If Hoponthebusgus (#7) repeats her last effort, she can obviously win this race. However, I think she faces a subtly tougher assignment this time on the rise in class. Her trainer, Rudy Rodriguez, has had a mediocre Belmont meet thus far, due in large part to a dearth of victories on the turf. Since the start of the turf season back in April at Aqueduct, Rodriguez has sent out 38 starters and Hoponthebusgus remains his only winner. Furthermore, she was clearly aided last time when her main rival, Lion in Wait, got stymied in traffic and was essentially eased.
I’m using her defensively, but I prefer HOPE’S ROAR (#8) at what figures to be a much more enticing price. This 6-year-old mare has toiled in cheaper races for the majority of her career, but she has undeniably improved over the course of the winter at Gulfstream. Jorge Abreu showed confidence when he moved her up in class in March. While she failed to get it done that day, she was unlucky to finish so far back after getting pinned against the rail in the stretch. She rewarded her trainer’s faith next time out with a solid second-place finish against tougher company on April 12. The winner of that race, Classy Dancer, has since gone on to place in a stakes race, and Hope’s Roar actually ran better than it seems after getting a wide trip. Now she gets a positive rider switch to Irad Ortiz, and she should receive an honest pace ahead of her.
I’ll also include some others as backups, in case Hoponthebusgus fails to show up with a top effort. Acorn Street (#2) has run slower, but her last was a step in the right direction and Brad Cox has strong numbers off maiden wins. The Kimmel-trained pair of Miss Munnings (#4) and Tiz Priceless (#5) are also worth inclusion based on their solid efforts at this level last time.
Exacta Key Box: 8 with 2,4,5,7
Trifecta: 8 with 2,7 with 2,4,5,7