Friday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Harlan Punch the main threat to Hard Study in the Flat Out

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Belmont Park | Race 8 | Post Time 5:18 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs

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Hard Study (1) is going to be a prohibitive favorite in this race, since he is one of the few runners in the field that owns a win at a marathon distance. That victory in the Birdstone last summer at Saratoga came going three furlongs farther than this, so he obviously handles the distance. The problem I have with Hard Study is that the Birdstone field was a much weaker one than this, and Hard Study’s surrounding two-turn races don’t make him any kind of standout in this field. Certainly horses like Zanotti (5) and even Backsideofthemoon (2) have run just as well on a number of occasions. I think he’s the most likely winner, but he could be a significant underlay.

I’m taking a shot against him with HARLAN PUNCH (7). Am I confident he can get the distance? No. How could you be? However, this horse has shown himself to be incredibly versatile and ran legitimately well going just one furlong shorter than this at 1 1/4 miles back in February. I know that his recent form looks suspicious, but he actually ran much better than it seems in both of those races. The seven furlongs two back was just too short for him as he was out of position and in tight throughout. Last time, he blew the break and made a crazy premature move into the clubhouse turn. All things considered, he ran a spectacular race to be third that day. As this horse has matured under Jacobson’s care, I actually think he’s changed and become better suited to these longer races. As long as he breaks cleanly, he’s capable of setting an honest pace and galloping his rivals into defeat. At what should be a square price, he’s the best alternative I can find.

I’ll primarily use my top pick with the favorite, but I also want to throw in prices like Backsideofthemoon (2), Zanotti (5) and Scuba (6) underneath.

THE PLAY

Win: 7

Exacta Key Box: 7 with 1,2,5,6

Trifecta: 1,7 with 1,7 with 2,5,6,8

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