Chomsky (#2) is the horse to beat. Not only is he the fastest horse in this race based on his overall body of speed figures, but some may consider him to be a trip horse off his last effort, in which he was steadied at the top of the stretch before rallying into second. However, I would contend that TREE TOP LOVER (#7) was just as compromised by his trip, even though much of it was his own doing. After getting away a step slowly, Tree Top Lover rushed up down the backstretch and continued to make a middle move into the lead around the far turn. He entered the final furlong with a lead, but appeared to shy away from something in midstretch, causing him to bump the eventual winner and lose momentum. Prior to that, he never had a chance when facing tougher company in late July. That day, he clipped heels after the start when another runner came over on him, and could never recover to get into a contending position. I think Tree Top Lover is in better form than it appears for David Jacobson, and the Pace Projector is predicting that he will be the primary speed of this race.
Exacta Key Box: 7 with 2,6
Race 5: Allowance at 6 furlongs on turf
This horse will not be that big of a price, but I just think LORD OF LOVE (#2) has been in superior form as of late and is due to finally get his win today. Being a deep closer, this six furlong trip at Belmont Park suits him better than five and a half furlongs on Saratoga. That said, he nevertheless put in some very encouraging efforts up at the Spa. He barely lost in a close decision to Big Rock two back. That runner came back to win next time out (earning a 113 speed figure), as did third-place finisher Cort and fifth-place finisher Tapit Wicked. It was actually Cort who beat Lord of Love in his most recent start, but Lord of Love was unquestionably best that day as he had to overcome a slow pace (color-coded in blue) and swing extremely wide at the top of the stretch.
The only horse that interests me as a potential upsetter is Light the Night (#3), who beat a pretty tough field of maidens last time and looks set for this step up against winners.
Exacta Box: 2,3
Trifecta: 2 with 3 with 1,5,6,9
Trifecta: 2 with 1,5,6,9 with 3
Race 7: Allowance at 6 furlongs on turf
While I respect what the likely favorite, Whiskey Seven (#9), has accomplished in his two career starts, I cannot possibly bet him in this spot. This is a well-matched, competitive field, yet Whiskey Seven looms as a very short price due in large part to his flashy 2-for-2 career mark. I’m more interested in some alternatives at bigger prices, and none more so than THE CROCHERON KID (#8). I believe that the fields he was facing in longer races at this level have been a bit tougher than the sprint field he meets here. Furthermore, he hasn’t had the best trips in recent starts. He was wide three back, was setting a pace that fell apart two back, and then, last time, was too keen when rushing up to the lead in a race that collapsed. His last race at a sprint distance resulted in a win, and I believe he can get back to his better efforts here at what should be an enticing price.
Others that I could include, depending on price, are Grand Sky (#1), who did get a perfect trip up the rail last time but still had to overcome a very slow (color-coded in blue) pace, Manoffire (#2), who briefly had trouble finding room at the top of the stretch last time, as well as logical contenders Banana Thief (#5) and Euros to Dollars (#10).
Exacta Key Box: 8 with 1,2,5,9,10
Race 8: The Christiecat at 6 furlongs on turf
The Saratoga meet may have ended, but if this race is any indication, the stakes have not gotten any easier to handicap. There is quite a bit going on in here. The horse to beat and likely favorite is Ava’s Kitten (#5), who was a game winner over older allowance foes at Saratoga, proving that she is perfectly capable of winning at sprint distances. But what’s the fun in betting favorites in such a compelling race? After all, it’s not as if she has that great of an edge over this field, and there are other options to consider.
Most Beautiful (#1) makes her U.S. debut for Tom Proctor off a series of respectable performances in Ireland against stakes competition. She’s a sprint specialist and will be prominently featured on my tickets. The same goes for Sky My Sky (#6), who is a cut below the top stakes horses in route races, but may fit well in this short stakes. I’ll also use Miss Katie Mae (#10), who should appreciate getting back to sprinting on turf after trying a few different things since arriving in this country. I’m not quite sure what to do with Coastal Sea (#4), who has been visually impressive winning two races at Laurel, but gets thrown into the deep end of the pool for the first time.
I ultimately decided to take a shot with first-time turfer ULTRA BRAT (#9). Unlike the runner posted to her inside, Malibu Stacy (#8)—who does have plenty of turf pedigree—this filly’s dirt races are not quite good enough to make her a factor here. However, she is bred to move up significantly with this surface switch. Uncle Mo has quickly become a proven turf sire, and this filly’s dam was a multiple winner on the surface. Furthermore, Ultra Brat is a half-sister to three turf winners, and many runners in the family clearly preferred this surface to dirt. Just watching her dirt races, she has a way of moving that should lend itself well to the turf, and I believe we’re going to see her best performance yet. Whether that will be good enough to beat this deep and contentious field remains to be seen, but the price should be large enough to take a chance on her.
Exacta Key Box: 9 with 1,5,6,8,10