Belmont Horses in Focus for Thursday, October 8

RACE 2: NERO’S FIDDLE (#11)

High Tone may go favored as he makes his third attempt to break through this New York-bred maiden claiming level after collecting minor awards in a couple of similar races earlier this summer. He actually ran quite well when last seen in July, as he chased a fast pace before tiring in the late stages. Those fractions took their toll on the runner-up Klickitat, who has since gone on to improve significantly against tougher company. This is the horse to beat, but only because he appears to be catching a weak field for this level. He also missed a start in August at Saratoga and didn’t record a workout for nearly a month around that time. I’m using him, but I prefer others. Perhaps Justintimeforwine deserves another chance after getting pushed through unreasonably fast fractions in his last start. He certainly has the ability to win a race like this and has actually run faster than High Tone in the past. However, he can be fairly fainthearted and isn’t the easiest horse to take at another short price. I think the winner will be Nero’s Fiddle. This horse put in an excellent effort when last seen on September 18. While he wasn’t right on top of that fast pace set by Justintimeforwine, he made the first move after that horse coming to the top of the stretch. He then refused to yield in the lane as the closers swallowed up most of those who were attending the pace. It seems like this gelding is always an overlay due to the fact that he goes out for low-profile connections, but he’s been subtly improving with every start and now seems ready to collect his diploma.

RACE 5: OUR LAST BUCK (#6)

I suppose I Love Jaxson has to be considered the horse to beat as he drops back down in class to face New York-breds for the first time in nearly a year. He just hasn’t looked like quite the same horse since returning from a layoff over the summer, though it’s fair to say that he was in against significantly tougher company every time. He’ll be a serious factor here if the drop in class wakes him up, but I’m a little skeptical. I prefer his main rival Our Last Buck. This 6-year-old turned into a different horse for Michelle Nevin once they finally stretched him out in distance. His first two starts after returning from a layoff this summer were excellent, both good enough to defeat this field. While he lost by 13 lengths at Saratoga last time, I think that performance needs to be evaluated within the context of the pace. They were flying up front as today’s rival Freaky Styley unexpectedly pushed Our Last Buck through unreasonably fast early fractions. They both paid the price, but it’s worth nothing that Freaky Styley was eased and Our Last Buck was able to hang on for second, albeit far behind the winner. Our Last Buck is better than that and he figures to appreciate the turnback to a one-turn route here. Freaky Styley is unlikely to try to press him again after what happened last time. Our Last Buck should work out a great trip either stalking Hit It Once More or setting the pace, and that should help him rebound.

RACE 6: PURE CARMINE (#1)

Chad Brown obviously holds a strong hand in this 11-furlong maiden event as he sends out the two likely favorites Compliant and Amano. While they each possess the speed figures to win at this level, neither one has shown much competitive spirit in their races, and I’m somewhat reluctant to take either of them at short prices. I suppose I slightly prefer Compliant, since he ran a fast speed figure last time when beaten by a legitimately talented horse in Doswell. He was never a threat to that foe, but it was his first start off a lengthy layoff and he has a right to improve. Notably, his best prior effort came going 1 1/4 miles over this course last year, so it’s possible that more distance will be to his benefit. Amano is more difficult for me to endorse. He was compromised by a slow pace two back, but he was still supposed to win that day wen facing a weaker field than he meets here. The distance will aid him as well, but he doesn’t have the fast figures of his stablemate and just seems like a bit of a one-paced plodder. I want to go in a different direction as there are viable alternatives to these favorites. The one who intrigues me most is the California shipper Pure Carmine. He’s yet to run fast enough to win a race like this, but he’s shown hints of potential in his two starts to date. He ran deceptively well in his career debut as he lost touch with the field early but made up good ground in the second half of the race before encountering traffic in the stretch. He just looked like he had no clue what he was doing during the race, but he figured things out late and galloped out strongly. He was much more professional in his second start, as he made a sustained wide run to get up for third. He strikes me as one that will appreciate marathon distances given his grinding style. He has a layoff to contend with, but Neil Drysdale is a remarkable 7 for 14 (50%, $4.16 ROI) with turf starters at NYRA over the past 5 years.

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