Free Picks & Analysis — Who Do Ya Like?
Friday, September 22, 2017
It’s the first day of autumn today, and Belmont Park has a nine-race card to commemorate the occasion. The headliner is the Bertram Bongard Stakes, for New York-bred two-year-olds. That will be the third out of nine races on the card. Race 1 will go at 1:30 PM EDT.
We’ve got FREE picks & analysis for today’s card from Jason Perry (@jmanmetsfan1)! Jason was a contributor to Scott Shapiro’s site, shapperdacapper.com, in the past, and has also written for Danonymous Racing before. He wrote about Saratoga Thursdays for the site, and we’re happy to have him as our Belmont Park guy every Friday! Give him a follow on twitter when you can.
Take it away, Jason!
It’s a lot more challenging to make a case for any of these bottom level maiden claimers than it is to make a case for one. Fastlanefrontman (1) returned from a eight month layoff and ran terribly when dropped in for a tag for the first time. He drops again today, but will need a serious form reversal. With an inside draw, and the addition of blinkers he should be used early and flash speed. Dutrow is good adding the hood winning about a third of the time with a strong ROI.
Shamrocked (5) showed improvement moving to the main track while racing on first Lasix in his second start. That day he hit the gate at the start, and I expect that having done little wrong compared to most in here he will be well supported. It bugs me this son of Trappe Shot debuted for 40K after bringing $200,000 at auction. I’m not interested in Rajiv either at a short price.
Shoot the Gap (8) sports the best speed figures, and has some early speed as well. He faded in his last start at this level when racing between early speed rivals on an off track. He could certainly show more back on the fast main track. I’m a bit turned off at 2-1, since he was 15-1 at this level last out.
Archival (9) didn’t show much on the drop for Lucas, and will now race for the first time for owner/trainer David Jacobson. It’s not often you see a horse claimed out of a race they were racing at odds over 30-1. I’d look for some improvement for DJ.
There They Go (2) could show improved closing kick turning back in distance. It’s hard to imagine him having enough to finish first under the wire without having any sprint races to gauge though.
Process of elimination leads me to consider Midnight Mike (3) for Linda Rice. His work tab looks extremely spotty, and not typical of a consistent one that I like to see. However, I’m sure Linda has a number unpublished works in him. She’s good at just about everything, and debuting maiden claimers is no exception.
R Lucky Charm (1) looks like the lone speed in this six furlong turf dash. That wasn’t the case in her last effort when she forced fast fractions, but was unable to get to the top early after getting out a bit at the break. With a rail draw anything but a clean break could be real costly. Trainer Jason Servis is really good at everything, but he’s always been outstanding with grass sprinters. I think she makes amends on Friday.
Mojo’s Queen (6) is a versatile sort, that is able to race on or just off the pace. She comes in off a win versus lesser, and would need to further improve to win back. It is encouraging though she is putting consecutive races together without showing a layoff line. She just might be a fragile sort that’s required recovery time in the past, and could be going well right now.
Avery Maeve (10) has been solid in her grass sprints, but underwhelmed last out versus similar company and some common rivals she faces again. She did have some trouble that day in her defense. She likes to force the pace a bit, and last out the pace was hot. She chased quick fractions racing wide for most of the race, as well as having to steady. The switch to Rosario is significant. Cannizzo often means business when he uses either Joel Rosario or Irad Ortiz.
Tarquinia (8) looked like a shrewd claim for Mike Maker coming off a huge win over a wet track. She didn’t show much in her first turf try though. Maker will give her another try on grass, but she may be the damaged goods you’d expect from a $270,000 Speightstown filly racing for a $40,000 tag in just her first two starts. Former trainer Robert Ribaudo handles a number of horses for owner Mark Keller, who seems to have pretty deep pockets. That makes the debut unprotected against maiden claimers even more disturbing. Demand better value than the listed 5-2 odds.
May Flowers (3) wins far too infrequently for my taste. She could come with her late run for a small share, but I don’t give her much of a chance to win despite the 7-2 ML odds. Her last second place finish came after a perfect trip where she picked off tired rivals, but was never a win threat.
