Free Picks & Analysis — Who Do Ya Like?
Thursday, June 9, 2016
On Thursday, we’re headed back out to Belmont where we’ve got FREE PICKS & ANALYSIS from returning handicapper Greg Smethurst (@gsmethur).
Greg has provided us with his top three selections for each race, multi-race suggestions and Best Bet/Longshot plays of the day. We’re looking forward to it and wish you luck if you’re playing along.
Be sure to give Greg a follow on Twitter when you get a chance. Take it away, Greg…
Day #1 of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival is upon us! Once again NYRA has done a great job assembling a weekend full of excellent racing and entertainment. We get things started with this 9-race card featuring the $200k Belmont Coronation, $200k Astoria, and the $150k Intercontinental. I will be on-track at Belmont this Thursday and Saturday so make sure to check out my Twitter feed (@gsmethur) for live updates! Good luck and enjoy the weekend to come! Let’s get things started…
BEST BET OF THE DAY: RACE 2 #1 CORE PORTFOLIO 2/1 ML
LIVE LONGSHOT OF THE DAY: RACE 4 #5 WICKED FUN 20/1 ML
SUGGESTED $0.50 EARLY PK5 TICKET: 3,4/1/2,3/1,5,6,9/4,5,6 = $24 TOTAL BET
#4 DELAY OF GAME 2/1
#3 GENUINE HAPPINESS 3/1
#2 MALIBU PRINCESS 7/2
DELAY OF GAME comes into this race off a decent outing down at Keeneland where she finished third after suffering from a wide trip throughout. Since then she was sent up to the Greentree Training Center in Saratoga where she has been working fairly well on a nice weekly schedule. She is the lone older horse in the race so will have to carry 124 pounds, but it’s also hard to ignore the numbers when Kiaran McLaughlin and Jose Lezcano team up. She is the slight choice in what is a short but very evenly matched field. GENUINE HAPPINESS was a steal for $30k back in September of 2014 being by the great Uncle Mo. She took a huge step forward off her career debut battling all the way to the wire while jumping 22 points on the Beyer scale. It’s nice to see Jose Ortiz hop back on her again today and another improvement should put her right there on the wire. MALIBU PRINCESS adds blinkers for the first time today and will most likely show the way in a race where there is not much speed on paper. She has been working very well but the main question with her will be the extra ground she has to cover after tiring pretty badly in the debut. See her as a pace presence and then tiring late to round out the exotics.
#1 CORE PORTFOLIO 2/1
#3 CLIFTON PLEASURE 3/1
#4 BROADWAY BAY 8/1
CORE PORTFOLIO looks like a horse who has really figured things out since the calendar turned to 2016. This year he has a win and three seconds from just four starts. His last race was by far his most impressive. He sat just off the leader for pretty much the entire race, stared him down in the stretch and then blew by for about a 5-length win while earning an 83 Beyer. Look for the same setup here today as the #6 and #8 both should show speed. Just a repeat of his last effort should be enough to win this race but I’m not sure he’s done improving as a 3YO and may even top that. CLIFTON PLEASURE has been quite consistent in his last few races and almost certainly will be rolling late in here. He was caught behind a runaway winner in his last while he closed to finish a decent second. He is proven at the distance (11-4-1-4 record) and has never missed a trifecta over this course. His overall numbers are definitely good enough and put him right in the thick of things here, just not sure he is good enough to beat the top selection. BROADWAY BAY comes in off two straight wins down at Parx and as always it’s tough to gauge the kind of competition he was beating down there. On paper he looks like a deep closer and will benefit from any kind of speed duel that sets up in front of him. He will also benefit from any moisture in the track as three of his four career wins have come on off surfaces. See him making a belated run and will use him mostly underneath as a price to spice up the exotics.
