Belmont Horses in Focus for Sunday, June 21

RACE 3: SETTING THE MOOD (#1)

From a class and speed figure standpoint, Cap de Creus is the one they all have to beat. Yet all they may have to do is range up alongside her in the final furlong, because she hasn’t been one to put up much of a fight when challenged. To her credit, she typically runs well at this N1X level, clearly achieving her best result when running the talented Mean Mary to a head decision back in December. The problem is that her form has declined a bit since then. She had a trip excuse two back and perhaps just didn’t handle the longer distance against tougher last time. She should give a solid account of herself, but it’s hard to swallow a short price on her. Her main rival is Civil Union, who has only managed to make 4 starts so far in her career. There are obviously some issues with this 5-year-old mare, but she does have talent. She only finished a half-length behind Cap de Creus when last seen over the winter in Florida. Now she returns from a 5-month vacation and stretches out to the longest distance she’ll have yet attempted. She displayed improved tactical speed last time when making her first start for McGaughey, and that kind of running style should serve her well in this paceless affair. The biggest issue is that she doesn’t seem to possess much of a turn of foot and that can make her vulnerable against quality rivals. I want to take a shot against this pair with Setting the Mood. We’re forced to evaluate her on the basis of her only turf start, her career debut, back in early March. While she earned a modest speed figure that day, there were some things to like. She settled well early, had to come under early pressure on the far turn, but responded well despite getting spun wide into the stretch. She easily handled an overmatched group in an off-the-turf event last time, running a more professional race. She finished off that 9 furlongs on the dirt liked added ground would be no issue, so stretching to 1 1/4 miles here makes sense. She has to find a little improvement to take down her more accomplished stablemate, but she’s all upside at this point.

RACE 5: MONTAUK DADDY (#2)

Morning Breez is not exactly a win machine, but he has to be considered the horse to beat in this race given his overall consistency. He’s coming off a series solid dirt performances, but he’s arguably just as talented on turf. He ran some solid races at this level last fall, twice hitting the board against similar competition. Unlike some of his rivals, he got a useful tightener just 15 days ago, and he should be fit for his second start off the layoff. The only real issue is that he doesn’t win very often, but he may just fall into the victory here if none of his rivals step forward. I’m using him prominently, but I think there are some others to consider. Quarky is a major wild card as he attempts to rebound from a dismal effort upon return at Gulfstream. It’s hard to find an excuse for that last effort, as he just steadily backed up through the pack and was essentially eased in the late stages. This horse ran so well over this course last year, so I’m inclined to give him another shot, but I’d demand some value. I also think he faces a serious pace rival in Montauk Daddy. This 3-year-old is my top pick as he returns from a layoff for Linda Rice. This barn doesn’t have great statistics in this situation, but I thought this colt showed real potential as a 2-year-old. He disappointed when last seen in the Atlantic Beach, but nothing went right for him that day as he blew the start and had to rally from last. When this colt breaks cleanly, he possesses blazing early speed and I think he might just run these off their feet if he has progressed into his sophomore season.

RACE 8: CHILI PETIN (#4)

If likely favorite Miss J McKay has progressed at all since last year as she makes her sophomore debut, this field could be in real trouble. She nearly went undefeated on grass last season, with her only blemishes coming due to a disqualification when she took down the Colleen and an unlucky wide trip in the Steward Manor. She certainly has a right to become one of the best turf sprinters of her generation this year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that today is the right time to bet her. Her one vulnerability is that this barn doesn’t have greats statistics off layoffs, going just 1 for 15 off layoffs of 180 days or more on turf over the past 5 years. Perhaps this gal is good enough to overcome that pattern, but she is facing some legitimate rivals in this race. She’s My Type is also a stakes winner, having won the Ginger Brew at Gulfstream over the winter. However, she’s cutting back to a sprint for the first time, which is a major question mark. She probably has the turn of foot to handle going a bit shorter, but I’m concerned about the pace of this race. There doesn’t appear to be that much speed signed on and she’s a one-run closer. Given that expected pace scenario, I think Chili Petin is very dangerous. This Wesley Ward trainee has made 3 starts, all on different surfaces, and her one loss came on the turf. However, they asked a lot of her in that grass start, shipping her over to Royal Ascot for the Albany Stakes last year. She returned from a lengthy layoff most recently at Turfway Park and was an easy winner on the synthetic surface there over her well-regarded stablemate Nayibeth. Now she’s getting back on what figures to be her preferred surface, and Wesley Ward has fantastic statistics with this move. Over the past 5 years, he is 7 for 14 (50%, $5.38 ROI) with last-out winners on synthetic heading into turf sprints. She has the speed to lead this field from gate to wire under Irad Ortiz.

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