Belmont Horses in Focus for Friday, May 21

RACE 4: MORE LIKE IT (#1)

Bourbon Currency is obviously the horse to beat as he takes another crack at a starter allowance level after running well past attempts for this condition. He owns a set of speed figures that makes him a deserving favorite, and he comes into this off a brief freshening showing strong form prior to the break. The biggest issue with this horse is his propensity to collect minor awards. He’s finished in the exacta in 12 of 23 turf starts, but nine of those were second-place finishes. Both prior victories against winners have come for a tag, so he has to prove that he’s willing to fight for it at this level. I’m hardly against him, but I do think there’s an interesting alternative at a much better price. More Like It returns from a layoff and turns back in distance for trainer Bruce Brown. This gelding subtly improved in the latter half of 2020, putting in a series of strong efforts against winners at Belmont and Aqueduct in the fall. He was unlucky to just miss against claimers in October and later ran an excellent race to be a strong third at 51-1 against New York-bred allowance foes in November. Those efforts all came over route distances, but he showed that he was a proficient sprinter earlier in his career. I think he’s landed in a good spot off the layoff and he figures to get some pace to close into with speeds like Brazillionaire and Montauk Daddy signed on.

RACE 6: FOREVER MO (#8)

The classiest horse in this race is obviously Seismic Wave, who would have been considered a cinch against this field about a year ago. However, 2020 was not kind to him, as he steadily tailed off, finishing last in a couple of stakes races in the summer and fall. It seemed like a bad sign when he only sold for $60k at the horses of racing age sale last November, and indeed even Chad Brown hasn’t been able to turn him around since then. Now he’s dropping down to the level at which he currently belongs. Yet there are reasons to be concerned, since he appears to have lost his late kick, which was once so potent. And that’s a big problem here because there isn’t much speed signed on. Among those who could vie for the lead are Carom and Vegas Kitten, and neither one is particularly trustworthy. I prefer the form of Carom, who was facing better horses when last seen. The problem is that he’s been off for nearly a year since getting claimed last summer – notably not by these current connections. I’m also not thrilled that Carom is part of an entry that could get overbet. Vegas Kitten makes some sense and should get a good trip, but I wish he had shown a bit more fight in last start in California, his first for the Peter Miller barn. I also would like to see these Peter Miller horses stabled in New York start winning before I hop on board. My top pick is Forever Mo. This 5-year-old just seems like a perfect fit for this race after running well in a couple of $50k claimers down at Gulfstream. He made a strong late run to get up to win at that level on Mar. 11, defeating a couple of seasoned campaigners in High Noon Rider and Morocco. He’s lost twice since then, but he was overmatched behind a moderate pace in the Appleton. He then didn’t get the right trip last time trying to come up the rail in a slow-paced race.

RACE 7: RAFFINITY (#3)

It’s hard to know how the public will approach this perplexing maiden affair. I suppose horses like Voice of Spring and Highway Queen could attract some attention, but neither one interests me that much. The former will get her preferred fast track, but she never really panned out after a promising debut, and the latter has many questions to answer as she returns from a 10-month layoff. I prefer the runners drawn to the inside. A Bit o’Irish Sass has taken subtle steps forward with each start. She ran deceptively well in both starts as a two-year-old. She returned from the layoff last month with a solid effort, closing mildly for third going 6 furlongs. Now she stretches out for the first time, which should suit her. Her dam was a multiple route winner on synthetic, and this filly has the size to suggest a mile should be no problem. I also think U Guys Are No Fun could appreciate the stretch-out. She didn’t take much money when she debuted last month and ran like a filly who needed the race. She was in touch early while racing wide before getting shuffled back in upper stretch. She was staying on well at the end once she got into the clear and actually galloped out ahead of the winner. Progeny of Effinex have generally been best routing and the dam was a multiple stakes-winning router on dirt and turf. I’m using both of them, but my top pick is Raffinity. This filly didn’t show much in her debut last summer, but woke up on the class drop when she made her 3-year-old debut last month, finishing a strong second in an unusually fast $40k maiden claimer. Now she’s moving back in class, but she earned a competitive 82 TimeformUS Speed Figure in that last start. She is also bred to appreciate more ground as a daughter of 20% dirt route sire Tonalist from a dam who has produced stakes-placed dirt router Bourbon Empire and 6-time dirt route winner Lutheran Miss. I would also expect this gal to be more forwardly placed on the stretch-out.

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