RACE 4: MOTHER MOTHER (#2)
Monomoy Girl will obviously win this race if she can recapture her 3-year-old form. However, she’s going to get bet as if that’s some kind of guarantee and I’m not completely sold that she’s quite as good as she once was based on her return effort. I acknowledge that horses deserve the benefit of the doubt when they’re coming back off 18-month layoffs, and she certainly did what she had to do to win that race. However, I didn’t love the way she finished up that day and she’s going to have to step forward to beat this field. I’m not way against her in this spot, but I don’t think she deserves to be such a short price, especially since she faces at least one legitimate rival. Mother Mother is going to upset Monomoy Girl if she merely runs back to her last two starts. However, I believe she’s a better horse than we’ve seen recently. She ran a fantastic race to be third in the La Brea behind Hard Not to Love and Bellafina last December and her following efforts in California were solid. She’s had trip excuses the last couple of times, as she had a problem at the start in the Desert Stormer and then was always outrun when too wide over a wet track in the Harmony Lodge. She clearly doesn’t like that kind of going, so I have to hope the track has dried out by this time on Saturday. If she does get a dry surface, I think she’s going to be more aggressively ridden from the rail this time and I’m not that concerned about her handling the distance. She won a stakes going a mile as a 2-year-old and I would expect Manny Franco to be a bit more aggressive from the gate this time.
RACE 5: QUARKY (#11)
Honey Won’t facing claimers last time, so this is technically a step up in class, even though he’s not really facing a rival tougher than the venerable Kitten’s Cat, who won that last race. They tried routing a bunch of times through the winter and spring, but he’s a true sprinter at heart. Joel Rosario worked out a very good trip for him last time as he just followed the winner into the race, and he almost got to him late. He figures to get some pace to close into, but it’s not as if he has any kind of speed figure edge over this field and he’s likely to be favored. I prefer Quarky’s speed. If you’re willing to throw out that 5-furlong turf sprint at Gulfstream back in April, his form is just rock solid. It’s also apparent that he loves Belmont Park, probably because he seems to specialize in these 6-furlong and 7-furlong sprints, and is probably best at the latter. The real issue with this guy is that he just doesn’t win. He’s been right there at this level on a number of occasions and he just can’t seem to get over the hump. Yet I wouldn’t concede that he’s necessarily a horse that has issues winning races, since he’s a front-running type that has just been unlucky to get run down by superior horses on a few occasions. I like that he’s drawn outside of his main speed rival Yes and Yes, who is hardly impossible in his own right. Yes and Yes burst onto the scene as a juvenile with a 36-1 upset in his career debut, but he struggled to recapture that form for the better part of the following year. Yet now things are back on track, as he appears to have returned with a renewed competitive spirit as a 4-year-old. He was clearly best in his return from the layoff, just getting nailed on the wire at 44-1 after setting a fast pace, and he proved that effort was no fluke last time by wiring a decent starter allowance field. This is a step up in class, but he’s a threat to wire the field.
RACE 7: FAIR LASSIE (#5)
Good Credence is the horse to beat as she returns at the New York-bred N1X level again while facing a softer field than the one she met last time. Yet I was a little disappointed in her effort that day. She made what appeared to be a winning move into contention at the quarter pole but flattened out in the late stages while losing to a couple of today’s rivals. Wailin Josie actually ran a better race that day as she got caught in traffic in upper stretch before angling out to get up for third. The problem with Wailing Josie is that she’s prone to less than ideal trips given her inexperienced rider. I’d use both of these, but I prefer horses coming from other races. Single Verse is somewhat interesting as she switches back to dirt. I liked her trying the turf last time, but she didn’t really show up and also got caught in traffic in upper stretch. She earned some solid speed figures on dirt as a 2-year-old and would be a factor here if she can get back to that kind of form. I’m using all of these, but my top pick is Fair Lassie. I know that she looks a little cheaper than those aforementioned rivals, but this is not a particularly strong race for the level. She’s a filly who needs an aggressive ride to be successful, and she just got the wrong trips when she tried this level over the winter at Aqueduct. I thought apprentice Luis Cardenas gave her a perfect ride against claiming company on March 14, and she’s drawn well outside of her main pace rivals here. She has to prove that she’s ready off the layoff but her best speed figures certainly make her fast enough to beat a field of this quality.