Belmont Horses in Focus for Sunday, May 16

RACE 3: LANDBISCUIT (#2)

Chad Brown has a pair of contenders in this intriguing maiden event. St. Joe Louis is likely to attract more support as he makes his second start following an encouraging debut at Tampa. It took this 4-year-old a long time to get to the races after being purchased for about $687k as a yearling at the 2018 Tattersalls sale. He got bet down to 9-5 in his debut, but was pretty unprofessional for a firster from this barn. He looked like he had the race won at the top of the stretch, but got to lugging in badly through the lane, ultimately allowing a deep closer to run by him late. Chad Brown now puts the blinkers on in an attempt to get him to run straight. I’m using him, but I actually prefer Brown’s other second time starter at a better price. Value Creation was strongly supported in his debut back in February, getting bet down to 9-5 in the face of experienced stablemate Secret Potion. He showed brief speed that day but threw in the towel on the far turn. Perhaps dirt just wasn’t for him, even though he’s got pedigree for that surface. This guy has been an all-star in the morning, and his turf workouts at Palm Meadows were impressive. I expect him to be dangerous if using front-running tactics under Irad Ortiz. Yet there are a couple horses from the Bill Mott barn to consider as alternatives. The more obvious of the two is Spotters Hill, who ran well to finish second in both starts at Gulfstream. However, he got a great trip setting a moderate pace in his debut when simply second best. And last time I would have liked to see him produce more of a late punch. I actually prefer Mott’s other runner out of that race. The cleverly named Landbiscuit was privately purchase out of that affair after putting in a wide run to get up for third. He has clearly outperformed his modest yearling purchase price, as he also ran the best race when nailed on the wire in his debut after making a wide move on the far turn. Bill Mott doesn’t have the best statistics off trainer switches on the turf, but I nevertheless think this horse has upside for the new barn. He may ultimately want more ground as the dam is a half-sister to Grade 1 Epsom Derby winner Kris Kin and Aintree Grand National runner-up Cause of Causes. This lumbering colt has a big stride on him and should appreciate the move to Belmont Park.

RACE 6: JASMINESQUE (#10)

Translate is a deserving favorite in this spot as she returns to New York from California. This filly has run well in all six of her starts, just missing in a series of races at Belmont last year before heading west. She finally broke her maiden in her Santa Anita debut, easily winning a 6-furlong maiden event as the heavy favorite. The problem with her is that she was also heavily supported in two subsequent starts and against winners and failed to get the job done each time. She was beaten by a talented filly in Bruja Escalarta two back, but her last race was particularly disappointing. It’s fair to say that Umberto Rispoli may have committed a tactical error in taking her off the pace early, but she still had her chance to quicken in the lane and couldn’t get up over some inferior rivals. She’s not catching the toughest field for her return to Belmont, but she does figure to bet overbet once again with Irad Ortiz aboard. There are a number of viable alternatives to consider if looking beyond the favorite, including Gulfstream shipper Rising Bella and last-out claiming winners Corey Scores and Bay Jewel. However, I’m most interested in a rival who has actually handled Translate in the past. Jasminesque may be tough for some to take with her 1-for-29 career record. However, just 12 of those races have come on turf and fewer still in turf sprints, which is her specialty. I don’t care about her winter form on dirt at Aqueduct, which will only obscure her solid turf form and increase her price. The last time we saw her in a turf sprint she nailed Translate on the wire with a strong run from far back. And it’s not as if that effort came out of nowhere, as she has run competitively in some decent turf maiden races in the past. This will be her first turf start against winners, but she seems like a good fit from a class perspective. Obviously some pace needs to materialize for her to have her best shot, but I do think she’ll offer value at anything close to her morning-line price.

RACE 8: SHIRAZ (#6)

Big Package makes a certain amount of sense as he makes his second start off the layoff. He was well-backed in his 4-year-old debut and ran a decent race to get up for third. However, he never delivered the sort of late kick that we saw out of him last year as he was passed from behind by winner Sanctuary City. That might have seemed like more of a negative before Sanctuary City returned to defeat a much better open company field last week. This horse can obviously take a step forward, but he could be overbet once again with Irad Ortiz named to ride. He was defeated by Discretionary Marq in that spot, and that horse is a contender again. However, Discretionary Marq had a pretty good trip last time (despite the fact that Javier Castellano appeared to lose his iron in the opening strides) and it’s been a long time since he’s won a race. That horse also has to deal with a more competitive pace scenario, as Steam Engine figures to be on the lead early, even if he doesn’t turn out to be a turf horse. Valmont will also be forwardly placed and we could even get some speed from Call Me Harry. I’m hoping that Shiraz can fall into the right trip as he returns from the layoff for Mike Maker. I know Shiraz has a bit of a reputation as a hanger, but he’s figured out how to win races recently and has put in nothing but game efforts over the past year or so. I thought he ran deceptively well two back going 7 furlongs when hanging on for fourth in a race that was dominated by closers. And last time Shiraz had no chance against open company but was also compromised by a very wide trip while racing out of position throughout. Luis Saez rides this runner well since he gets him into the race early and that kind of stalking trip will give him his best chance against this field.  

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