Belmont Park Daily Recap — Wednesday, July 11, 2018

WEATHER: 86*F, SUNNY
DIRT: FAST
GRASS: FIRM

RACE 1: Claiming $12,500, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 6 1/2 Furlongs
WINNER: 2, Curiousandcuriouser

OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: The Players Group, Chris Englehart, Manny Franco
OFF ODDS: 2.60/1
FRACTIONS: 23.77, 46.98, 1:10.30, 1:16.49

It was the dream setup for Parx shipper Curiousandcuriouser. Sitting on the rail, she pressed front-running Special Risk early on through a lackadasical first quarter, getting 1 1/2 lengths clear of favored Patriotic Endeavor. On the turn, Curiousandcuriouser drew closer to the leader, then took advantage once Special Risk wilted. Perhaps thrown off-guard by the slow early fraction, Patriotic Endeavor couldn’t come close to the winner, who bounded under the finish line well in front.

Despite similar speed figures, Curiousandcuriouser was not respected at all in the wagering compared to Patriotic Endeavor; she went off as the third choice in the field of five. Meanwhile, the Rice/Irad runner-up was dismissed at 6/5. Don’t disrespect Parx form, folks.

Race 2: Maiden Special Weight, 3yo and up, NY-breds, 6 1/2 Furlongs
WINNER: 6, Dwizard

OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Vincent Scuderi, Michelle Nevin, Manny Franco
OFF ODDS: 3.85/1
FRACTIONS: 22.54, 45.21, 1:09.63, 1:16.18

Based on the recent speed figures of Suas, it looked like he would have to fall down in order to lose this race. Out of his five opponents, three were first-time starters, and firsters have been doing terribly in older maiden races as of late. One of the others, San Juan Diego, ran a huge lifetime top last out, beating his prior best by twenty points. It wasn’t likely he could maintain that fantastic form. That left Dwizard as the most likely upsetter. He hadn’t raced since November 9, but had been working out brilliantly, including a blazing four-furlong drill back on July 3. Furthermore, he had been working at Saratoga, but despite the meet opening soon, he was shipped down to Belmont Park for this race. That suggests trainer Michelle Nevin knew he was ready to fire now and didn’t want to wait until the next race in the book at Saratoga. If you had deep enough pockets, it was worth using Dwizard in the pick 4 and pick 5 to try and knock off the big favorite.

If you tried that strategy, it worked. Franco put his mount right on the lead, while Irad Ortiz elected to wait, letting Suas sit just off the leader in second. When Ortiz asked the question of his horse, Suas couldn’t respond, and Dwizard drew off to an impressive 5 1/2 length victory. Suas finished five lengths clear of third-place Legion Storm. This kind of race goes to show the importance of digging deep in a race where there’s a seemingly obvious favorite. Sometimes, critically thinking pays off.

Race 3: Allowance Optional Claiming (n/w3x), 3yo and up, 7 Furlongs (Grass)
WINNER: 2, White Flag

OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Robert Evans, Christophe Clement, Joel Rosario
OFF ODDS: 0.40/1
FRACTIONS: 23.40, 46.29, 1:09.03, 1:20.59

For the second race in a row, there was a very heavy favorite. Once again, bettors had to ask themselves: is this favorite worth trying to beat? White Flag ran big in his first race off the layoff last out, earning a brisnet figure of 93, not far off his lifetime top of 97. The only one in the race who earned a figure that big while running on grass was Snowday, who hadn’t run since November. He was shipping in from Monmouth Park, where his workouts were solid, but not fantastic. When White Flag went off at 2/5, and Snowday was sent off at a fairly remarkable 10/1, the play may have been to play the two in an ice-cold exacta.

Snowday went out to a clear early lead, with White Flag in close pursuit to the inside. The favorite moved into the three-path on the turn, and took aim at the front-runner. In the stretch, White Flag got by Snowday, and pulled away to a sharp 3 1/2 length victory. Snowday battled with Churchill Downs shipper Vici late in the race and won the photo for second, anchoring an exacta that paid $15.80 for $2.

