Thursday Stakes Selections:
Wonder Again Stakes (Race 3):
- 4 – Fifty Five
- Last time out was her first race for Chad Brown and she ran well running very wide in that Aqueduct stakes. She beat La Coronel two back in the Florida Oaks, a horse that has been toying with many of the other horses in this field. Probably won’t get anything near the 6/1 ML on her, but she should return to her winning ways against this field.
- 1 – Coasted
- Just didn’t take to Keeneland well last time out; returns to New York and gets Jose Lezcano back. She seems to just be getting better as the races get longer and should love going 9 furlongs. I’ll giver her a chance here.
- 7 – Dream Dancing
- Ran right with stablemate La Coronel late last time out in the Edgewood. Can’t see her regressing here, though the turns at Belmont Park may be her undoing.
Astoria Stakes (Race 5):
- 3 – Sugar Queen
- Won the Astoria Trial on 5/3 in going away style, even after a bobbled start. This daughter of Gemologist for Todd Pletcher looks ready to pounce again here.
- 5 – Zodacious
- This daughter of Bodemeister has been improving in her two races, and was very strong last time out at Churchill Downs, winning in a duel. She will be happy to stretch out the extra furlong for Wesley Ward.
- 2 – I Still Miss You
- I really like her win first out as she showed grit and determination stalking early and pulling away. She could pull that again, and looks like one that could easily get away late.
Intercontinental Stakes (Race 8):
- 9 – Take These Chains
- 7 furlong turf sprints is such a specialists distance that I look for horses that have excelled at the distance. Take These Chains won easily last time out over course and distance for Chad Brown. Improving and looks to have one of the best turns of foot in the field.
- 8 – Portmagee
- Going to be the early speed, Portmagee may be able to wire the field if she can get out in front early. I’ll put something on this horse, stepping into Graded company for the first time.
- 5 – Mississippi Delta
- This mare is dropping from much better against here and looks to be the best in the field. Can’t not pick her hear, as class always rises to the top.
Friday Stakes Selections:
Tremont Stakes (Race 5):
- 5 – Direct Dial
- A decisive winner first out at Keeneland; very impressive in debut and this Texas-bred looks to continue his winning ways here. Should get the early lead.
- 7 – Salmanazar
- Very professional in debut. I love betting Shackleford horses going short, and this will be another one I will bet. Looks to have his sire’s brilliant stride.
- 1 – He Hate Me
- I hope this horse doesn’t hate me, as I think he will move up well in his second start. While going against tougher, I think we will appreciated the extra furlong and wider turns.
True North Stakes (Race 8):
- 8 – Whitmore
- Sorry, Mind Your Biscuits, but I think Whitmore is the best dirt sprinter in the nation. Faces probably his toughest test here, but after finishing last in the 2016 Kentucky Derby, he hasn’t looked back since switching to the sprint.
- 4 – Stallwalkin’ Dude
- Needed his last race after returning to Dubai and won it anyway. Should improve here, if the Dubai Bounce doesn’t skip a race on him.
- 3 – Noholdingback Bear
- He just knows how to grab a piece of the money each time he rides. Ran well off of the layoff in the Diablo at Belmont in early May and should be in good condition for this one.
New York Stakes (Race 9):
- 6 – Sea Calisi
- Fought hard with Suffused last time out as they ran clear of everyone else in the Sheepshead Bay, Sea Calisi impressed off of the layoff. While she does her best running on softer ground, she gets Florent Geroux and a very favorable post. This will be a tough asking, but I think she is ready for this.
- 5 – Hawksmoor
- Could this be Hawksmoor’s coming out party in the US, I think it could be! This well bred winner of the German 1000 Guineas wired the field in the Beaugay, winning over class horses in Dacita, Time and Motion, and Rainha Da Bateria. She steps up but if she can break sharp, watch out!
- 8 – Dacita
- Winner of last year’s New York, Dacita loves Belmont and should thrive on the return to firm turf. If she can be close to the pace by mid-way, her closing kick may be enough to take home the prize a second straight year.
Belmont Gold Cup Invitational Stakes (Race 10):
- 5 – Clondaw Warrior
- Nearly the winner of the American St Leger in his one trip to the States, losing to American marathoner, Da Big Hoss, Clondaw Warrior is coming in fresh and has been shown to thrive off of long layoffs, such as in his 2015 Ascot Stakes win and 2016 Queen Alexandra Stakes third.
- 2 – Renown
- Was not expecting to see a horse coming from Great Meadow running in the Belmont Festival, but Elizabeth Voss brings this Juddmonte bred horse in after winning the 1 1/2 mi Secretariat while carrying 155 pounds. This Grade Three winner loves to run long and while he has been shown to falter late in marathons, his last race should prove enough of a freshening to play him.
- 10 – Red Cardinal
- This German import has been running strong in his last two and just looks to be in form. Won at this distance last time out and is a huge threat to win here.
