Belmont Horses in Focus for Friday, October 23


There are horses dropping out of maiden special weight company to consider, but they have some questions to answer. The most logical of those is Holy Emperor, who lost by a nose at the maiden special weight level at Saratoga on August 1, and is now dropping back in for a tag. However, this colt has done his best work at the 11-furlong distance and hasn’t been quite as effective going shorter. He might be able to beat this field if he repeats the race he ran at a mile on June 20, but I didn’t want to take a shor price on him. Till Then is perhaps more intriguing, though a bigger wild card. He last raced in November 2018 against some stiff competition on dirt. He’s making his turf debut off the lengthy layoff, but he’s certainly bred for this surface, being by Point of Entry out of a dam who handled turf. I’m using both of them, but I’m most interested in a horse who has already competed at this level. Accessible finished behind today’s rival Vicarage in a similar spot last time, but I thought the Mike Maker trainee had the much tougher trip. Accessible was squeezed back at the start and found himself towards the back of the pack. That was not where you wanted to be in a race that was dominated towards the front end. Due to that slow pace, Accessible got rank down the backstretch and Jose Lezcano allowed him to make a premature rush past Vicarage up into a stalking position. Moves at that point in the race rarely work out, and Accessible predictably tired in the stretch. I think he’s going to get a much different kind of trip under Jose Ortiz here, and I expect him to take a step forward now in his third start for Mike Maker.


I’m not thrilled with a couple of the likely short prices in this race. Fort Worth figures to be a short price again after he was beaten as the 3-10 favorite at this level last time. While he got a somewhat tentative ride that day, I didn’t like what I saw from him in the stretch and wonder if he’s starting to tail off following a strong return this summer. Built to Suit is even less trustworthy after putting in an uncharacteristically poor performance last month. Notably, he was entered for the $40,000 tag and scratched out of the same race Fort Worth exits. Given his performance last time, this lower level is where he belongs these days. I strongly prefer the other horse who figures to take money, Bears Mafia. This 4-year-old has completely turned his life around under the care of Jeffrey Englehart, and now he’s looking for his seventh consecutive victory while moving up in class. While this might look like a tough spot for this former claimer at first glance, his recent speed figures actually make him the horse to beat. Some might be concerned about the stretch-out to 7 furlongs, but I actually think that helps him. He figures to get loose on the lead since none of the other speeds are quite as fast as him. Furthermore, he handled distances as far as a mile earlier in his career before this current win streak. The other horses that I would want to use are Charlie McCoy and Bourbon Bay. The former is returning from a lengthy layoff for Michelle Nevin but has multiple prior efforts that put him in the mix and could fly under the radar. Bourbon Bay put in a career-best effort last time in a race that may turn out to be fairly strong.


Money Moves is clearly the horse to beat as he moves back into allowance company after contesting the Kentucky Derby last time. That classic was always going to be a tall order for this lightly-raced runner and he just wasn’t up to the challenge. However, he’s supposed to be tough to beat here if he merely runs back to his prior two efforts. That said, I’m concerned that he might be overbet. He was aided by a rail bias when he won his second start at Gulfstream in March. And while he ran much faster when losing that photo finish to Prioritize at Saratoga in July, that 111 TimeformUS Speed Figure that he earned doesn’t exactly make him a standout in this field. He’s the horse to beat, but I have no interest in betting him at close to even-money odds. I can understand making a case for some of the older horses in this field – particularly Expert, who has plenty of prior speed figures that are faster than Money Moves – but I’m most interested in some of the other 3-year-olds. Three Technique could appreciate the switch back to dirt after not really stepping forward in a couple of turf experiments. Yet the best alternative to the favorite might be Americanus. This runner returns from a layoff while making his first start off a trainer switch to Shug McGaughey. He was heading in the right direction for his prior barn, matching Money Moves’ best TimeformUS Speed Figure – 111 – when he finished third in the Unbridled behind Belmont Stakes runner-up Dr. Post. McGaughey doesn’t have the strongest stats in this situation, but this horse has reportedly been working in company with his 4-year-old star runner Performer. Furthermore, the Pace Projector is predicting that he will be on the early lead in a situation favoring the front-runner.

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