The Euros Invade for Belmont Invitationals

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman")

On July 6th last year, two days after Independence Day, Belmont Park hosted a moderately interesting race card that featured the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) and the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II). But thanks to some major race schedule changes and purse enhancements, this year’s Independence Day celebration (scheduled for July 5th) promises to be one of the finest race days of the year at Belmont! The highlight of the five graded stakes races on schedule is the $1,250,000 Belmont Derby Invitational (gr. I), which has drawn a quartet of European invaders seeking a major victory. Throw in the grade I, $1,000,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational (with four more Europeans), an enhanced edition of the Suburban Handicap (gr. II), the Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes (gr. III), and the Dwyer Stakes (gr. III)…wow!

Needless to say, this is going to be a great day of racing! Let’s start handicapping!

Belmont Derby (gr. I)

In my opinion, this race has the potential to offer some excellent value. The 3-1 morning line favorite is Toast of New York, a European shipper that has won his last three starts by a combined 30 ½ lengths. His most recent victory, in the group II UAE Derby at Meydan, was accomplished with an impressive burst of acceleration nearing the top of the stretch. However, it’s difficult to overlook the fact that all of Toast of New York’s victories have come on synthetic tracks, and that his lone start on turf yielded the poorest effort of his career.

There are two other European shippers that look more appealing. The first is Adelaide (7-2), winner of the group III Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh and most recently runner-up in the group II King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, whose success with North American shippers has been spectacular, Adelaide is proven over the ten-furlong distance of the Belmont Derby, and seems very well-suited to this race.

The other European I like is the French horse Gailo Chop, who is 2-for-2 at ten furlongs, 5-for-7 in his career, and unbeaten in three starts this year. Better still, he’s 3-for-4 on courses labeled "firm" in France, which—while still relatively moist by American standards—suggests that he should be able to adapt to the very firm Belmont turf course.

Among the American representatives, I really want to like the chances of Bobby’s Kitten, a horse I have written about rather extensively on this blog in the past. As many readers may know, I’m a huge fan of this colt, and I believe him to possess as much raw talent as any three-year-old in this country. Unfortunately, while I think he could give even the great Wise Dan a scare at a mile, I’m not sure I relish his chances going ten furlongs against several talented Europeans. That said, I wouldn’t want to leave him out of the exotics—both vertical and horizontal—and at 6-1 on the morning line, he definitely offers some value.

Another logical contender is Dance With Fate, winner of the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) and most recently sixth in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). While he’s only run once on turf, that one run was a decisive victory in a one-mile turf allowance race, in which he ran his final quarter in approximately :22 4/5 seconds. That’s the kind of stretch acceleration you need in order to win major turf races, and given his solid recent workouts, it seems that he has rebounded nicely from his run in the Derby. If he stays near his 10-1 morning line price, he’s absolutely worth a look.

Ah, but now comes the challenge of trying to pull all of these thoughts into some kind of handicapping strategy! Therein lies the challenge—this race is as wide-open as they come! Ask five people for a selection, and you might get five different answers. But since I have to make a selection, I’ll go with Adelaide on top, with utmost respect to Bobby’s Kitten. I will look to use Dance With Fate and Gailo Chop underneath in the vertical exotics, as well as Global View (runner-up behind Bobby’s Kitten in the $500,000 Penn Mile) and Pornichet (third last time out in the group I Poule d’Essai des Poulains, also known as the French 2,000 Guineas.) I might even try to get Sheldon into the mix as a 30-1 shot for trainer James Toner, who is winning at a 33% strike rate this Belmont meet. Two starts back, Sheldon was beaten a head in a ten-furlong maiden special weight on the turf, closing his final quarter in a very sharp :22 4/5 seconds.

Quick Picks

Belmont Oaks (gr. I)Group III stakes winner Xcellence is the morning line favorite off of two solid third-place finishes in the group I Prix de Diane Longines (French Oaks) and Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000 Guineas), and figures to be hard to beat. However, I do like the chances of Flying Jib, a Juddmonte filly with three straight victories at up to a mile. Unlike Xcellence, whose best efforts have come over soft turf courses, Flying Jib has proven successful on relatively firm turf in the past, which could prove beneficial here at Belmont Park.

