Race 3: The Seattle Slew Stakes at 8.5 furlongs
Comfort (#1) is a deserving favorite in this race, but I think he may be a shorter price than is warranted off his second-place finish in the Whitney. While a Grade 1 placing is quite an accomplishment, it’s not as if he was ever a threat to Frosted that day, and he was doing most of his running after the race was decided. He was also aided by the fast pace of that race. Previously, he had been with an outside closers’ bias in his win on July 4. He will once again have to run down Touchofstarquality (#2), who should appreciate getting back to one turn at Belmont. His performance in the Alydar was aided by a favorable pace scenario, but he figures to be the controlling speed once again here.
While I respect both of these runners, I have to take a small shot against them with MYLUTE (#5). He was no match for Touchofstarquality in the Alydar, but he did have to race three-wide around both turns and was compromised by the slow pace. He’s handled this one-turn distance before and proved two back that he can sit closer to the pace. He’s in great form right now and could offer some value in this spot.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 1,2
Race 4: Allowance Optional Claiming at 8 furlongs on turf
Adirondack Dancer (#2) has simply run faster speed figures against tougher competition and should be tough for this field to handle if he shows up with his usual good effort. However, he was uncharacteristically dull last time and now Linda Rice drops him in for the $40,000 tag. Maybe she’s just placing him where she thinks he belongs, but it’s possible that he’s heading in the wrong direction. Especially given that he’s not exactly a horse that wins a ton of races, I think there’s enough reason to take a small shot against him.
I’m trying SANCTIFY (#3) as he gets back into a one-turn race. Two turns just appears to be too far for him these days, but he nevertheless ran well last time behind Orino while having to chase outside of that foe in the two-path all the way around the racetrack. A flat mile should be within his wheelhouse, and he figures to sit a great stalking trip just in behind the speedy Brimstone, who I don’t fully trust. I think this horse’s poor efforts will turn off some handicappers, but he’s still capable of producing a top effort when he’s feeling good and gets to run over his preferred firm turf course.
Exacta Box: 2,3
Race 6: Maiden Special Weight at 8 furlongs
Most of the fillies in this race are stretching out for the first time. A few are bred to handle the added ground, but they all still have some questions to answer. Stamina should not be an issue for AWESOME BOSS (#4), who has already gone a route of ground on turf and handled it well. She now has to cope with a surface switch, but there are some indicators that this move could benefit her. Ken McPeek gets a solid 77 trainer rating with horses moving from turf to dirt, as well as an 81 rating with horses getting Lasix for the first time and an 88 rating with third-time starters. Furthermore, this filly hails from a solid dirt family, led by her second dam, Jilbab, a winner of the Grade 1 CCA Oaks.
Other runners to include are first-time starter Moonlit Garden (#2), a half-sister to dirt routers Matterhorn and Title Contender, Berned (#3), who gets Lasix for the first time after an encouraging debut, as well as Montrachet (#5) and Blind Pool (#6), who both tired after chasing Runway Doll through the slop at Saratoga.
Exacta Key Box: 4 with 2,3,5,6
Race 8: Allowance at 6 furlongs on turf
There are a number of runners that can win this race, but there is one in particular that interests me at what should be a decent price. ELOWEASEL (#5) tried a route in her last start, and it just didn’t work out. She’s a smaller filly that appears to be better suited to sprinting, and they wisely turn her back to a shorter distance here. She actually ran quite well behind one of today’s main rivals, First Charmer (#2), three back, and today she gets a positive rider switch to John Velazquez.
The Linda Rice pair of Uncle Southern (#3) and Startwithsilver (#6) both figure to take some money here. However, Uncle Southern is stepping up to face a tougher, more competitive field after beating up on cheaper claimers last time, and Startwithsilver has been unable to get back to her winning performance over Animal Appeal from earlier in the summer. I have to use them to some extent, but I think they both could be underlays here.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 2,3,6
Race 9: Starter Allowance at 7 furlongs on turf
This is a tricky race, which is made no easier by an especially murky pace scenario. The Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring horses on or near the lead, but neither of the runners predicted to be in front early are typically frontrunners. One horse that I expect to be forwardly placed is INVENTOR’S GATE (#9). This horse was very unlucky at the post position draws at Saratoga, getting stuck in outside slots twice. He actually got a decent trip when he ran well to be fifth two back, but last time his post worked against him. His rider did the right thing as he used him aggressively from the gate to get position, but he had to go a bit too fast early. The pace of that race ultimately collapsed, and he was the only horse near the early lead to be around at the finish. He’s unproven at sprint distances, but he may be able to handle seven furlongs. The low-profile connections should ensure a square price.
The likely favorite is Data Driven (#2), who was ridden into traffic at a key point in the stretch drive two back, the last time that he ran today’s seven-furlong distance. He didn’t have much of an excuse at Saratoga last time, but he may appreciate the turnback today. I could also throw in Araqeel (#5), who has faced tougher fields in most of his recent starts. The distance is an unknown factor for him, but you have to respect this class drop.
Exacta Key Box: 9 with 2,5
Race 10: Maiden Special Weight at 6 furlongs on turf
There is an obvious trip horse in this race that I’m not trying to beat. UNSPOKEN MISSION (#7) got into a ton of trouble in the stretch of her debut. (The race is worth a trip to the replay center if you haven’t seen it.) She settled well early in the race, but was ridden into traffic at multiple points in the stretch. She had to check sharply in behind tiring horses and altered course multiple times while unable to get clear. Ralph Nicks gets a fine 93 trainer rating with second-time starters, and I expect to see an improved effort out of this filly today. If she has any luck, she figures to be formidable.