Look for White Flag in the Troy Handicap, aka the best ungraded stakes in the country, on August 5 at Saratoga. He proved he’s back in peak form with this score.

Race 4: Maiden Special Weight, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 6 Furlongs (Inner Grass)
WINNER: 5, Majestic Won

OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: August Dawn Farm, Jeremiah Englehart, Jose Ortiz
OFF ODDS: 3.40/1
FRACTIONS: 21.67, 44.25, 55.63, 1:07.37

Raven’s Rabbit, off an up-the-track finish at this level last out, grabbed the early lead and set a swift pace. Majestic Won rated right off it, in a perfect stalking position. On the turn, Majestic Won was asked the question, drawing alongside Raven’s Rabbit turning for him. In the stretch, Majestic Won opened up a three-length lead, and drew away to break her maiden easily. It was the product of a great trip.

Wise Strike, who hadn’t raced since last August and was running on the grass for the first time, was bet down to 7/5, almost certainly because she was trained by Chad Brown. She was three-wide on the backstretch and moved to the inside, making up decent ground late to finish clear for second. It looks like she’s got some ability on the grass.

Race 5: Claiming $32,000, 3yo, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
WINNER: 7, Congruity

OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Morris Bailey, Danny Gargan, Jose Lezcano
OFF ODDS: 2.95/1
FRACTIONS: 24.16, 48.13, 1:12.14, 1:35.63, 1:41.76

It was a very wide-open affair here. Everyone was within a few brisnet points of each other. Any edge that one horse had over the other, no matter how small, was cause for a wager. On the outside, Congruity had shown early speed in the past, opening up a clear lead against similar last out before fading. No one else in the field of six had ever been in first at the first point of call. As such, it wasn’t impossible that Congruity could get to the rail from post six and open a clear lead. Bettors made him the second choice in the field, going off at just a hair less than 3/1. Year of the Kitten, who finished third in the Rushaway Stakes earlier in the year, was sent off as the 9/5 favorite.

The best-case scenario for Congruity’s backers played out. He went right to the lead and set an even tempo. By the time they turned for home, no one had any hope of catching him, and he scored an easy two-length victory. Runner-up Steelersfanforlife didn’t run too badly, either. He broke slowly and fell far behind the slow pace. Although he was severely pace disadvantaged, he made a decent two-wide bid in the stretch and ended up getting second over ground-saving Spectacular Plum.

Race 6: Allowance (n/w1x), 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, NY-bred,1 Mile
WINNER: 8, Rachel’s Blue Moon

OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Chester and Mary Broman, Jimmy Jerkens, Manny Franco
OFF ODDS: 6.90/1
FRACTIONS: 22.68, 45.38, 1:09.91, 1:36.49

This race was totally turned on its head when Satisfy, who looked like a standout on paper, was scratched. That left eight evenly matched fillies and mares, all of whom looked flawed in some way. Pink Twist, who had shown good form before laying an egg last time out, was sent off as the tepid 5/2 favorite.

At the start, Rachel’s Blue Moon and Salty Smile both went out to contest the pace. The swift early quarter quickly did in Salty Smile, allowing Rachel’s Blue Moon to set an uncontested but swift pace going into the turn. Pink Twist and Puffery both looked as if they were gaining on the turn, but neither one could catch Rachel’s Blue Moon, who sailed under the wire well clear of the rest despite a slow final quarter. That made three wins on the afternoon for Manny Franco; all of his wins came with horses on the pace.