Suburban Handicap (gr. II)—Romansh ran great when beaten just 1 ½ lengths last time out in the one-mile Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I), a distance that was probably a bit short for him. I believe that the stretch-out to ten furlongs will only strengthen his chances on Saturday, and he looks difficult to beat in this spot.

Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes (gr. III)This race looks wide-open to me, so I’ll take a chance with the 15-1 shot Declan’s Warrior, who has run well at Belmont Park in the past and figures to get a decent pace setup. In addition, John Velazquez has picked up the mount.

Dwyer Stakes (gr. III)—Tiz Dark is the morning line favorite off of an eye-catching maiden win here at Belmont, but Kid Cruz could not have been much more impressive in winning the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont on June 7th, rallying from last to score a 3 1/4-length victory. Granted, he got a good pace setup that day, but with the speedy and unbeaten Captain Serious likely to ensure a quick pace, I think Kid Cruz will come rallying to victory once again.

Who do you like this weekend?

12 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Susan W.

I like Kid Cruz, period!  I am hoping he continues his winning ways of late.  Another fabulous day of racing at Belmont --- sorry I can't be there but I will be keeping track as much as possible.

04 Jul 2014 5:36 AM
TnT

Hey Keerlman.

Been consumed by the Fifa world cup, have not paid much attention to the ponies for a while, then maybe my terrible Kentucky and Belmont days have something to do with it…. lol.

I have always liked Dance with Fate, super horse and great finisher, I think he will be even better on turf. I will used him on top a super in a very open race. That said Adelaide is going to be thought to beat, but I am hoping he does not like the firm . Mr. chop has no Lasix so buyers beware.

Suburban…….going with Norumbega, lots of speed here, taking the fastest closer.  WTC should be in this race, for me, he is the best 1 -1/4 horse in the US, no idea why he runs in 1 1/16 and 1 1/8 races.  

The Oaks is another hard race, don’t like xcellence on firm, can Flying Jib get the distance ?, I am going to use Wonderfully, poor form in big races, but O'Brien can pick a horse for a course.

I will be watching WC football (soccer), and unfortunatley miss the races. Hoping for a Brazil v Beligum final next week. Cheers.

Oh yeah Kid Cruz all the way.

04 Jul 2014 9:57 AM
-Keelerman

TnT;

Welcome back! I agree that the Suburban seems like it would be a good fit for Will Take Charge, but maybe his connections are passing because it's only a grade II, and they'd rather wait and have a fresh horse for the Whitney.

Speaking of the Whitney, it was reported by DRF.com today that Donn Handicap (gr. I) Lea will miss the Whitney Handicap. That's unfortunate -- I was looking forward to a Palace Malice/Lea/Will Take Charge showdown.

04 Jul 2014 12:13 PM
-Keelerman

And of course, with the opening of Saratoga now just two weeks away, I ought to point out that Alpha is back on the work tab at Saratoga and gearing up for a summer campaign. What will can he possibly achieve at the Spa this year? Since his runner-up effort in the 2012 Wood Memorial, Alpha is 0-for-10 when running away from Saratoga -- while never finishing higher than fourth -- and 3-for-4 when running at Saratoga, with victories in the Woodward (gr. I), Travers (gr. I), and Jim Dandy (gr. II). Talk about a horse for the course!

04 Jul 2014 12:20 PM
Brontexx

Alpha and his trainer could have a good meet at Saratoga,but then again his trainer usually has a good meet.The good thing about Saratoga is that its meets comes with an urgency for the humans involved with the horse.They only have 40 days this year to get anything accomplished,as opposed to a track like Calder(now defunct as it was)where it was primarily a claiming track and they meaning the trainers were already committed to stable costs and overhead for a long time but I saw so many horses perform what handicappers call form reversal from one race to another.In my view this so called FR was another revenue source for the trainers.

04 Jul 2014 2:03 PM
JayJay

KC’s race looks chalky but I’m looking forward to seeing him run again, coming from the clouds.  

It'd be interesting to see Shared Belief run his first race on dirt in the LA Derby.  I’m not sure what type of dirt LA has but it doesn’t look like it’s a speedway like SA so maybe it’ll play fair.  I do like the Baffert/Garcia combo here and will most likely play their horse to win as a mild upset.