#3 DOUBLEBOLT 8/5
#2 SWEETRAYOFSUNSHINE 5/2
#4 RACHEL’S TEMPER 8/1
DOUBLEBOLT makes her first start in NY after trying a route race and tiring badly late last time out. Take that race and the career debut off her resume and she looks like quite the contender in here. She cuts back to a sprint which she should love as well as getting Johnny V in the irons for the first time. It looks like she got to Belmont around the beginning of May and has been training quite well up to this race. A 14% trainer in 2016 so far, Ralph Nicks is off to a nice start at the current meet (11-2-3-4 record). SWEETRAYOFSUNSHINE has not missed the exacta in her last eight starts dating back to November of 2015. She has looked like a new animal since coming east after being claimed by David Jacobson at Santa Anita. It’s good to see Irad Ortiz Jr. back in the saddle as he certainly is very familiar with her. It looks as though there could be a decent amount of speed in this short field and she has shown the ability to rate which is a plus. RACHEL’S TEMPER has a record over the BEL main track that really pops off the page (6-3-1-2). She wasn’t beaten all that much by the second choice here in their last outing and look for Joel Rosario to give her a slightly more aggressive ride today. The last time Rosario was on board it resulted in a win over this track on 10/4/15.
#5 WICKED FUN 20/1
#9 ON LEAVE 8/5
#1 TAILOREDFORSUCCESS (IRE) 5/1
WICKED FUN has certainly seen her Beyer numbers and overall form take quite the leap since switching to turf and moving from Saratoga down to Belmont. She showed the ability to close in her 2YO season finale on 9/24 before running an even sixth in her first start off the 8-month layoff on 5/13. Look for an improvement off that last race this being her second start back and gets a good turf rider in Manny Franco on her back for this one. After what looks like a chalky start to the PK5, we will try and get a price home in this leg where she certainly fits with these at 20/1 ML. ON LEAVE has not been seen since coming in third behind Ava’s Kitten (who is now a stakes winner) in her second career start on 10/10. She has quite the turf pedigree and is most certainly not done improving this being her 3YO debut. The main question is whether she can fire her best shot off the layoff. Jose Ortiz has connected with 29% of his mounts for this barn in 2016 and this miss gets Lasix for the first time today. She is a deserving favorite and cannot be taken lightly. TAILOREDFORSUCCESS (IRE) now has the career debut behind her and adds blinkers for her second start here today. She goes out for top turf trainer Chad Brown and a routine improvement should be expected which will put her right in the thick of things. Her and the second choice are the only ones in the field with experience at this distance.
RACE 5: $200,000 BELMONT CORRONATION INVITATIONAL
#4 RETURN TO GRACE 6/1
#5 GENEROSIDADE (URU) 2/1
#6 AL KHAZAALIYA 5/1
RETURN TO GRACE looks like she could be the controlling speed at this demanding distance in a race totally lacking any pace at all. In her 2016 season to date she has run into a pair of Chad Brown trainees and showed significant improvement in her second start off the winter layoff. Think she may improve again in start number three off the bench, and being by the great English Channel she should have no problem going this far. GENEROSIDADE (URU) has some of the best turf Beyer numbers in the field and is also a graded stakes winner. She will need to bring her form to NY as all of her best stateside starts are on the west coast. Looking at the closing kick going nearly 2 miles on 4/10 at SA she should definitely get the distance today. Would have liked to see some local workouts and wouldn’t take too short of a price with her on top. AL KHAZAALIYA goes out for the ever dangerous Todd Pletcher/Johnny V combo. She is another who has shown some good closing ability going long on turf. She is not as classy as some of these fillies in here this being her first try in stakes company. She should definitely be around late to at least get a nice piece of this interesting puzzle.
