J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
ready, everyone! We've got an absolutely stellar Saturday of racing coming up
on July 9th, led by six graded stakes races at Belmont Park, four at
Arlington Park, and a wide mix of other exciting races. Leading the way are the
$1.25 million Belmont Derby (gr. I) and $1 million Belmont Oaks (gr. I), which
will be shown live along with the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) during a 1 ½-hour
broadcast on NBC Sports. The fields are deep and competitive, and I think
there's a chance for some major longshots to reach the winner's circle. Let's
Belmont Derby Invitational (gr. I)
Aidan O'Brien has won many big races in the United States and will send out two
quality colts in search of glory in the Belmont Derby. Deauville could draw a lot of wagering support off his narrow
defeat in the Dante Stakes (Eng-II) at York, and the firm course at Belmont
should suit him well, but stablemate Long
Island Sound-third in the Tercentenary Stakes (Eng-III) at Royal Ascot
behind subsequent group I winner Hawkbill-could be a better choice among the
O'Brien shippers. Humphrey Bogart, a
Richard Hannon-trained runner that finished fifth in the Investec Derby
(Eng-I), is another to consider, although it's worth noting that Hannon and his
father, Richard Hannon, Sr. are a combined 0-for-20 with their U.S. starters.
a good chance that one of these international shippers will prevail, but I'm
going to take a shot with Highland Sky.
I liked him in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I) last year, in which he
finished a solid sixth at 17-1, and he's taken a nice step forward to finish
first or second in all three of his races this year. Two starts back, he
overcame a wide trip and a slow pace to win the Woodhaven Stakes at Aqueduct
with a determined late run, and last time out, he endured a very tough trip in
the nine-furlong Pennine Ridge Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont, being compromised
by a slow pace and a wide trip once again. Despite these obstacles, he ran his
final three furlongs in about :34 flat to fall a neck short of catching the
ground-saving winner Camelot Kitten,
and according to Trakus, Highland Sky ran 45 feet more than the winner, a huge
sum that equates to roughly five lengths.
an off-the-pace runner like Highland Sky, there's always a chance of
encountering a troubled trip, and he could certainly endure another troubled
run on Saturday. But if he can save ground from post four and find an opening
turning for home, I think he'll have every chance to win at 8-1 or more.
Belmont Oaks Invitational (gr. I)
deep and talented field of 13 three-year-old fillies will head to the starting
gate for this million-dollar race, with the favorites including Catch a Glimpse, winner of seven
straight races, and the European shipper Ballydoyle,
runner-up behind Minding in the QIPCO 1,000 Guineas (Eng-I) at Newmarket
earlier this year. I have a ton of respect for both of these fillies,
particularly Catch a Glimpse, a seemingly uncatchable front-runner who could
get a lonely lead in the Belmont Oaks and quite possible take this field all
the way on the front end.
also worth noting that Ballydoyle has had a somewhat troubled spring; after
missing the Investec Oaks (Eng-
I) due to an illness and the Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot due to
the soft ground conditions, she ran in the prestigious Prix de Diane (Fr-I) at
Longchamp, where she encountered soft ground and ran sixth. Ballydoyle probably
wasn't at her peak for that race but was only beaten 3 ¼ lengths, and she could
be rounding into better form for the Belmont Oaks.
the other hand, trainer Chad Brown has won the last four editions of this
race-twice as the Belmont Oaks and twice when it was the Garden City Stakes-and
I think he can win it again with Last
Waltz. She was compromised by a slow pace when third in the nine-furlong
Wonder Again Stakes last month at Belmont, and it's worth noting that fillies
that prepped in the Wonder Again have swept the exacta in the 2014 and 2015
editions of the Belmont Oaks. I think Last Waltz is getting good at the right
time and will relish the ten-furlong distance of the Belmont Oaks, and if she
can work out a better trip than last time out, I think she can post an upset at
Belmont Park Sprint Championship (gr.
I look at the entries for this seven-furlong sprint, almost every horse I see
has early speed. Anchor Down, Private Zone, Roxbury N Overton, A. P.
Indian, and Green Gratto all
tend to race on or near the lead through fast fractions, and it's hard not to
envision a very fast pace setting the race up for a closer. Joking won the six-furlong True North
Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont on June 10th, producing a big late run to
rally and win by a neck in a 10-1 upset. He might be seven years old and a
veteran of 38 starts, but this gelding seems to be getting better with every
race this year, and he's never finished out of the exacta in eight starts at
Belmont, winning five of them. It could be tough to reel in Private Zone, who won this race by 3 ¼
lengths last year, but Private Zone will be making his first start of the
season, and if a blazing pace unfolds, I think Joking can come running to post
also like to mention A. P. Indian,
who won the seven-furlong Donald LeVine Memorial Stakes three weeks ago at
Monmouth Park. A very consistent runner with a lot of early speed, he finished
just 1 ¼ lengths behind Delta Bluesman in the Decathlon
Stakes at Monmouth two months ago, and Delta Bluesman has come back to win two
races, including the Smile Sprint Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park. If not
for a troubled trip, A. P. Indian might have beaten Delta Bluesman in the
Decathlon (he was actually placed first when Delta Bluesman was disqualified
for interference), and in the event that A. P. Indian avoids getting involved
in a speed dual, I think he has a chance to win or hit the board at 10-1.
Woodbine Race 5 on July 9th
usually focus my Unlocking Winners analysis on stakes races, but as an extra
bonus for this week's blog post, I've found an unraced filly in a maiden
special weight that I believe warrants a close look. Over the last two years,
trainer Michael Doyle has been simply fantastic with two-year-old first-time
starters at Woodbine, particularly those ridden by jockey David Moran. Just
last week, Doyle scored a 22-1 upset at Woodbine with a Moran-ridden filly
named Stormy Perfection, and on Saturday, Doyle will send out another
two-year-old debut runner named Gaelic
Rebellion in Woodbine's fifth race. Her workouts are very similar to the
ones posted by Stormy Perfection, and she meets a field that doesn't look very
deep on paper. David Moran will be aboard, and if Gaelic Rebellion goes off at
anywhere near her morning line odds of 12-1, I think that's fantastic value.
it's your turn! Who do you like on this great Saturday of racing?
To help simplify the process of choosing and keeping track of everyone's prime horse selections in our 2016 Road to the Breeders' Cup Classic Handicapping Challenge, I would like to ask everyone to please submit their prime choice each week by leaving a special comment on the official blog page for the contest. This will greatly reduce the chances of any prime horse selections getting overlooked, and will also make it simpler to double-check the standings. Thanks, and enjoy the racing!
J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.