The Grade 1 Belmont Oaks
by TimeformUS Analyst Mike Beer
Belmont Park/July 5 /Race 9/5:45 EDT:
Get started on TimeformUS PPs for the G1 Belmont Oaks
The Belmont Oaks, one of two 3yo turf races repurposed and repositioned from the Fall calendar, has attracted an interesting field of 11 fillies, and of the five graded stakes races to be run at Belmont Park on Saturday, we found it to be the toughest to decipher. Let's take a look at the field in post position order:
#1 Goldy Espony makes her stateside debut with a trainer change to Chad Brown, and for a horse that is listed at 10/1 on the ML, we think she has plenty of things going for her. She is a proven commodity over this 1 1/4 mile distance, which is something that only one of her rivals today can similarly boast; she had displayed a handy running style in her native France, one that could serve her well from her cozy inside draw today; she earned a competitive 98 speed figure for her Group 3 win two starts back; and even though she gave way in the stretch of the Group 1 Prix Saint Alary last time, she was sent off at just 6/1 in that race, and her margin of defeat was exaggerated by her rider heavily easing her off once she was beaten. Brown has had plenty of success with imports in the past, and we think Goldy Espony is a very interesting horse in this race. We'll land here with our top pick.
#2 Room Service may be the most logical America-based horse to use in the race, and we have no real argument with anyone viewing her that way, but we're not so sure that she is necessarily so far ahead of some of the others. Certainly, her going back to back in Grade 1 races is no small feat, but she has had the benefit of fast paces to close into both times, and in the case of the Ashland at Keeneland, she worked a perfect trip into a monumental meltdown. We know that she can win, and we rate her a contender, but we are looking elsewhere.
#3 My Conquestadory is a talented filly making just her second start of the year, and she put up a new top speed figure in her 3yo debut, despite going down to defeat as an odds-on favorite. The distance of this race is a big question for her, but her effort in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf was one of the most overlooked very good performances of that entire weekend, and she could be a dangerous horse in here if allowed to get comfortable up on the pace in the early stages.
#4 Summer Solo is an undefeated NY-bred from trainer Christophe Clement's barn, and she appears to be in way over her head here.
#5 Flying Jib ships over from Ireland for top connections and could easily have been our top pick in the race were she a more interesting price on the ML. She has been very impressive in winning three in a row, and her 3yo debut was the best yet for her. On the other hand, she has never been beyond one mile, and she is sprint-bred on both sides of her pedigree. We're worried about the distance, but we like what we've seen from her, so we'll keep an eye on the board close to post time before deciding what to do with her.
#6 Rosalind is another we gave strong consideration to making our top pick, and might have done so were we not put off by her recent trip across the Atlantic and back. She was unlucky in losing her rider at the break of the Coronation Stakes at Ascot, but we think she has plenty to offer, assuming the trip over and back hasn't taken too much from her. She has more than held her own on dirt in some tough spots so far, but to us she is a better horse on synthetic, and may be better still over turf. She has run only one complete race over grass so far, in her debut at Ellis Park, but that was an impressive run, and despite her having to share her Grade 1 victory in the Ashland with Room Service, we think she ran the better race of the two that day.
#7 Xcellence has much to offer as the ML favorite in the race, having kept the best company and run the fastest speed figures. We get her as the favorite, and will likely use her in our multi-race wagers, but we can try to beat her in this race. Her last two races may simply be too much for her rivals today to match, but she did get perfect trips both times and simply wasn't good enough to be either first or second at the end of the day, and we can't shake the feeling that she has simply overachieved to this point, considering the prices at which she has been sent off in her races.
#8 Wonderfully goes for the powerful Coolmore outfit but doesn't appear to be one of their better chances, and figures to go off at a big price.
#9 Minorette ran well in the local prep for this race, the Wonder Again, when splitting Sea Queen and Recepta, and it would be pretty easy to argue that she ran the best of the three that day after making a bit of a premature move through the second turn. She still raced on well, but couldn't hold off Sea Queen, who sat a perfect trip all the way. She is yet another in this race whom we could make a case for, or against, depending upon her odds come post time.
#10 Recepta is one to include somewhere at a price, as she has flashed the kind of ability that can factor in a race like this, and we think she has run better than it may appear in each of her last two starts. She did not have an easy trip in the Appalachian at Keeneland off the layoff, making a very wide run from the far turn while the one-two finishers both saved ground to the stretch. She then landed a good stalking position in the Wonder Again, but was shuffled back as Minorette came with her premature run, only to rally late to get 3rd. She needs to step it up to factor in a field like this one, but we think she has it in her, and the price will be right
#11 Sea Queen upset the Wonder Again after a getting a perfect trip while the 2nd/3rd finishers weren't so lucky. We won't knock anyone going right back to her, as she figures to be a price once again, but we'll be surprised were she to come right back with another win.
