“Saturday in the park. I think it was the 4th of July.”
As we take time to remember the birth of the nation this weekend with our July 4 festivities, we’ll also be treated to some quality racing action by virtue of the holiday having landed on a Saturday. What better way to celebrate the triumph of our colonial forces over tyrannical British rule, or the victory won at Gettysburg by Federal forces over Lee’s infamous Army of Northern Virginia than by taking in some racing action while you sit back and relax in your favorite chair? No doubt some fireworks will be in store later in the evening as dusk approaches. Might we also witness some fireworks on the race track earlier in the day? We’ll take a look at some of the major action going on at Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Hollywood Park.
We’ll kick things off in Belmont by looking at the late Pick 4, which begins with the 8th race of the afternoon. We managed to nail a Pick 4 last week at Belmont, as the Beatles might say “with a little help from our friends.” We’ll see if this week can bear similar results.
Belmont Race 8 – The Dwyer (G2) – 1 1/16 Miles (4:44 ET)
- #1 Warrior’s Reward (9/5*)
- #5 American Dance (8/1)
- #2 Convocation (5/1)
Only 7 runners are entered for the 92nd running of The Dwyer, but it’s a very interesting race nonetheless. Most of the attention will rightly be focused on morning line favorite, Warrior’s Reward. The son of white-hot sire Medaglia d’Oro just missed in the Northern Dancer on 6/13 and has turned in a sharp bullet workout on 6/29 while looking to make amends in the ever crucial 3rd start of his current form cycle. He’s the one you’ve got to beat to score.
Looking over the rest of the field, #5 American Dance makes quite a bit of sense to me at very generous odds of 8/1. The son of A.P. Indy has knocked heads with the likes of Dunkirk, Warrior’s Reward, Old Fashioned, and Imperial Council in his young career – fairly good company if you ask me. He was no match for the favorite last February when the running line denotes that he “faltered.” If you draw a line through that race, the Todd Pletcher trainee seems to be improving nicely. At 8/1 it won’t take much for him to be worth of a spot play, and if nothing else he’s a nice horse to consider using underneath in the exotics.
Convocation is another improving runner, this time a son of Pulpit, who took 4 tries to break his maiden. Trainer James Jerkens seems to have him coming into form nicely and he reunites with jockey Alan Garcia, who rode him in his debut. It is interesting to note that he was steadied and “boxed in” when losing to Top It two races a back, a horse that was soundly defeated by another of today’s rivals (#4 Masala). I’m assuming that if not for that trip trouble, Convocation would’ve defeated Top It as well. Just a hunch.
Obviously then, I’m taking a stand against the 2nd choice on the line, #6 Just Ben (2/1) for all but the bottom of exotic wagers. My thinking is that being a Speightstown colt, he’s probably better suited for the shorter sprint distances that he’s run effectively at thus far. I’m not sure a mile and a sixteenth is his game.
Belmont Race 9 – The Prioress (G1) – 6 Furlongs (5:16 ET)
- #6 Gabby’s Golden Gal (7/2)
- #1 Cat Moves/ #1A Light Green (3/1)
- #8 On the Menu (6/1)
We move into Grade 1 territory for the 62nd running of The Prioress. This is a very interesting 3-year-old filly race. One wonders how small this field might’ve turned out if Rachel Alexandra had decided to run here instead of the Mother Goose? Lucky for these guys, there is no Rachel today. That being said, they will have their own talented daughter of Medaglia d”Oro to deal with in #6 Gabby’s Golden Gal. You might remember Gabby from Belmont Stakes day this year, as she got a bit overheated following her dominating victory in the Acorn. She looked like an absolute beast that day, and has been training like an absolute beast ever since (two bullet workouts on 6/20 and 6/28). Looking over the competition arrayed against her today, she might well have to be a beast to prevail in the Prioress. I say this because she’s cutting back drastically to the 6 furlong distance, which might not be her best game. Additionally, she seems a speedy type, and this race is not without others who will have designs on the lead in the early going. I’d spread a bit here in the Pick 4 is all I’m saying.
The coupled entry of #1 Cat Moves and #1 Light Green forms an interesting duo for owner Edward Evans and trainers Tony Dutrow (Cat Moves) and Todd Pletcher (Light Green). Light Green is the faster of the two and the most likely to be involved in the pace setup that should also involve Gabby’s Golden Gal and Selva. Cat Moves is an improving but lightly raced daughter of Tale of the Cat who is not without some speed of her own. It’ll be interesting to see how this race sets up for each of them.
Don’t forget about trainer Larry Jones, who is sitting in a sneaky position on the outside with #8 On the Menu. This will obviously be a step up in class for the daughter of Canadian Frontier, but the race may come together nicely for her if she can secure a good stalking position just behind the expected pace. I think this horse has a better shot of hitting the board than others with lower odds on the morning line, including #7 Selva (5/1) and #3 Heart Ashley (4/1), who was all out despite an easy lead to hold off the late charging Cinderella’s Wish in the Miss Preakness back in May. I remember Heart Ashley being a very fine looking filly though, so I will be checking her out in the post parade to try and make a final evaluation.