The lightly raced Kantharos mare Mom’s a Cougar (9) is an interesting option. She’s raced only four times, and shows a year + layoff on two occasions. This will be her first start on the grass, and I really like her turf sprint pedigree. Her half sibling Mom’s on Strike is a nice filly than recently ran second in the Pebbles Stakes on turf then returned to finish second to the improved Chad Brown filly Ack Naughty. Her other sibling to race won four of twelve starts. She could be overlooked in the wagering.
Battle Station (4) was victorious first out for Wesley Ward at 5.5 furlongs on the turf. Now he will switch to the main track while being asked to get seven furlongs. He’s actually more well bred for the main track, but that aside it still seems like a tall task. He should fire out and make the lead. How he handles conventional dirt and extra ground is the question.
What a Catch (5) ran into a good looking Jeremiah Englehart trainee in the Funny Cide. He really brought the race to the eventual winner dueling as they hit the top of the stretch. So I don’t think the 6.5 furlongs was the reason he tired, as much as it was a consequence of circumstance.
He was worn down for second place by the fresh Inalienable Rights (3) who had plenty of help up front to make an impact late. Yes he raced wide that day, and seven furlongs seems like it will be right up his ally, but I believe John Velazquez atop What a Catch (5) will track the pace setter this time, and just let that rival tire in front of him.
Ultimateenticement (1) impressed me showing a different dimension in his third career start. In retrospect that victory came in slow time however. Two back he ran pretty well when defeated by a nice looking Chad Brown first time starter, but I still think the runners coming out of the Funny Cide look much stronger on paper.
Alien Invasion (2) seems overmatched. I have this one tabbed for when he gets on grass where Mike Maker originally had him scheduled to run before his debut got washed off the turf.
I still don’t know what happened with Purely Lucky (8) when it looked like she had the race won, but appeared to do precisely what the racing form noted when she “lost focus and waited on foes.” I expected we would see first time blinkers after that, but Brad Cox did not make the change. That tells me he thinks she will be fine.
Big Expense (12) exits the same race finishing third while encountering trouble. This is a bad post position at this distance, particularly since she seems to want to be forwardly placed. Trainer Dominick Schettino has a poor record with juvenile runners, so I’m inclined to let this one beat me.
Conversely, with a rail draw Carrera Cat (1) figures to land a good spot on or just off the lead stretching out. She had a useful debut beaten about two lengths by an impressive Todd Pletcher that returned to win right back. She was pretty well supported for a low profile barn in a Saratoga maiden event. I also think she is going to be greater than the 4-1 morning line.
Mammie’s Treasure (7) races first out for Christophe Clement and his strong owner Patricia Generazio. Clement is capable winning a route on grass at first asking. Treasure Beach is off to a really hot start as a freshman sire, and it would be little surprise to me if this filly can run some. It’s obviously encouraging to see Irad take the call.
There is definitely room for improvement for Single Mission (2). She was cold on the board in her debut, but it’s not easy to win first out routing, so perhaps Michael Stidham just wanted this gal to get her feet wet. She didn’t run badly either after being last away and racing wide. She’s a pretty well bred filly out of a mare that was twice a GIII winner on grass, and was GII placed. Her lone sibling to race broke her maiden in her third start at a mile on the grass, and she just finished second in an allowance event at Saratoga a little over a month ago. There is nice value here.
I love the breeding of Tizengagingly Smart (1) She’s out of a Smart Strike mare that won two of four starts while finishing second once. Her actively racing full sister, Tizelle, has demonstrated some skills on the New York circuit. Unfortunately she is marooned on the far outside.
Very Fashionable (10) will stretch out in distance and get back on grass racing for Linda Rice for the first time. I always like it when horses get back on the surface they began their career, particularly if they ran well on it. Linda Rice has taken on a number of horses formerly trained by the retired Michael Hushion for owner Barry Schwartz. The drop in class so suddenly would normally bug me, but Rice wins at a high rate, probably from racing horses where they belong. Furthermore Barry Schwartz is very wealthy at this point and is in the game to get his picture taken. I look for her to be aggressively ridden by Jose Lezcano who rides well for Rice. I’ve noticed Linda likes to use him with speed horses.
Hopefully Dynamic War (7) will not turn this into a speed duel, because three back she demonstrated an ability to rate. She drops back to an appropriate level against a field that all but one opponent has just one career victory.