The play: Goldy Espony
The Grade 1 Belmont Derby
by TimeformUS Analyst Mike Beer
Belmont Park/ July 5 / Race 7/ 4:34 EDT:
When NYRA made plans to reposition the Grade 1 Jamaica from the fall calendar, rename it The Belmont Derby, and up the purse to $1.25 million, you'd have to think they were hoping to draw a field that looked something like this one. A field of 11 3yo males has been entered to travel the 1 1/4 miles over the inner turf, including 4 interesting European imports. Let's take a closer look at the runners, in post position order:
#1 is Toast of New York. Winner of the $2 million UAE Derby at Meydan in March, Toast of New York was being considered not only for all of the major European races for 3yos immediately after that victory, but was also briefly under consideration for a spin in the Kentucky Derby. Ultimately he didn't show up on either side of the Atlantic, and Saturday will mark his first start since dominating that race in Dubai, for which he earned a strong 106 speed figure. He has won three straight races in convincing fashion, but they have all come over synthetic tracks, and he is a maiden on turf to this point. He's clearly progressive, has a handy running style, and will be adding lasix for his U.S. debut. We like him but have too many questions about him to take him at anything like the 3/1 morning line price.
#2 Sheldon just broke his maiden in his 7th career start last month, and did so with the benefit of a perfect trip into a strong pace. In his defense, he could easily have won a race earlier with a little bit of luck, and he was certainly unlucky not to come out on top two stats back after enduring a traffic-filled trip. But the fact remains that this represents a big step up in class for him. If you like him, you know two things: The distance will pose no problem for him, and he will be a price.
#3 Bobby's Kitten is a very talented colt who comes here straight off of a dominating victory over one mile with a 103 TimeformUS Speed Figure. That is a positive sign, as it equals the top figure Bobby's Kitten earned as a 2yo, that after cutting a fast pace in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. We're not so sure that he isn't the most talented colt in the race, but there are questions. Can this occasionally headstrong colt relax enough to carry his immense talent the full 10 furlongs? And if he does, will he be able to run his very best race going this far, against this type of opposition? It wasn't an easy decision, but we are standing against Bobby's Kitten in the Belmont Derby, and have a feeling we will be holding out breath as he makes his way up the backstretch.
#4 Adelaide is a Galileo colt from the powerful Coolmore operation, and he is the horse we like most in this race. After working his way through some traffic prior to finishing off maidens with an impressive flourish in his lone start at 2, he has progressed rapidly this year. He flat overpowered Group 3 competition with a 107 speed figure two starts back over this trip, and ran very well to be second-best to the promising Eagle Top last time in the King Edward, despite making the first wide move in that race. Adelaide figures tough cutting back in trip, and he is our pick to win the Belmont Derby.
#5 Flamboyant is one of three exiting the local prep for this race, the Pennine Ridge stakes, and he was a game second in there after making a four-wide run and battling his way to a short lead in the stretch. It would be no surprise to see him reverse that outcome with the eventual winner that day, Gala Award, but he faces a much taller order in this race. It may be worth noting that he finished only a nose behind Gailo Chop in a French allowance race last October, and that he was heavily favored over that rival in there, especially considering the expected price discrepancy between them today, but that horse has clearly progressed since then.
#6 Dance With Fate was last seen taking a shot in the Kentucky Derby, and while that didn't work out, dirt has never seemed like his best surface, and we'll expect him to put forth a more representative effort today. Already a Grade 1 winner this year, this horse has a chance to go overlooked in this race and could be an interesting horse to include somewhere underneath at a price. While he has made his reputation on synthetic surfaces to this point, his lone turf start back in January was a very impressive effort, and he has improved since then.
#7 Gailo Chop is the rags-to-riches story of the race, beginning his career at the minor French tracks before working his way up to becoming a multiple Group 3 winner. A gelding, he is ineligible to compete for the major prizes in France, so the decision was made to come to the states to shoot for the money offered in this race. His top speed figures of 98 and 99 for his last two starts leave him plenty to find, but he has displayed a handy running style and has won both of his starts over this distance. He's a cool horse, and one we would love to see run well here, but we aren't betting him.
#8 Pornichet will be making his stateside debut for the great Gai Waterhouse, and will be getting the full American makeover, with lasix, blinkers, and a U. S.-based rider in Jose Ortiz. He enters here directly off of a career top effort when 3rd best in the French 2000 Guineas. He was off at a big price in that race, but got a good trip and did his best with it, rocketing up to a 107 speed figure. A repeat of that effort clearly makes him a big player in here, but we want to see him do it again.
#9 Mr Speaker has appeared to us to be one of the best 3yo turf horses in this country, so we were surprised to see him let go in the stretch to finish last in the Pennine Ridge. We don't know what happened to him there, and don't generally buy into the "He didn't want to be on the lead" excuse, but we can't take that race at face value considering what this horse had accomplished leading up to that race. It is our opinion that he is a much better horse than Gala Award, but he has now finished behind that rival in both of their meetings, and we will be unable to defend that position should he be defeated a third time. We expect the real Mr Speaker to show up for this race, have little concern about him getting the added distance, and are making him a major part of our play.
#10 Global View has proven no match for Bobby's Kitten in their two meetings this year, but stands a chance to close the gap on that rival with today's added distance. We still think he has landed in a tough spot here today, but for those who like to speculate on jockey intention (we don't), Gary Stevens easily could have stayed in California to ride Candy Boy in the $500k Los Al Derby on Saturday.
#11 is Gala Award, and anyone who likes Mr Speaker as much as we do must take his chances seriously in this race. He has won three races in a row over turf for top connections, all the while improving his speed figures, and he is a grinder who figures to stay all day. He's a little light figure-wise for his competition today, but horses with his fortitude often can find a way to overcome those kinds of drawbacks.
The play: Adelaide.