Belmont Horses in Focus for Thursday, May 6

RACE 3: BINGO JOHN (#1)

My chief opinion in this race is that I want to take a stand against Tiergan. This horse has displayed improved form through the first portion of his 5-year-old season, especially since the claim by Rudy Rodriguez. However, his form is completely exposed at this point and there are signs that he may be heading in the wrong direction again. After a perfect trip victory against starter allowance foes on Feb. 21, he’s twice lost as the favorite at this level. He was simply second best to Wild Banker two back, but really had no excuse to lose to Three Jokers last time when he simply hung. Now he’s being asked to stretch out to 1 1/8 miles, and it’s hardly clear he wants to go that far. I actually prefer Too Early from his last start, since at least he’s proven at the distance. Yet my primary idea in this race is to endorse the 3-year-olds. One of those is Great Workout, but I wouldn’t want much lower than his 3-1 morning line price. This colt does need to get significantly faster to beat this field, but there are signs that he’s exiting a decent race. He also has a right to move forward off that performance given that he won despite breaking slowly and racing greenly. He’s bred to stretch-out and Todd Pletcher is 10 for 25 (40%, $1.86 ROI) with 3YO last-out debut winners stretching out from sprints to dirt routes over 5 years – but that ROI reveals the problem with picking this colt. My top pick is Bingo John. This colt was heavily supported at the windows when he broke his maiden going a mile in February, and appeared to beat a solid field even though the speed figure was merely mediocre. He faced tougher rivals when stepped up against winners last time and ran well, closing relentlessly through the lane to just miss. This colt is a half-brother to a few accomplished routers, including Grade 2 winner S’maverlous. He gives the impression that added distance should help him, and he has every right to improve for a dangerous barn. I would also use Our Man Mike, who seemed to improve with added distance last time, though he got a great setup to win that race. 

RACE 6: PROVEN INNOCENT (#10)

I suppose Royale could attract some support as he makes his 4-year-old debut for Christophe Clement, since he does own some of the best turf speed figures in this field. However, I wasn’t thrilled with either of this runner’s performances last year. He debuted for a claiming tag and ran on evenly for third. Yet he didn’t improve much in his subsequent start at this level last December, merely staying on at one pace while no match for the top two. He is bred to stretch out on the dam’s side, so perhaps more distance will help, but I wouldn’t want a short price on him. Connagh’s Quay also figures to take money as this Juddmonte homebred tries to become one of just a handlful of winners in Flintshire’s first crop. He definitely gives the impression that he wants to run all day and Chad Brown is a specialist in these races. However, he’s unlikely to offer much value with Irad Ortiz named to ride. Snow’s Island is one alternative option, as he has a right to improve in his second career start for Tom Bush, who rarely has horses cranked up to win their debuts. He wasn’t facing the strongest field at Keeneland first time out, but he stayed on evenly for fourth, passing a few rivals in the lane. I won’t be surprised when this son of Grade 2 winner Tuttipaesi takes another step forward. My top pick is Proven Innovicent, primarily due to the fact that he could be the best price of those I’m considering. He’s never hit the board in three starts on turf, but he’s usually hitting his best stride at the end of those races. I thought he showed subtle improvement last time as he made a determined run from far back to pass over half the field in the stretch. Jose Ortiz also let him gallop out freely past the wire until he was in front, suggesting that he felt there was more in the tank. That was a maiden claimer, but the connections are just being realistic with a horse who they’ve now gelded. He’s unlikely to live up to the bar set by his siblings, but most of them did want to run all day, so I’m not worried about the added ground.

RACE 9: DAY’S HUMOR (#5)

The short prices in this finale do little for me. I suppose Zerenia is the horse to beat off her maiden score just two weeks ago. She certainly ran a speed figure that suggests she’s good enough to make it two in a row. However, she doesn’t possess much early speed so she could struggle to work out a trip in this 11-horse field. I’m not against her, primarily due to the fact that main rival Towering Gaze is even less appealing. This filly didn’t do much running against a weak field at the $30k level last time and now she’s going to be overbet with Irad Ortiz aboard. I want to get a little more creative so I put first time turfer Day’s Humor on top. This filly would obviously need to improve on this surface to get the job done, but I think there’s some evidence she may do so. Carpe Diem is a sneaky turf influence, connecting with over 12% of his turf starters. The dam never tried turf herself, but has produced a few foals who showed a preference for grass. John Kimmel doesn’t have a high percentage with first time turfers, but he has won with a few prices over the last several years, generating a positive ROI. Watching this filly’s past dirt races, she has a smooth, balanced gait that should translate well to grass. Furthermore, it’s not going to hurt to show some tactical speed in a field primarily composed of uninspiring closers.  

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