Belmont Horses in Focus for Sunday, May 9


I suppose Saburai is the horse to beat as she makes her NYRA debut for Vladimir Cerin. She’s a good fit at this class level and it’s a good sign that she appeared to return to form following a long layoff during the 2020 season. However, watching her recent races in California, I wasn’t thrilled with any of her performances. She got an absolutely perfect trip last time as the 5-2 second choice, and just failed to kick for home in the stretch. This barn has had one winner on the circuit, but this mare is almost sure to get overbet with Irad Ortiz named to ride. Among the alternatives are Micromillion and Mopolka, who finished first and second in a conditioned claimer at this track last October. The former runner is probably better on this surface than dirt, and she put in some decent turf efforts for Todd Pletcher. She wasn’t quite as successful on this surface for Mertkan Kantarmaci, but she does have an excuse for her last outing when her rider’s saddle slipped early in the race. I prefer her to Mopolka, who got great setups when she ran well in a couple of races at the N2L level last fall. My top pick is Lady Fatima, who ships in from Tampa Bay Downs. She ran well over this course last year when finishing second in a $50k claimer in October. Since then she didn’t run well in a couple of synthetic starts, and then was transferred to the stable of Mark Casse’s former New York assistant James Begg. Both starts at Tampa this winter for the new barn came against optional claiming foes, and she didn’t run badly on either occasion. The winner of her race two back returned to just miss in a stakes with a 110 TimeformUS Speed Figure in her next start. And last time Lady Fatima was a bit too keen in the early stages, which seemed to blunt her late rally. This is a good spot for her to return to this circuit and she should be a square price with Hector Diaz named to ride.

RACE 8: BEREN (#1)

I understand why Candy Man Rocket and Roderick might be considered the two horses to beat given their overall résumés. However, I haven’t been that impressed by either one of these colts. Candy Man Rocket does make a certain amount of sense as he turns back in distance, as he may just have not appreciated his connections’ aspirations to make him into a Kentucky Derby candidate. Even though he won the Sam F. Davis around two turns, he was getting pretty leg weary at the end of that race, so I like the turnback for him. I just wonder how much ability he really possesses. He didn’t beat the strongest field when he broke his maiden, though he was visually impressive that day. He’s certainly a player, but I just wouldn’t want to accept a short price. I’m less confident in the chances of Roderick. This horse just doesn’t seem all that genuine. He clearly possesses a good amount of early speed, but he often falls apart when he faces real competition or gets any serious pressure at all from his riders. Both wins were earned against overmatched groups when he was much the best, but his surrounding form is somewhat disappointing. Wesley Ward can be dangerous with the runners he ships in from Kentucky, but I’d rather land elsewhere. My top pick is Beren. This horse came into the Bay Shore last time as an intriguing new face from Parx, but he lost all chance at the start when he stumbled and fell to face. I’m not going to hold that result against him, and his prior form is strong. He really improved when he turned three earlier this year, winning a pair of races over the winter that have proven to be just as legitimate as the speed figures indicate. This colt is the product of a mating of two hearty racehorses, both millionaires, and I think he’s just starting to live up to the potential in that pedigree. With a clean break, I expect him to be forwardly placed form his inside draw, and I suspect he has a bit more heart than the two favorites. 


Likely favorite Shamalamadingdong makes plenty of sense as she switches to turf for her second start. She was meant for this surface in her debut, which was rained off the turf. She didn’t break that sharply over that sloppy track, but she launched a nice rally through the stretch to get up for second. Upstart hasn’t been much of a turf sire yet, but the dam and most of this filly’s siblings were best on turf. I expect her to move forward in her second start, but I don’t want to settle for a short price on a horse who will take money based on a dirt race. Most of the alternatives to this filly haven’t raced on turf since their 2-year-old seasons, yet a few have a right to improve. The one who interests me most is Caumsett, who returns to turf after one disappointing dirt start back in January. In her turf attempts as a two-year-old, she got caught up in one fast pace after another. She contested the pace going a demanding 7 furlongs in her debut in a race that fell apart. Then she ran deceptively well second time out when chasing the pace going today’s distance. She even put in a solid effort going two turns in December, though that may be a bit far for her. I like her starting back at 6 furlongs, and I think she has a right to step forward as a daughter of The Factor, whose progeny typically improve over time. I would also give a look to turf returnees like No Payne and Kreesa La Wrote. The former actually finished ahead of Caumsett in that Aqueduct race last December, albeit with a better trip. And Kreesa La Wrote may just be getting back on the right surface after running deceptively well in her last turf start in November. 

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