Belmont Horses in Focus for Thursday, April 22

RACE 4: CLENCH (#2)

Venerable 9-year-old gelding Always Sunshine is obviously the horse to beat given his ample back class and superior résumé of speed figures. He also figures to enjoy a tactical advantage in this race, as the Pace Projector is indicating that he’ll attain a clear lead in a situation favoring the front-runner. While he won his return from the layoff at Laurel two back, he benefited from a very favorable setup in victory going 5 1/2 furlongs. He wasn’t as effective last time, when unable to make up ground in the slop at the same level. He’s spotted realisticall for his return to the NYRA circuit, offered up for the $50k tag. However, I’m a little concerned that he’s heading in the wrong direction in a race where others are clearly performing at their peaks. One of those “in form” runners is Square Shooter, who exits a narrow loss in the Kelly Kip starter stakes. He earned a strong speed figure for that race, improving upon his victory first off the claim back in January for Wayne Potts. He’s shown improved tactical speed in recent starts so he figures to work out a good trip. He’s a major player, but I prefer fellow rival Clench at what figures to be a slightly more generous price. This horse ran well to win a $32k claimer in his initial start for the Antonio Arriaga barn back on Feb. 8. He got claimed away that day, but those connections snatched him up in his very next appearance for $40k. While he didn’t run particularly well for different connections in the slop, he rebounded under Arriaga’s care in the Peeping Tom, finishing well for second behind the impressive winner Ryan’s Cat. This horse figures to get ridden for position by Kendrick Carmouche and I think he can overcome a slight pace deficit with the strong late kick he’s displayed in his two starts for the current connections.

RACE 6: SPATIAL (#7)

The 4-year-old filly Coalition Building could go favored here as she makes her second start of the year after returning from a 15-month layoff at Gulfstream back in January. She put in a decent effort that day, racing a little wide on the turns before steadily making up ground in the lane, hitting her best stride in the last furlong. She showed promise as a 2-year-old, just missing to multiple stakes winner Antoinette back in 2019. She certainly finishes like one that shouldn’t mind added ground, and Chad Brown is an excellent 15 for 40 (38%, $2.48 ROI) in maiden turf routes at 10 furlongs and beyond. She makes plenty of sense, but don’t expect to get much value with Irad Ortiz named to ride for this barn. Among the fillies shipping in from Gulfstream, I’m just as interested in the 3-year-old Community Adjusted. This Christophe Clement trainee appeared to take a step forward in her return from the layoff last time, running on well through the lane despite trying to split tiring rivals. She was also closing inside in a race where the successful rallies were made out wide. Now she stretches out to 1 1/4 miles, a distance that she’s bred to handle as a half-sister to Belmont Stakes third-place finisher Atigun. I’m using both of these but my top pick is another 3-year-old shipping in from a different Florida venue. Spatial exits the same Tampa Bay Downs maiden race as the Chad Brown-trained Higher Truth, but this Christophe Clement trainee showed more ability in that spot. Spatial is a Claiborne homebred who sports a powerful European pedigree on the damside. She’s a daughter of War Front, out of a Galileo dam who is a half-sister to 2000 Guineas (G1) and King George VI (G1) winner Golan, as well as Epsom Derby (G1) runner-up Tartan Bearer. She didn’t attract much support in that unveiling, but showed some hints of ability, staying on well for fourth while closing up the inside, about 3 lengths clear of Higher Truth. This sizable, strapping filly seems like one who should relish added ground, and she also gets a major rider upgrade to Javier Castellano. I’ll use her with the two aforementioned Gulfstream shippers, as well as Lisheen, who got a ridiculous ride last time in a different Tampa maiden event.

RACE 7: RUVIES IN TIME (#5)

Aunt Kat is likely to go off as the clear favorite in this N1X allowance affair off her smashing 9-length victory over maidens last month. While she was visually impressive and ran a very fast 113 TimeformUS Speed Figure, she did benefit from circumstances. Mar. 13 was a day on which rail runners appeared to have a significant advantage at Aqueduct, and Aunt Kat rode that inside path to victory. This 4-year-old filly clearly benefited from the turnback in distance last time and her future does figure to lie in sprint races moving forward. I’m just a little skeptical that we’ll see her run back to that breakout speed figure she earned last time. If she regresses, I think that opens up the race to her main rival Ruvies in Time. Rick Schosberg has done a fantastic job with this overachieving filly. Offered up for a $12.5k claiming tag last October, she got her confidence back in that spot and hasn’t looked back since. Recently she’s even taken her game to a new level. She was best when fading for third racing on a deal rail on Jan. 31 and she’s won both of her starts wince then with some of the best speed figures of her career. She defeated the hard-knocking Miss Jimmy two back and last time outdueled main rival Malibu Mischief to win impressively. She figures to get the same kind of stalking trip against Aunt Kat in this spot, and I believe she can upset this favored rival as well.

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