last. She is 3-for-4 in her career (all on turf) and prior to the American Oaks the filly also claimed top honors with a sharp stalk and pounce triumph in the 9 furlong Grade II Honeymoon Stakes. The conditioner has done little wrong on the west coast, winning at 23% on the year and hopes this filly will also outrun his less than stellar 4% shipping rate.
Consumer Credit (12-1) One of the three Chad Brown trained entrants in the race this daughter of More Than Ready ships back east after crossing the country for a good third in the Grade I American Oaks at Santa Anita in her most recent. The filly is representative of so many in the Brown barn in that she has a 4-2-1 mark in her last 7 starts and is a Grade III winner and is multiple graded stakes placed. She is another with terrific tactical speed who makes up ground late and has been the 10 furlongs.
Olorda (8-1) - The German bred filly is another Group I placed, first time NA starter who has done well against top runners and at the distance across the pond. In her last before coming here she was third in the Group I Coolmore Prix Saint-Alary at Longchamp. The filly has drawn enough interest to entice the services of John Velazquez and could be any kind.
Gypsy Judy (30-1) - One of the few entrants in her that could be considered a legitimate outsider with a tough row to hoe. The daughter of Kitalpha is not particularly bred for grass or distance and in her lone turf try (last time out) got even fractions at a mile in the Penn Oaks and was still unable to hold on. In 7 career starts she has only run better than an 85 BRIS speed number once, so it is worth repeating she appears in very deep.
Outstanding (6-1) - Anything that trainer Aiden O'Brien sends across the ocean for a first NA start must be respected and this Magnier/Tabor/Smith owned daughter of the regal sire Galileo is no different. A stakes winner at both a mile and a mile and a quarter in her two 2015 tries (each in Ireland) she appears a drastically improved filly from her juvenile campaign. All she does is add more quality and more depth to a potentially classic race.
Sentiero Italia (20-1) - It speaks to the depth of this field that a regally bred daughter of Medaglia d'Oro from the Kieran McLaughlin barn would be a 20-1 ML favorite. The lightly raced filly will be making a major jump in class for just her fourth career start, all on turf, after eclipsing entry level allowance foes at Belmont on May 29.
Daring Duchess (20-1) - Another longshot from a top barn the daughter of Arch will be sent out by Bill Mott and ridden by Jose Lezcano. The filly makes her first start in 8 weeks after winning an entry level allowance race in wire-to-wire fashion at 9 furlongs at CD. She figures to stalk from the outside if the rider can get her in position early enough but based on her overall speed numbers would need major improvement to step into the exotic.
Lady Zuzu (20-1) - If you find a race such as this with a 14 filly field there is a likely chance that D Wayne Lukas will be taking a shot with a tempting longshot. This bred to run all day daughter of Dynaformer will be making her sixth start of 2015 and ninth overall and though still eligible for NW2L she has a pair of thirds and a second, two of them in graded stakes company since Lukas took over from Paulo Lobo in early April. Needs the perfect trip from a tough post and a move forward...but it is D Wayne.
Strict Compliance (10-1) - The third of the Chard Brown uncoupled stable mates the Into Mischief filly is three-for-three in 2015 after a second place finish in her debut in her lone juvenile try. She has run at four different distances at four different race tracks and holds a win a 1 3/16ths miles at Keeneland two back and was the winner with an off-the-pace rally in the Penn Mile in her most recent. She'll need to get lucky from out here but does draw Javier Castellano and might be this good.
You won't find a better day of racing in New York until Travers day in late August at Saratoga nor a better wagering day. The fireworks wait...don't miss them.