SUGGESTED $0.50 LATE PK4 TICKET: 1,2,6,13/1,5,7/3,6,8 = $36 TOTAL BET
#13 DAMAGE CONTROL 6/1
#6 SO NOTED 7/2
#1 CELTIC CHAOS 12/1
DAMAGE CONTROL comes into this off probably the worst race of his life being beaten by 64-lengths. That race was around two turns on the AQU inner and that may not be where he is best suited. The one turn 7F distance here at Belmont is right up this horses alley. Note his career best race was a one turn mile over this course in June of last year (95 Beyer). He returns off a little freshening as a first time gelding and has done very well in these situations in the past. SO NOTED is the most lightly raced horse in the field with just five career starts to date. He has shown steady improvement and another step forward is likely today after getting the first race off the layoff out of the way. He has never missed the trifecta in his career and will benefit from the likely fast pace in front of him. Another horse who will likely benefit from a quick tempo will be CELTIC CHAOS. He is one of only two 3YO’s in this race and this is a tough assignment facing older horses at this point in his career. However, he did win last time facing older and has also won from this tough rail position in the past. He has been working very well since the win on 5/7 and another improvement can be expected today. The question is will it be enough to beat this tough field? See him getting a nice ground-saving trip and getting angled out to make one run in the stretch. Also have to wonder if this one might be starting to develop a love affair with Belmont Park as two of his three wins have come over this track, including his career best Beyer (77).
RACE 7: $200,000 ASTORIA
#1 OLIVE BRANCH 4/1
#5 CHINA GROVE 6/1
#7 LIGHTNING DOVE 3/1
OLIVE BRANCH looked like the most visually impressive winner of this group in their respective debuts. Every horse in this field has only one start under their belt so whoever can improve the most from start one to start two will most likely be your winner. Like the fact that she sat just in behind the two horses in front of her and then angled out at the top of the stretch and went right on by. In a race where pretty much every one of these horses has shown speed she is the one proven to be able to rate and that may be what puts her over the top. CHINA GROVE and LIGHTNING DOVE ran pretty much the exact same races in their debuts. Both won MSW’s on 4/28 at Keeneland at 4.5F in almost identical times (Lightning Dove ran 0.01 seconds faster). Will use both on the late PK4 ticket but put the longer price in the second spot here (6/1 vs. 3/1 based only on connections).
RACE 8: $150,000 INTERCONTINENTAL
#8 ZINDAYA 8/5
#9 LA BERMA (IRE) 8/1
#1 SHRINKING VIOLET 4/1
ZINDAYA enters this race as the defending champion of the Intercontinental and looks like she has a great chance at going back-to-back here today. From a Beyer standpoint she really towers over this field. Assuming she needed her last start in which she lost to Lady Shipman off the long layoff, look for an improved effort this time around. See this as a race that will favor horses with tactical speed and she certainly has that. Watch out for this one for the Chad Brown/Javier Castellano duo. LA BREMA (IRE) makes her second start in the USA here and is another who should be involved from the get go. Look for her to take a big step forward after getting acquainted with American racing while setting blistering fractions at SA on 5/5. Interesting to see Victor Espinoza take the call here at BEL. He certainly knows how to ride a horse with speed (aka American Pharoah). SHRINKING VIOLET was beaten by the top choice here last time out and see a similar scenario playing out again today. She does her best racing when just off the lead and that is most likely where she will be here from that inside post. Don’t know if she will have the ability in the stretch to get by the top two selections though.
#3 BILLY’S KITTEN 3/1
#8 VULCAN’S FORGE 8/1
#6 ROCCIA D’ORO (IRE) 7/2
BILLY’S KITTEN was quite the impressive maiden winner last time out at Keeneland. He closed well and drew off at the demanding 1.5 mile distance and should have no problem with the trip today. There also appears to be a little bit more pace for him to close into here after having to deal with very slow fractions last time. You can’t get much better than this as far as the connections and pedigree of a horse for turf racing. VULCAN’S FORGE is another lightly raced horse in here facing older foes early on in their 3YO campaign. The added distance and any pace in front of him will certainly benefit late. His Beyer numbers are on the light side but being just a 3YO he is certainly eligible to improve especially since he was a maiden two months ago as well as a recent addition to the Todd Pletcher barn. ROCCIA D’ORO (IRE) is hard to back on the win end at a short price having never won in the USA before. It’s nice to see Jose Ortiz stay on board here after a nice second at this level last time. He is a very nice horse, you just have to question his will to win.
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