Belmont Horses in Focus for Sunday, October 18

RACE 3: EN WYE CEE (#4)

Three of the five entrants in this Knickerbocker are exiting the Lure at Saratoga, where these horses were the last three across the wire in another five-horse field. I prefer Breaking the Rules out of that race, as he was the beaten favorite that day. It’s hard to find a trip-based excuse for his performance. He just had no answer in the stretch after stalking the pace. However, Shug McGaughey seems to think that he wasn’t himself that day and can rebound. I’m open to the possibility, but I’m not sure that I want to bet him as the favorite. Chad Brown’s duo of Olympico and Devamani are also difficult to take out of that race. The former is still trying to get back to his impressive win first time out in this country, and perhaps give in the ground will help him. However, neither one of these runners has any early speed, so they could be up against it from a pace standpoint. That’s why I’ve landed on En Wyc Cee. He’s likely to find himself on the lead in a paceless situation, and that’s just a significant advantage going 9 furlongs on the inner turf course, especially when the turf is less-than-firm. He lost his lone turf start up at Saratoga, but he was arguably best that day when closing into a moderate pace after getting spun wide in upper stretch. Notably, the other horse to close effectively in that race, Spirit Animal, returned to win next time out. En Wye Cee himself followed that up with an impressive victory in an off-the-turf race, earning a career-best 119 TimeformUS Speed Figure. He just appears to be in excellent form now as a 4-year-old and I don’t think surface really matters for him.

RACE 6: THEITALIANAMERICAN (#5)

I’m not thrilled with the expected short prices in this field. Brunate is clearly the horse to beat after twice finishing second in similar spots at Saratoga. However, the H. James Bond barn was firing on all cylinders at that meet and they’ve gone a little quiet since the shift to Belmont. Furthermore, he’s gotten great trips in his races and his best form is exposed, whereas some of his rivals appear to still have upside or room to improve. I’d put Imperio D in the same boat, as he’s also been short prices in recent starts and has failed to break through the maiden ranks in 12 career starts. It is worth noting that he didn’t get a good trip last time in that October 1 race, but I still would be wary to take him given his overall record. I’m most interested in a pair of horses dropping in for the tag for the first time. River Nile was uncompetitive in a couple of races in early summer, but both of those were routes. He showed brief speed first time out and then reacted badly to rating tactics last time before fading. I like him turning back in distance and the class relief figures to help. However, my top pick at a better price is Theitalianamerican. This horse may get somewhat ignored due to his 0-for-8 career record and low-profile trainer. However, he does have prior form from his 2-year-old season that makes him competitive with this field. He’s not a router, so I don’t really care about his return effort. Now he’s making his second start for this barn and dropping into a more realistic spot while turning back to a more appropriate distance.

RACE 9: BUY LAND AND SEE (#7)

Decorated Invader is clearly the horse to beat as he cuts back in distance after failing as the heavy favorite in the Saratoga Derby last time. While that effort was disappointing, he was probably a little overhyped heading into that race. He really didn’t run that badly while just getting beaten by under a length after chasing a legitimate pace. I think he’s probably best as a miler, and he’s going to be difficult for this field to beat if he repeats his effort in the Pennine Ridge over this course and distance. I’m using him prominently, but his colt is routinely overbet so he’s just one that I am going to bet against whenever I can find a viable alternative, and I think there is one in this field. Buy Land and See has made just two starts as a 3-year-old and I don’t think we got to see the best he has to offer either time. He was an easy winner of his return at Parx when facing an uncompetitive group, and then last time at Saratoga he was asked to 5 1/2 furlongs, which is just too short for him. This colt showed real talent as a 2-year-old to win the Awad over this course. The form of that race has been flattered this year, as both Pixelate and Don Juan Kitten have gone on to win turf stakes as 3-year-olds. I like Buy Land and See stretching out to the mile around one turn and I think he’s the one horse in this field who still has significant upside. Furthermore, his half-siblings Sweet Bye and Bye and Enthusiastic Gal both got better with age, so there’s reason to believe that this horse can continue improving with maturity.

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