Belmont Race 10 – The Suburban Handicap (G2) – 1 1/4 Miles (5:49 ET)
- #3 It’s a Bird (2/1*)
- #4 Asiatic Boy (5/2)
- #1 Finallymadeit (20/1)
We drop back down to the Grade 2 level and stretch back out to a route of ground for the 123rd running of the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap. This race came up very strong on paper and is perhaps the most difficult to separate of the entire Pick 4 sequence. I wound up on the chalk, #3 It’s a Bird, for top honors nonetheless. Back to back 107 Beyer figures and 3 victories in your last 4 races tends to make a runner stick out. Having proven victories at distances ranging from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/2 miles, I’m not worried about the distance of The Suburban. He should be in a great spot to receive a strong stalking trip and then look to make his move as the field enters the turn.
Asiatic Boy is the x-factor of the race, as he returns on short rest from his battle with Einstein for Place honors behind Macho Again in the Stephen Foster (G1) on 6/13. He’s probably best known as the horse that ran 2nd to Curlin in the 2008 Dubai World Cup. He wasn’t able to repeat that effort when dusted by Well Armed in the 2009 edition, but then bounced back with a big effort in the Stephen Foster. I’m not sure where to rank this horse as he seems to be a hit or miss type. I’ll give him a shot like It’s a Bird to sit a nice stalking trip as his past performance lines are filled with comments that begin “tracked” or “rated.”
A longshot that really intrigues me here is #1 Finallymadeit. It’s rather hard to believe that we can get anything like 20/1 on a horse like this. He’s won 16 races lifetime, including 2 this year, for a grand total of over $900,000 in earnings. Perhaps more impressively, if you like It’s a Bird in this race, do note that Finallymadeit defeated him last November. He’s probably running into an unfavorable pace setup, as #10 Samhoon and #8 Cool Coal Man figure to be looking for the lead early on as well, but certainly he’s worth factoring into the exotics at least at such odds.
I also wouldn’t totally sleep on #2 Dry Martini as well. He’s a notch below the others, but might be the one that benefits the most from the pace setup.
In the final leg of the Pick 4 (Race 11 – a $44k Maiden Special Weight), I think you can reduce the field down to #1 Wild Entry, #1A Grassy, and #7 Tawaared.
Belmont Late Pick 4 Ticket ($48)
1,5/ 1,6,8/ 1,2,3,4/ 1,7
Monmouth Park – Race 10 – The United Nations (G1) – 1 3/8 Miles – Turf (5:20 ET)
- #7 Presious Passion (9/2)
- #1 Banrock (6/1)
- #5 Court Vision (3/1)
We move to Monmouth Park in New Jersey for their feature race of the afternoon, the 56th running of the United Nations (G1) going 1 3/8 miles over the turf course. Very difficult race to decipher. I thought the pace setup might favor Presious Passion getting to the lead, and if so he may be very difficult to take down. This is the kind of runner you’ve got to respect, with 3 wins in his last 5 races (all of them finishes in the exacta). All things considered, 9/2 is fairly generous value for a runner like this, although I don’t think he’ll be that high come post time (I’m thinking more like 3/1?).
I wouldn’t sleep on Banrock though either, as this runner almost nailed Presious Passion in the Monmouth Stakes. He should be right there at the end as well. Another small move forward and he’s a likely candidate for win honors.
Court Vision will be a popular selection based on name recognition, but we simply don’t know if the distance will be to his liking. I expect a game effort, just didn’t see enough to pull the trigger and make him the top selection. I could imagine him having his work cut out for him as he tries to close into Presious Passion’s lead late in the stretch.
Better Talk Now is a horse that regular readers know I always cover. He’s simply one of my favorite horses in the world. The legendary “black beast” and former turf champion. I thought he looked excellent running on gamely for show in the Manhattan Handicap (G1) on Belmont Stakes day. Similar to Court Vision, the pace scenario doesn’t exactly flatter his chances as a late closing type. In the end I just trust “blackie’s” heart and soul a bit more than many of the other runners.
Another guy I was trying to find a way to make a case for is Wesley. One of these days, this horse is going to bust out and run a career defining race. It’s just hard to imagine it being this Saturday. If, however, he looks good in the post parade, I might just be tempted enough to take a flyer on him.
Hollywood Park – Race 8 – The American Handicap (G2) – 1 1/8 Miles (4:30 PT)
- #5 Whatsthescript (8/5)
- #2 Storm Military (5/1)
- #4 Monterey Jazz (5/2)
We’ll keep things simple here as we wind up with the 70th running of the American Handicap (G2) at Hollywood. Only 6 horses are signed on here, and #5 Whatsthescript appears to be the obvious horse to beat. Storm Military and Monterey Jazz will likely be the leaders in the early going, and Whatsthescript will be trying to close into whatever those two produce. It’s important to note that Monterey Jazz did defeat Whatsthescript back in December 0f 2007, but I simply feel Whatsthescript is a much better horse at this point in his career.
So there you have it. Make sure you enjoy your holiday weekend and hopefully by the time we’re through here you are saddling up to witness a kick ass fireworks display with a few extra dollars in your pocket. Happy 4th of July everyone!