Belmont Horses in Focus for Friday, June 12

RACE 4: TORRES DEL PAINE (#5)

Two of the main players in this spot are exiting the 8th race on May 8, including the winner Arithmetic. Yet trips played a major role in the outcome of that affair, and I don’t believe Arithmetic was necessarily best that day. This Christophe Clement trainee got an absolutely perfect trip up the rail last time in a spot where others had far more trouble. He can win and Clement is being realistic in dropping him in for the tag here. I just don’t think he necessarily has an ability edge over this field as the potential favorite. The other horse exiting that May 8 race is Rhythm Section, who was the favorite and actually finished last. He’s been pretty green in his races and his antics got the best of him last time as he was unfocused and drifted wide on the second turn. He’s a major player here at his best, but you have to wonder what you’re going to get at a short price. I want to go in a different direction, and the horse who interests me most is Torres Del Paine. I think we just have to forgive his last race. Every synthetic track is different and some turf horses just don’t handle that surface at Turfway. His two-year-old form was quite strong, as he ran a strong fourth in the Grey and gave a good one in Irish Mias all that he could handle in the Laurel Futurity on grass. Some might view Graham Motion dropping him in for a tag here as a lack of faith in the horse’s abilities, but this is probably just the spot where he belongs based on his form from last year. I like him getting back to the turf and he’s unlikely to be among the favorites.

RACE 7: CALIDAD (#10)

Jewel of Arabia will be a prohibitive favorite in this spot as she returns for her 3-year-old debut. The fact of the matter is that she ran speed figures as a 2-year-old that would make her tough to beat in this spot even if she hasn’t stepped forward at all during her time away from the races. However, the layoff has to be a bit of a concern. Christophe Clement is just 1-for-18 (6%, $0.48 ROI) off layoffs of 180 days or more in dirt sprints over the past 5 years, so it’s possible that she could need a start. Furthermore, she drifted out very badly in the stretch when last seen at Saratoga, basically bolting to the outside rail. It’s never a positive sign when something like that occurs, so I just have some questions at what figures to be a very short price. In my opinion, the best alternative is second time starter Calidad. I was pretty impressed by this filly’s debut at Aqueduct back in March. She broke with the field that day but was just a little slow into stride and found herself at the back of the pack early. From there, Eric Cancel wheeled her to the outside and she steadily made progress, passing horses quickly on the turn before straightening up in the stretch. Eventual winner Honey Money was long gone by that point, but Calidad nevertheless kept to her task and made a good late move to get into a clear second. I know Bruce Levine doesn’t have great stats in this situation and this is a tougher spot, but this daughter of Quality Road showed talent last time and can take a step forward here.

RACE 8: CHEWING GUM (#2)

Chad Brown holds a strong hand in this intriguing optional claimer. It looked like stakes could be on the horizon for his charge Sayyaaf following that impressive N1X victory over a mile in December. Yet that form didn’t translate as well into a tougher spot at this level last time. He got too rank heading into the first turn that day when unable to make the lead and was finished by mid-stretch. This cutback should suit him, but the presence of other speed in here complicates matters a bit. He appears to be best when he gets clear on the front end, and Explorationist and Fortune’s Fool could have something to say about that. Brown’s other runner is switching back to turf and this move is a little interesting. He actually began his career on the turf, and was hardly disgraced picking up checks against a pair of decent maiden fields. He’s improved on dirt since then, but his form has plateaued lately. He’s never quite gotten back to those two top efforts at the end of 2018 and has been struggling to break through at this level for a while. It makes sense to change something up, so why not go back to turf? He figures to work out a good trip and Irad taking the reins is a vote of confidence. I wouldn’t accept a short price on him, but he’s one to include. Yet I’m landing on the logical choice Chewing Gum. Mott tried to cut him all the way back to 5 1/2 furlongs at Churchill last time, which is pretty drastic considering that he had been excelling in dirt routes prior to that. The move didn’t quite work out, but it wasn’t for lack of effort on the horse’s part. He got squeezed back out of the gate so he was too far back early, and then Rosario had trouble finding a clear path for his rally until they were into the stretch. All things considered, he made excellent late progress to get up for third. This slight stretch-out to 6 furlongs should suit him and there’s enough pace in here to set up his late run.

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