The Grade 1 Belmont Oaks

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Belmont Park / July 5 / Race 9 / 5:45 EDT:

The Belmont Oaks, one of two 3yo turf races repurposed and repositioned from the Fall calendar, has attracted an interesting field of 11 fillies, and of the five graded stakes races to be run at Belmont Park on Saturday, we found it to be the toughest to decipher. Let’s take a look at the field in post position order:

#1 Goldy Espony makes her stateside debut with a trainer change to Chad Brown, and for a horse that is listed at 10/1 on the ML, we think she has plenty of things going for her. She is a proven commodity over this 1 1/4 mile distance, which is something that only one of her rivals today can similarly boast; she had displayed a handy running style in her native France, one that could serve her well from her cozy inside draw today; she earned a competitive 98 speed figure for her Group 3 win two starts back; and even though she gave way in the stretch of the Group 1 Prix Saint Alary last time, she was sent off at just 6/1 in that race, and her margin of defeat was exaggerated by her rider heavily easing her off once she was beaten. Brown has had plenty of success with imports in the past, and we think Goldy Espony is a very interesting horse in this race. We’ll land here with our top pick.

espony

#2 Room Service may be the most logical America-based horse to use in the race, and we have no real argument with anyone viewing her that way, but we’re not so sure that she is necessarily so far ahead of some of the others. Certainly, her going back to back in Grade 1 races is no small feat, but she has had the benefit of fast paces to close into both times, and in the case of the Ashland at Keeneland, she worked a perfect trip into a monumental meltdown. We know that she can win, and we rate her a contender, but we are looking elsewhere.

#3 My Conquestadory is a talented filly making just her second start of the year, and she put up a new top speed figure in her 3yo debut, despite going down to defeat as an odds-on favorite. The distance of this race is a big question for her, but her effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf was one of the most overlooked very good performances of that entire weekend, and she could be a dangerous horse in here if allowed to get comfortable up on the pace in the early stages.

#4 Summer Solo is an undefeated NY-bred from trainer Christophe Clement’s barn, and she appears to be in way over her head here.

#5 Flying Jib ships over from Ireland for top connections and could easily have been our top pick in the race were she a more interesting price on the ML. She has been very impressive in winning three in a row, and her 3yo debut was the best yet for her. On the other hand, she has never been beyond one mile, and she is sprint-bred on both sides of her pedigree. We’re worried about the distance, but we like what we’ve seen from her, so we’ll keep an eye on the board close to post time before deciding what to do with her.

#6 Rosalind is another we gave strong consideration to making our top pick, and might have done so were we not put off by her recent trip across the Atlantic and back. She was unlucky in losing her rider at the break of the Coronation Stakes at Ascot, but we think she has plenty to offer, assuming the trip over and back hasn’t taken too much from her. She has more than held her own on dirt in some tough spots so far, but to us she is a better horse on synthetic, and may be better still over turf. She has run only one complete race over grass so far, in her debut at Ellis Park, but that was an impressive run, and despite her having to share her Grade 1 victory in the Ashland with Room Service, we think she ran the better race of the two that day.

#7 Xcellence has much to offer as the ML favorite in the race, having kept the best company and run the fastest speed figures. We get her as the favorite, and will likely use her in our multi-race wagers, but we can try to beat her in this race. Her last two races may simply be too much for her rivals today to match, but she did get perfect trips both times and simply wasn’t good enough to be either first or second at the end of the day, and we can’t shake the feeling that she has simply overachieved to this point, considering the prices at which she has been sent off in her races.

#8 Wonderfully goes for the powerful Coolmore outfit but doesn’t appear to be one of their better chances, and figures to go off at a big price.

#9 Minorette ran well in the local prep for this race, the Wonder Again, when splitting Sea Queen and Recepta, and it would be pretty easy to argue that she ran the best of the three that day after making a bit of a premature move through the second turn. She still raced on well, but couldn’t hold off Sea Queen, who sat a perfect trip all the way. She is yet another in this race whom we could make a case for, or against, depending upon her odds come post time.

#10 Recepta is one to include somewhere at a price, as she has flashed the kind of ability that can factor in a race like this, and we think she has run better than it may appear in each of her last two starts. She did not have an easy trip in the Appalachian at Keeneland off the layoff, making a very wide run from the far turn while the one-two finishers both saved ground to the stretch. She then landed a good stalking position in the Wonder Again, but was shuffled back as Minorette came with her premature run, only to rally late to get 3rd. She needs to step it up to factor in a field like this one, but we think she has it in her, and the price will be right

#11 Sea Queen upset the Wonder Again after a getting a perfect trip while the 2nd/3rd finishers weren’t so lucky. We won’t knock anyone going right back to her, as she figures to be a price once again, but we’ll be surprised were she to come right back with another win.

The play: Goldy Espony to win.

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