Bed O’Roses Invitational Stakes (Race 11):
- 9 – By The Moon
- Getting better and better, By The Moon had a great freshening last time out in the Vagrancy, albeit on a sloppy track; she easily won there and looks in form here. A very good F&M sprinter, she should run away here at her home track.
- 4 – Quezon
- A huge fan of Belmont Park; may be a step below this class but she loves Belmont Park and has been running strong. Been a while since she last ran on a fast track, however.
- 5 – Lightstream
- Had too tough a test in the La Brea and didn’t take to the track in the Humana Distaff, Lightstream finally gets a break and should return to form here. Won the Raven Run in the fall at Keeneland in come from behind fashion and has a run at Belmont last year in the Mother Goose. Very live shot here.
Saturday Stakes Selections:
Easy Goer Stakes (Race 2):
- 7 – West Coast
- This is a very weak field in the Easy Goer, and West Coast might be the best of the bunch. Mike Smith is aboard for Bob Baffert, and they are lights out when they ship outside of California. West Coast has won at the distance and finished second by a head to Senior Investment in the Lexington. Comes in with experience and some class.
- 8 – You’re To Blame
- Was way too wide in the Pat Day Mile, but made up a huge amount of ground nonetheless. Should appreciate the step up in distance and the one turn. Even if he gets caught wide again, he it won’t be a killer here at Belmont.
- 1 – Sonic Mule
- Finally getting a drop in class and a very easy spot, this Pletcher trainee will hope to grab the lead and take them home. Definitely the lone leader – could take this field gate to wire.
Brooklyn Invitational Stakes (Race 3):
- 5 – Tu Brutus
- Just romping in the Flat Out last time out, Tu Brutus loves the long distances on dirt. Very hard to not go with him, even on the step up in class.
- 7 – War Story
- He is bound to win a big race eventually, and this may be the day. He is an odd horse, but does love going long; this might be his spot to close in and take a big one. And he has been improving, nearly stealing the Charles Town Classic.
- 1 – Governor Malibu
- One of only two horses that have gone 1 1/2 mi, Governor Malibu ran very well in the Belmont Stakes last year from this same post, hitting a lot of trouble late that may have cost him a spot in the money. If he runs anything like he did a year ago, he has a big chance here.
Acorn Stakes (Race 4):
- 2 – Florida Fabulous
- My longshot play of the day, Florida Fabulous showed great speed in her mile wins at Gulfstream Park, but failed in the Eight Belles after a bumped start, having no chance of winning the race after not getting the lead. If she breaks clean, she could be a length in front of this field early, and speed kills in the Acorn.
- 1 – Union Strike
- The horse right to her inside ran the best race in the Acorn, and lost on a very tough bob. I’m very keen to play her here; hoping for a better trip.
- 3 – Abel Tasman
- The time everyone doubted her, she ended up pulling away clear in the Kentucky Oaks. She looks to be the second best 3yo filly in the nation and Baffert should have her primed or another great performance here. My only resistance is that I think she is much better around 2 turns.
Ogden Phipps Stakes (Race 5):
- 5 – Songbird
- The runner up in last year’s Breeders Cup Distaff returns to the races and finds herself in a perfect spot. Even if she needs a race, I think she will be fit enough to win here easily.
- 7 – Carina Mia
- Though she has regressed a bit in her last few starts, I’ll giver her the pass and say that she needed her last race. Carina Mia is best at the one turn mile, and the extra sixteenth shouldn’t hurt her too much. Not a fan of the wide draw, but I think she can over come that to finish second to Songbird.
- 2 – Paid Up Subscriber
- The veteran distaffer of the field, she seems a step above a lot of the filler of this race. I’ll pick her in third just on class alone.
Jaipur Invitational Stakes (Race 6):
- 3 – Pure Sensation
- Probably the best turf sprinter on the East Coast, Pure Sensation won this race last year by a slim neck and looks to repeat. Five furlongs was just too short for him last out and should like the step back up to six.
- 1 – Loose On The Town
- A quick sprinter early, Loose On The Town has changed since moving to the turf. Although stepping up in class for Brian Lynch, this horse has a lot of early speed and looks to fit well here. Going to be his tough in his first test, but could run well.
- 7 – Hogy
- Beating Green Mask at Fair Grounds two back and running well but hung late in the Shakertown, Hogy has a good style to win here. Florent Geroux is tough on the turf and this horse seems to be improving nicely. I’ll throw him in at a price.
Woody Stephens Stakes (Race 7):
- 8 – American Anthem
- Returning to a sprint may have been the best thing that Baffert did with this 3yo. Mike Smith stays aboard hoping to pilot this one home again. I was very impressed with his win in the Laz Barrera and could see him pulling of another impressive win here.
- 3 – Recruiting Ready
- Win, after win, after win, Recruiting Ready has been improving greatly and is on a three race win streak. Stepping up to a grade two for the first time on the year, Recruiting Ready looks to have improved just as much as the two top class 3yos he nearly beat last year, Classic Empire and Gunnevera.