That filly, Rimanesmpreforte (1) has been battling tougher when usually compromised by a slow pace. She may get a more fair shake today. In her start two back facing similar she lunged at the start and raced wide. She’s reunited with Joel Rosario on Friday. She should factor big barring a scratch of one of the speed horses.
Questeg (8) was claimed two back out of a decent second place finish against horses of similar caliber she tackles on Friday. Jacobson spotted her against better off the claim, and she didn’t have the cleanest of races. However, her lone win came in a wash-off over a sloppy course, and she is 0-8 lifetime on turf. She probably won’t offer a lot of value either. I see her a fringe player.
Feed Me Carats (5) gets a little class relief and returns to turf. As good as this barn is they struggle with grass runners. Indeed, Jeremiah Englehart is 0-20 going dirt to turf, and his 13% win rate on grass is half of his overall win rate of 26%.
There isn’t much speed signed on for the seven furlong allowance race on the grass in race 6. Tiznillusion (8) seemingly has the quickest early foot. She primarily races at 5.5 and 6 furlongs, so I’m really circumspect about her chances of staying this distance if pressured at all.
Stormy’s Song (9) will likely keep her honest. There are plenty of angles that suggest this filly is worth a look. After an encouraging debut she’s returned to run three times without showing any further improvement. The problem is she wants to force the pace, but has been unable to do so after a poor start two back, and then spinning her wheels a bit last out in the slop. She’s never tried the grass, but that’s logical since her unraced mother is out of a millionaire that had big success on conventional dirt and most notably won the GI Test at Saratoga. However, I like her grass breeding out of Unbridled’s Song and a Stormy Atlantic mare. The extra furlong should help, giving her more time to track. The bullet work on the Belmont grass 9/17 certainly catches the eye.
Ellery Lane (6) will probably attract attention second off the long layoff for Chad Brown because conventional wisdom would assume a horse would improve in a second race after being away for a long time. However, it should be noted that Brown has a poor ROI of only $0.91 second off layoffs off six months or longer. That makes sense to me, after all Brown doesn’t “give a horse a race” to get fit. He brings everything fit and ready.
That’s why I would look for stable mate Beat the Benchmark (2) to be ready to go in her first start since October of last year for Chad’s most prolific owners. After winning at first asking, she ran a decent third in the GI Natalia in Canada, then finished second in an overnight stakes race at Belmont after making a middle move into a slow pace. This seven furlong distance looks ideal for her breeding. She is also a half sibling to nine time winner Abraham ($627K) as well as a pair of first out winners from four siblings to race. Plenty of precocity here.
There is no reason Quality Time (1) cannot move forward in her second state side start. Christophe Clement wins at a pretty high rate second off long layoffs, and Joel Rosario sees fit to ride. Her first start in North America was going 5.5 furlongs, and she had no experience running that short. Seven furlongs seems considerably more ideal. Battlement (12) also will likely appreciate more ground. But I’m starting to wonder how “dressed up” her second place finish over a yielding course was. Obviously Mott+Irad+Juddmonte merits respect, but in this case she may just get too much of it, win or lose.
The race seven allowance/optional claimer is an interesting event. There appears to be plenty of early speed and some suspect closers. Program pick Jewel Can Disco (6) ran a hole in the wind two back over this course, finally putting things together. Then in his prior start he was afforded an easy lead, drifted wide in the stretch, then refocused and ran down next out winner Heavy Meddle. For many reasons I’m not interested. He was surprisingly cold on the board in that seemingly game victory, but he won’t be on the lead on Friday, unless he is willing to work very hard to get there. Although he defeated a next out winner, Heavy Meddle finally beat non winners of one other than, and there are some real pro’s in this affair.
Rectify (7) is a far more logical front runner that is returning to the level of his win two back. He’s a six time winner with four seconds from twenty tries. Forget about the last in a loaded state bred allowance event. Those were far better foes, and he never had a chance after falling back un-customarily early on. He has every right to rebound and wire this group, but from a betting perspective this is a nice opportunity to focus on other runners at better prices.
