Mr. Buff (#1) may win this race if he repeats his last effort, but I find this favorite a little hard to trust. This New York-bred gelding has never been the most consistent sort, and his many tries at this open N1X level are good evidence of that. They skipped a condition with him early in his career, which resulted in him running one allowance condition above that for which he was eligible for well more than a year. They finally moved him back down to the N.Y.-bred N2X level this summer, and he broke through on Aug. 22. While a replication of that performance may beat this field, he was facing a much softer group.
The Pace Projector is predicting that Mr. Buff will enjoy a similarly easy early lead this time, but I think he faces a legitimate challenge from PLAINSMAN (#2).
This Brad Cox-trained 3-year-old ran much better than it appears in his first start for the new barn last time. Weather Wiz, the winner of that race, is a solid allowance performer who would be a top contender in this race, and Plainsman arguably would have beaten him with a fair trip. Joel Rosario made a tactical error in rating Plainsman off a slow pace early, yet the horse nevertheless made up a ton of ground during the final half-mile despite being spun very wide on the turn for home. Belmont Park should be more conducive to his running style, and he displayed in his prior starts that he actually possesses more tactical speed than what was on display last time. Rosario figures to learn from that last ride, and I think this talented sophomore has a big chance to take down the favorite here.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 1,5
Trifecta: 2 with 1 with ALL