Race 7: Allowance (n/w1x), 3yo and up, NY-bred, 1 1/16 Miles (Inner Grass)
WINNER: 2, Honor Up

OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Saratoga Seven Racing Partners, Leana Willaford, Junior Alvarado
OFF ODDS: 3.85/1
FRACTIONS: 23.67, 47.68, 1:11.67, 1:34.64, 1:40.42

Another day, another winner on the grass for Junior Alvarado. He gave his mount a great ride here, stalking front-running Saratoga Colonel on the inside. His horse was bottled up on the inside on the turn, enabling Saratoga Colonel to sneak away to a 1 1/2 length lead as they entered the stretch. Once Honor Up got clear of his fading rivals, he had a clear target to run down, and he did so just in time, nailing Saratoga Colonel on the spot to win it by a neck.

Honor Up was making his first start on the grass here, after a string of dirt tries with mixed results. Anyone following the racing news knew this was a Bill Mott horse, running under the name of his assistant while Mott serves a suspension. Given the way Mott/Alvarado horses have been running on grass, this horse was worth a shot at a price. Favored Blurred Line, who broke his maiden last out against NY-breds, was wide throughout and finished a flat fifth.

Race 8: Allowance (n/w1x), 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
WINNER: 3, Gucci Factor

OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Castleton Lyons, Christophe Clement, Joel Rosario
OFF ODDS: 2.40/1
FRACTIONS: 22.67, 44.59, 1:07.92, 1:32.56, 1:38.87

A weirdly run race to be sure. Harlan’s Hunch went right to the lead early, but Dr. Edgar, running for the first time in ten months, pressed him hard in the early stages. The two zipped seven lengths clear of Three Perfections in the opening quarter. In turn, Three Perfections was four lengths ahead of Gucci Factor. Given the absolute breakneck pace up front, and the fact that Three Perfections hadn’t raced in more than a year, Gucci Factor appeared to be in a prime spot to take over once the front-runners collapsed on themselves.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Despite the brutal fractions, Harlan’s Hunch and Dr. Edgar were still well in front with 2 1/2 furlongs to go. Harlan’s Hunch eventually gave way, due to the extreme pressure placed on him, but Dr. Edgar was still going strong turning for home. It took a grinding, sustained rally for Gucci Factor to get by, which he did in the last stride to win by a neck. The top two were four lengths clear of Rapt, who was sixteen lengths back of the lead after a quarter of a mile, and made up decent ground late to finish third.

Given the circumstances, this was a huge race for Dr. Edgar. He was right on a brutal early pace, and obliterated his dueling partner. He didn’t win the war, but he ran about as well as possible given the circumstances. Gucci Factor, meanwhile, won his second straight race, giving the Clement/Rosario team another win on the card. The final time of this race was a mere,0.29 seconds off the track record, set by Fortitude when he won the now-defunct Belmont Breeders’ Cup Handicap in 1997. Fortitude won that race at 21/1 odds, and went 0-for-21 for the rest of his career. At least he has that rack record.

Race 9: Maiden Claiming $40,000, 3yo and up, NY-bred, 6 Furlongs
WINNER: 2, Leap to Glory

OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: GeeZee Stable, Charlton Baker, Joel Rosario
OFF ODDS: 0.65/1
FRACTIONS: 22.58, 45.52, 57.81, 1:10.71

In the field of seven, Leap to Glory was the only one not severely flawed. Four out of the seven in here were first-timers, and one of those with experience sported a gnarly 0-for-20 lifetime mark. Leap to Glory, meanwhile, was dropping for a tag for the first time, had been competitive against straight NY-bred maidens, and was getting Lasix for the first time. Some were perturbed when he went from 3/2 to 6/5 to 1/1 to 3/5 in the late stages of betting, but that was merely the market correcting itself. In all multi-race payouts, he was a heavy favorite. Getting 3/2 on him would have been the biggest miracle of all time.

There wasn’t too much drama here. Leap to Glory got an early challenge from Ragnar Lothbrok, a first-timer who was fairly well-backed (8/1), then pulled away from his rival on the turn and drew off to an easy score. Our American Star, who was the aforementioned 0-for-20 horse, picked up the pieces to finish second.

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