Sudden Surprise (5) races first off the claim for Brad Cox, which is almost always a great sign. In this case I’m thinking it’s not so significant. He was claimed away from Todd Pletcher, so he’s probably achieved the most he’s capable of at this point. On paper he will face significant early pressure while tackling significantly better rivals. A third straight win would stun me.
Runaway Lute (1) started his career with a pair of wins, but has not found the winners’ circle since. Two back he chased Rectify (7) around the track finishing second at over 30-1. His 5-1 program odds seem borderline absurd. Crazier things have happened but he should be closer to 15-1.
Giantinthemoonlight (11) outran his odds when last seen, but draws outside and should be hindered by other speed to his inside.
Mr. Buff (2) was solid in his most recent two races routing this past spring. He’s been away for some time though, and this has the feel of a prep. I don’t think he will be sharp enough off the bench to factor big at this distance. So let’s consider those price play options after discrediting most of the aforementioned.
I’ve always thought Samadi Sky (3) had some talent. He continues to hurt himself at the start, and isn’t a true closer. If able to settle down early he could surprise.
I can’t make a case for a four for forty-three runner that is winless in two years, but don’t leave West Hills Giant (4) out of your exotics. He turns back in distance first off the re-claim for Diodoro. There may be some hidden value with Diodoro assistant Rob Atras listed as the trainer of record. I love his chances to hit the board at a square price. He had no business routing let alone turfing most recently. He’s always been a bit of a “Cherry picker” finishing second or third in almost half his career starts. I plan on keying him underneath.
Proper Freud (10) runs really well fresh with two wins and a second off the layoff. He’s run out of conditions and is logically placed by David Jacobson. He is worth a stab on the back end.
The one I really want at a huge price, that could conceivably get all the money is So Noted (9). This Read the Footnotes gelding had a solid 2015 and 2016 campaign, but hasn’t looked the same in 2017. But, that’s because he hasn’t kept the same company. After expiring some New York State bred conditions he returned from the layoff squaring off against open company allowance rivals. That paired him against horses like Coal Front three back and Takaful two back. Those guys have a serious class edge. Then when last seen in a spot like this he was wide racing against soft fractions. He’s dropped in for a tag for obvious reasons, but looks really appealing in exotics.
I’m interested in two horses in the race eight optional claimer sprint on the turf, and both are trained by Christophe Clement. Program pick Portmagee (3) loves this Belmont course, and I’m willing to throw a line through her last start at Suffolk where she had a bad start. She looks the best speed on paper, and that’s really dangerous in a spot like this. She will likely wire this field unless Miss Hollywood (4) keeps her honest. That’s a possibility even though she’s never raced on grass. Racing off a long layoff it’s conceivable this filly will be used early. I don’t think she’s quick enough though and believe this is clearly the race to win or lose for Portmagee (3).
I also like Stormy Victoria (6). She’s been facing better without ever seeming to get a favorable pace scenario. Her pair of seven furlong races are really good, and she could win this race despite a unfriendly early fractions. Joel Rosario is off to a good start at Belmont and he rides well for Clement.
Ancient Secret (5) is a little meh….she will be over bet off her troubled running line in her most recent start. She could win for obvious reasons, but these Chad Brown runners don’t improve over time. Bottom line, we haven’t seen much in over a year now.
All In Fun (8) is route speed turning back to a sprint distance. I typically don’t like that move, especially when they are 5-2 ML like this daughter of Tapit is. She has a serious class edge, but six furlongs seems awfully short to me. I see a lot of plod in this mare, and that doesn’t equate to successful sprinting.
I won’t elaborate in the finale, it’s simply a horrible race. New Canaan (6) is supposed to win turning back in distance for Linda Rice. In both career starts she had big time trouble. This is a horrible field that should help pad Linda’s stats.
Cetara (9) finished second at this level at a shorter distance. At least she’s shown a signs of life.
Ava Rae (10) tackled better in her only start, and trainer David Donk is good with applicable stats.
The Two Nancy’s (2) showed dramatic improvement on grass for Contessa. She got bumped at the break, then forced a fast pace, and now stretches out to seven furlongs. This is her best post draw to date and she will be ridden by a good gate jock. Look for her to go a LONG way just off the lead. I can’t take trainer Assaf Rosen seriously. You can have Passing Reminder (4) with your own money at anywhere close to 5-1.
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