Going to play the P4 at Belmont, really like the field in all 4 races.   There’s two horses I like a lot and will play two sets of tickets singling them since they’re both longshots :

$0.50 P4 ( $10.00 )

Belmont Derby Invt'l :  I'll use Gala Award (really nice prep race in the Pennine Ridge), Gailo Chop to start my P4.   Will add Dance with Fate and Adelaide for my tri and super.

Suburban Handicap : I like Moreno's chances to try and steal this race on the front end that I’ll single him in my P4.  If he sets a quick pace, the rest will have a hard time catching up and I don't see any WTC type in this race.  I can’t believe he’s 8-1 ML.

Belmont Oaks :   Xcellence and Summer Solo for the P4.   Will play those two on top of Room Service, My Conquestadory and Wonderfully for my tri and super.

10th : Will use the ML favorites for my P4 12, 9, 6, 2, 3.

My other single is Gala Award.  I have a feeling Gala Award will run big and don't want to miss out on the chance of a big P4 payout if he does win.

$0.50 P4 ( $30.00 )

11 / 10, 5, 1, 6  /  4, 2, 7  /   12, 9, 6, 2, 3

04 Jul 2014 5:19 PM
Secreteriat

My P 4 is'

Toast of NY Adelaide W Last Gunfighterb Micromanage W Room Service Excellence W Hidden Vow

$5 P 4       1-4-11 W 1-5 W 2-7 W 12

Good luck all!

05 Jul 2014 8:42 AM
-Keelerman

Brontexx;

That's a great point about Saratoga -- the prestige of the meet, coupled with its relatively short duration, definitely encourages trainers to have their horses as ready as possible. I think Kiaran McLaughlin will try and get a prep race into Alpha early in the Saratoga meet, then point him toward a defense of his Woodward title. That would be something to see!

JayJay & Secreteriat;

Good luck with your bets this afternoon! I'll be cheering for you!

05 Jul 2014 10:51 AM
Pedigree Ann

You folks may be interested to know that Verrazano's record of failure at 10f remains unsullied, as he finished last in the Eclipse S (G1) at Sandown this afternoon. Truth be told, Sandown's is a stiff 10f, being as the finish is uphill for 2-3f, and Vero just couldn't keep on. They ran a steady, but not quick, pace early and all the closers - The Fugue, Kingston Hill, Night of Thunder - couldn't make up much ground on the horses who were in the first flight early. But they all passed Vero pretty easily and drew away.

05 Jul 2014 11:26 AM
-Keelerman

Pedigree Ann;

I guess Verrazano just isn't a ten-furlong horse. I watched the race this morning, hoping that Verrazano might somehow stay the distance (he is a year older, after all!), but not expecting him to. Even still, it was a bit disappointing to see him tiring as badly as he did at the finish. I guess it's back to a mile for next time.

On a different note, I was very pleased to see Mukhadram win. I liked him a lot in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot, in which he ran a non-threatening fourth, so it was nice to see him redeem himself so decisively today.

And now that The Fugue has turned in another disappointing effort, I guess it will be back to the winner's circle next time. What do you think? :)

05 Jul 2014 11:35 AM
Pedigree Ann

As they were saying on Racing UK, The Fugue dropped too far back off of a moderate pace. So did Kingston Hill. When they sprinted for home, the first flight still had some energy to outsprint them. Pace makes the race.

Verrazano's metier in the States was to run him up in the first flight and slow down the pace if possible then take over and go on, like Mukhadram did today. Wonder why they are trying to make him into an off-the-pace sort?

05 Jul 2014 2:49 PM
Pedigree Ann

Hey, how often do two races with the same name get run on the same day? At about the same distance? On different continents?

Earlier today (although, of course, it was afternoon for them) at the Belmont Park racecourse in Perth, Western Australia, they ran a Belmont Oaks (listed) for 3yo fillies over 2000m (about 10f). And in about 45 minutes, they will run a Belmont Oaks at the US Belmont Park at 10f. And you thought that Panza pulled the idea out of his hat.[attempted joke]

05 Jul 2014 5:08 PM

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