- 2 – Classic Rock
- Kathy Ritvo decides to place her horse here after winning the restricted Roar Stakes last time out at Gulfstream Park, even though the Ocala Heat Handicap is this weekend (the next progression in the stakes at GP). She must think highly of this son of Maclean’s Music to step him up here. He has been training at Belmont better than ever and seems to relish Big Sandy. I’ll play him here at a price.
Just A Game Stakes (Race 8):
- 2 – Roca Roja
- Winner of the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, which has proved to be a decisive prep for the Just A Game in recent years, Roca Roja has developed nicely since coming to the Chad Brown barn. Since getting Florent Geroux, she seems to be coming into really great form, and just looks like a different horse. This is her race to lose.
- 7 – Antonoe
- The other major contender in here for Chad Brown is to the outside in Antonoe. A winner last time out in her first start in the US, Antonoe has a lightning quick turn of foot and seems to relish the firm turf. Juddmonte sends horses to Chad Brown to win Grade Ones and this could be hers to steal.
- 5 – Celestine
- Last year’s winner looks to grab another and is back to her winning ways, taking the two races she prepped in last year for this spot. This year’s edition seems to be easier than what she won against last year and she looks to be back in form just at the right time.
Metropolitan Handicap (Race 9):
- 8 – Tom’s Ready
- This may be the best betting race of the afternoon, with a lot of horses with questions. Not sure if Mor Spirit is up to the test and hard to say if Sharp Azteca will bounce or not after trip to Dubai. Tom’s Ready is eligible to improve in his second start of the year, and ran a very good third in the Churchill Downs last time out. He loved Belmont last year in the Woody Stephens and could love it again here. Class hike is a question, but in a field of questions, he could be the answer.
- 2 – Rally Cry
- Getting John Velazquez back aboard, Rally Cry runs here for Pletcher after an impressive win last time out. He ran a race that puts him right in contention here and relishes the Belmont track. He gets to cut back to a mile, which might be good, though stepping up in class might be tough. He has a lot of upside to play him here.
- 9 – Mor Spirit
- Though I still question who he faced, Mor Spirit has been nothing but class in his last two starts, winning the Essex Handicap and Steve Sexton Mile. He steps back into Grade One company for the first time since the Malibu, and faces a competitive field for the first time since his second in the San Antonio. He looks good on paper and has a lot of talent, but where does he stack up in this field?
Manhattan Stakes (Race 10):
- 1 – Beach Patrol
- Beat by a horse that just loves Churchill Downs last time out in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, Beach Patrol comes right back in good condition, running well in his last workout. He’s had a case of seconditus, finishing 2nd in his last four, but looks ready to break the streak here. Out of all the horses coming into this race, he looks the best in form.
- 6 – Potemkin
- The unknown quantity coming over, the German horse for Andreas Wohler is dangerous even after defeat in his seasonal debut at Saint Cloud to a very good Cloth of Stars. He has been an easy winner at the distance throughout his career and had shown a lot of improvement in 2016. I look for him to bounce back and run very well here.
- 4 – Time Test
- Second by a nose in the Fort Marcy, Time Test is a top horse in England and comes over for Chad Brown in a good spot. After winning the Brigadier Gerard and York stakes last year, and third in the Coral-Eclipse, Time Test came over to Brown’s barn and trained well, leading to a 2nd place finish last time out. Castellano jumps aboard, which is a good sign that Brown sees a lot in him. I’ll play him here.
Belmont Stakes (Race 11):
- 9 – Meantime
- I really can’t tell you who I love in this year’s Belmont Stakes. There isn’t a stand out horse, or a horse that will relish the distance, or a horse that fits. It is a mix of twelve horses and each one of them has a huge chance to win. I am putting Meantime on top, but only slightly. This Brian Lynch trainee matches one of my favorite Belmont Stakes angles, 1st or 2nd on a sloppy track in a route distance sometime during the career, especially as a 3yo; he has a 2nd last time out in the Peter Pan, and a win in a romp on a muddy track two back. Meantime ran well against Timeline, just getting passed late last time out. Mike Smith jumps aboard this son of Shackleford, and while stamina is question, he fits the bill well for a win in the Belmont Stakes.
- 3 – Gormley
- While I wasn’t a big fan of him going into the Derby, he fits the bill of a Belmont Stakes winner on many ballots. He is a close second choice for me, and that is only because I am not sure of his will to win. His 9th in the Derby was much better than it seems, as he stayed in contention throughout before getting bumped and tiring. He should step up in this easier test and his pedigree suggests that he will love this distance.
- 5 – Hollywood Handsome
- If I was going for a longshot here, it would be with Flo and Hollywood Handsome for the upset minded trainer Dallas Steward. Fitting the sloppy track angle, Hollywood Handsome finally got his second win, last time out with Florent Geroux. He is versatile and can sit close to the lead or far back, the former what I predict he will do on Saturday. He may not have the class of the rest of the field, but he has the pedigree to go the 1 1/2 mi distance and looks the part.