Will Newspaperofrecord Rebound in the Belmont Oaks?

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

Happy Independence Day!

One of the best races on this upcoming holiday weekend is the $700,000 Belmont Oaks (gr. I) at Belmont Park, a 1 ¼-mile turf test that has attracted a high-quality field of nine three-year-old fillies.

When I first examined the field, a key question quickly came to mind: Could the presence of longshot Japanese raider #7 Jodie completely change the complexion of the Belmont Oaks and give an advantage to #2 Newspaperofrecord, a brilliant juvenile seeking to regain her winning form? As strange as that question might sound at first, I believe the answer might be the key to handicapping the race.

Newspaperofrecord needs no introduction. She was absolutely sensational as a two-year-old, winning a maiden race, the Miss Grillo Stakes (gr. II), and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. I) by a minimum of 6 ½ lengths. No one could warm her up—in her two stakes victories, she went straight to the front simply widened her advantage down the lane.

But Newspaperofrecord has been decidedly less dominant as a three-year-old. She kicked off her 2019 campaign in the Edgewood Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs, where she set the pace as usual, but came up empty in the final furlong to finish second by 3 ¾ lengths in a shocking defeat.

Perhaps Newspaperofrecord was a bit rusty off the layoff, but when she finished second again in the 1 1/8-mile Wonder Again Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont—beaten 1 ¼ lengths after setting the pace—handicappers were left to speculate whether Newspaperofrecord had failed to progress as a three-year-old.

However, I'm inclined to take a favorable view of Newspaperofrecord's performances this year. In my opinion, she just hasn't been given the right setup to excel. Newspaperofrecord's strong suit has never been a blistering turn-of-foot—to the contrary, her main strength is her excellent tactical speed, which allows her to sprint her pursuers off their feet and leave them exhausted for the run down the homestretch.

As a juvenile, Newspaperofrecord was allowed to run freely, and the result was one powerful victory after another. This year, Newspaperofrecord has been rated a bit more on the lead, in an effort to slow her down, and she wound up being headstrong early on in both the Edgewood and the Wonder Again.

From a Brisnet pace figure perspective, it's no wonder why Newspaperofrecord has been headstrong this year. Check out the Brisnet E1 and E2 pace figures that Newspaperofrecord has posted in her last four starts:

Miss Grillo Stakes: 102, 101
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf: 108, 110
Edgewood Stakes: 97. 98
Wonder Again Stakes: 82, 82

Although from a visual Newspaperofrecord appears to be employing the same front-running tactics, she's actually been setting slower paces this year, which might be to her detriment. Her performance in the Wonder Again was a great example. Newspaperofrecord wasn't tired by any means—she was running fastest at the finish and sprinted the final three furlongs in :33.86 seconds per Trakus. She just couldn't match the turn-of-foot produced by her victorious stablemate #9 Cambier Parc.

In my opinion, Newspaperofrecord would have been better-served by racing freely up front in the Wonder Again. Even opening up six or eight lengths on the field might have been preferable since tactical speed is her weapon and she isn't the type to produce a big burst of acceleration down the homestretch.

That's where the above-mentioned Japanese raider Jodie comes into play. Jodie is a clear-cut front-runner and a decent one at that, with a close third-place finish in the 1 ¼-mile Flora Stakes (Jpn-II) at Tokyo among her best efforts.

If Jodie gets aggressive sprinting to the lead, this could be exactly what Newspaperofrecord needs to work out an ideal trip. Whether Newspaperofrecord accepts the challenge and battles for the lead or settles back into second place behind quick fractions, she should be able to run within her comfort zone and place more pressure on the late runners to stay within range. Even while stretching out to 1 ¼ miles, a distance that would seemingly favor the closers, this change in the pace scenario could be all Newspaperofrecord needs to rebound.

Plus, if you like history stats, it doesn't hurt that trainer Chad Brown has won three of the first five editions of the Belmont Oaks, and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winners have likewise prevailed three times in the Belmont Oaks. Newspaperofrecord certainly fits the profile of a typical Belmont Oaks winner.

So there you have it—my case for Newspaperofrecord as the most likely winner of the Belmont Oaks. If you're a fan of this obviously talented filly, now could be the perfect time to play her on top. After being favored at 3-2 or shorter in her first five starts, Newspaperofrecord is 5-2 on the Belmont Oaks morning line and could potentially drift higher if handicappers flock to bet her recent conquerors Cambier Parc or #4 Concrete Rose, winner of the Edgewood Stakes.

For the exotics, Newspaperofrecord, Cambier Parc, and Concrete Rose comprise a formidable trio with a strong chance to sweep the trifecta. But Chad Brown's third runner #5 Cafe Americano, 2-for-2 against easier company, is also worth including underneath, and I suggest playing Jodie at 20-1 as well. Jodie didn't stay 1 ½ miles in the Japanese Oaks (Jpn-I) last time out, but her two conquerors in the Flora Stakes ran well to finish fourth and sixth in the Oaks, suggesting Jodie has the class to be competitive up to 1 ¼ miles against good company in Japan. With Newspaperofrecord looming as the only other speed horse in the Belmont Oaks field, it's possible Jodie could get brave up front and hang on for a major piece of the purse.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Belmont Oaks?


Want to test your handicapping skills against fellow Unlocking Winners readers? Check out the Unlocking Winners contests page—there's a new challenge every week!


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.

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