Belmont Horses in Focus for Sunday, September 20

RACE 5: LITTLE RED BUTTON (#10)

Two Cent Tootsie is clearly the horse to beat as she finally drops in class following 14 prior attempts at the maiden special weight level. Her form is solid and consistent and most of her recent speed figures are significantly superior to those of her competitors. The only issue is that she’s just not a winning type. She’s previously been in position to win races and has failed to get the job done. While those failures came against tougher company, I’d rather not assume that she’ll develop a will to win now that she’s likely to go off at a short price. The problem with this race is that many of the logical alternatives are not particularly appealing. Lucky Latkes and Courted figure to attract some support, but both got good trips in their recent losses at this level. I want to go in a different direction, so my top pick is Little Red Button. This filly needs to improve a bit, but she’s not yet fully exposed, having only made three prior starts on the turf. Two of those were sprints in which she made solid late rallies. Her lone start going this distance two back was the best of her career, as she stayed on well to be third after stalking in the two- to three-path in a race dominated by horses who rode the rail. Even her last race is an encouraging sign, as she stayed on well going 9 furlongs on the dirt, which is hardly the right spot for her. I think she’ll like the surface switch and slight turnback to a one-turn mile.

RACE 7: TRANSLATE (#8)

This maiden turf sprint is wide open, lacking a clear favorite. Bastet figures to take some money once again, but I’m getting a little tired of this filly. Perhaps she’ll appreciate getting back to Belmont where she achieved her career-best speed figure, but I’m skeptical. I still prefer her to the other horses with recent turf maiden special weight form. Zaccapa was awful in that July 29 race, and she could take money again. The horse that’s arguably most interesting out of that race is Venus Oyzo, who closed well to be fourth that day and validated that form with a good dirt performance last time. The problem with Venus Oyzo is that you just can’t trust runners from this barn. My top pick is Translate. She debuted against a maiden claiming field last time, but she actually met a pretty tough rival in that race in the winner Miss You Blues. That filly was dropping out of maiden special weight company and was heavily favored. Yet Translate gave her a serious challenge, sticking with her every step of the way through the lane while drawing well clear of the rest. That has been a reasonably strong race for the level, as third-place finisher Yellen returned to win. Yet what makes her particularly intriguing is the claim. Rob Falcone has done very well first off the claim overall, and he’s 5 for 10 (50%, $5.76 ROI) first off the claim in turf sprints over the past 5 years.

RACE 8: CHILLY IN CHARGE (#5)

French Reef is the horse to beat off his dazzling Saratoga maiden win in which he destroyed a solid field after setting a legitimate pace. Based on that effort he might be bound for stakes eventually. However, he first has to prove that he can reproduce that kind of effort while facing a tougher field of winners, and he’s meeting a pretty salty group in this N1X allowance event. His main rival is Laurel shipper Fiya, who makes his first start for new connections after being purchased for $400,000 at a horses of racing age sale this summer. Despite not possessing any apparent turf pedigree, he has relished the switch to this surface, easily winning both starts on the grass. Last time he embarrassed a field of allowance runners while earning a field-best 118 TimeformUS Speed Figure, 1 point higher than the number French Reef received for his maiden win. The problem with these two horses facing off is that they both do their best running from the front end. Throw the very fast Yes and Yes into the mix and it seems almost assured that this race is going to feature a fast pace. As talented as the two favorites appear to be, they could help to set things up for a closer. The logical option is Wild Medagliad’Oro, who ran well in his only prior turf sprint attempt. He’s earned his best speed figures on the turf going longer, but he should be able to handle this shorter distance as long as he gets some pace. I’m using him prominently, but my top pick is Chilly in Charge. This colt has never won on the turf, but he’s run well over this surface. He closed strongly to be second at a big price in his turf debut behind Uncle Benny last year. And then in his return to Belmont last October he ran deceptively well to be fourth in a very tough edition of the English Channel. He launched a wide, premature move on the far turn that day and had a right to flatten out late behind talented runners like Front Run the Fed and Halladay. If he’s ready to fire off the layoff I think he’s going to have a say in this outcome at a price.

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