Belmont Horses in Focus for Friday, October 30

RACE 4: MON CHERIE (#13)

I’m handicapping this entire Friday card as if all of the races will be contested over dirt, as it seems highly unlikely that there will be turf racing after heavy rainfall on Thursday. The problem with this particular race coming off the turf is that there isn’t any reliable dirt form. The horse with the best dirt efforts is Cara’s Dreamer, who finished second under similar circumstances last time out when beaten by the subsequent Maid of the Mist runner-up Frost Me. She probably is more of a turf horse, but at least she’s shown that she can handle this surface. There are plenty of first time starters to consider, but all of them were entered for turf. The one with the most convincing dirt pedigree is Duckphat, who is out of solid dirt runner Great Gracie Dane, who is a half-sister to multiple stakes-winning dirt horse Ostrolenka. I’m using her, along with Eau Claire, who is a half-sister to multiple dirt winners, including Born in Brooklyn and Dreaming of Cara. Yet I’m most interested in a horse who debuted on the turf. Mon Cherie obviously was intended for turf here once again, but she does have a pretty convincing dirt pedigree. She’s by Cross Traffic, who wins with 15% of his dirt route starters and just isn’t much of a turf sire. Furthermore, although the dam is by Silic, she herself was a dirt horse. This horse faced some potentially tougher rivals in that debut and I thought she stayed on well in the stretch like a horse who shouldn’t have much trouble with the added distance.

RACE 5: HARDCORE FOLKLORE (#3)

Wushu Warrior seems like the horse to beat as he tries to win back-to-back races at this level. However, he benefited from a speed-favoring track that appeared to be favoring rail runners when he won on Sep. 25. He obviously has prior form that would make him tough and he could be the controlling speed once again. I just didn’t want to take him as the favorite after he went off at 6-1 last time. The best alternative that I can find is Hardcore Folklore. This 4-year-old has perhaps been facing weaker company at Monmouth, but the claim by Wayne Potts seems meaningful. Potts is a remarkable 31 for 141 (22%, $2.26 ROI) first off the claim over the past 5 years. Furthermore, this horse was sent out by a 5% trainer last time, and he actually ran a decent race, albeit with a less than stellar ride. He was taken 4-wide into the first turn as no attempt was made to save ground. He then dropped back on the backstretch before again moving wide into the lane before flattening out. That was going a mile and he’s always been best at shorter distances, so he should benefit from the cutback. I prefer him to the other runners who are likely to take money, including Deep Sea, whose form has been tailing off even for the Orlando Noda stable.

RACE 7: SWEET KISSES (#8)

This race should still be pretty interesting even if it gets rain off the turf. On dirt, Fiftyshays Ofgreen and My Sweet Wife both figure to attract support. The former makes her first start off a trainer switch to Linda Rice, but I’m a little concerned about the turnback in distance for her. She strikes me as a filly that relishes routes, so even this 7 furlongs could be a little sharp for her. My Sweet Wife does make some sense after breaking her maiden at this trip in an other off-the-turf affair. However, she is stepping up into a tougher spot and was entered for turf again. Among those who were intended for grass, I’m most interested in Sweet Kisses. It doesn’t appear that there will be a ton of speed among those who figure to remain in a dirt version of this race, so she could find herself on or near the lead through moderate early fractions. While she has improved on turf recently, her career-best TimeformUS Speed Figure (102) came in her second career start sprinting on dirt. At first glance it seems like her form ailed off after that, but she had some excuses, particularly when she returned in February at Oaklawn Park. She did not get the best ride that day, as she got buried inside and lost all momentum in traffic in upper stretch. I think she can still run on the main track, and this appears to be a favorable spot for her.

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