Belmont Horses in Focus for Sunday, May 23

RACE 4: SHINJUKU (#7)

Clever Fellow is arguably the horse to beat, but he feels like one that is destined to be overbet again. He was a ridiculous odds-on choice in his turf debut, getting bet based off a top speed figure on dirt, and the fact that Irad Ortiz was aboard. All things considered, he actually might have run the best race, as he made the first move into a fast pace and got run down by a deep closer. The problem is that he’s now stepping up to face a tougher field and Irad Ortiz is named to ride again, killing any potential value. Neuro has a very similar profile to Clever Fellow and figures to be a better price. He’s exiting a different division of that Apr. 23 maiden event and ran the same type of race, making the first move into an honest pace. This horse has actually run reasonably well in his turf starts, even though he’s had more chances then rest. I’m using both of them, but there are some new faces to consider. One of those is Perpetual Change, who makes his second start while returning from a lengthy layoff. He was surely facing weaker horses in his debut, but he showed some ability that day, dropping out of contention midway through the race before reengaging to finish second. He has to improve quite a bit off that effort, but he does have upside. My top pick is first time turfer Shinjuku. This grey colt was entered for turf in his career debut and got rained off before he was forced to focus on dirt racing through the winter. He gave his connections every reason to try dirt again even when turf season returned last time after running so well on Apr. 2. Yet the reality is that this horse has always been bred for turf. Japan isn’t much of a sire overall, but the damside pedigree is all grass. He’s a half-brother to Grade 1 turf winner Voodoo Song as well as multiple turf winner Worth a Shot. Horacio DePaz don’t have the strongest statistics with this move, but this horse has a right to really improve on this surface.

RACE 5: UTMOST (#9)

There are a couple of runners in this $25k claimer coming off victories at the conditioned claiming level, but I prefer those who are dropping in class. The one who figures to attract the most support is Hieroglyphics, who did very well when dropped in class last year, reeling off three consecutive victories while moving up in class. The cheapest of those wins did come for a $25k tag, so it’s not the biggest negative that he’s dropping back down off the layoff. He had little chance last time when asked to go 2 miles in the Allen Jerkens, and prior to that he didn’t run badly in the Claiming Crown Emerald. He makes plenty of sense in this spot, but I prefer the other dropdown Utmost at a better price. Jonathan Thomas can be aggressive with these types and Augustin Stable has been known to drop their older runners when they get up there in age. This 7-year-old feels like one that got lost in time after running well in a few starts in 2018. He won the Grade 2 Sky Classic at Woodbine when initially concentrating on marathon distances. Yet he ran better than it seems in his 2018 finale going 9 furlongs, when he was buried inside through the entire stretch drive against a better field. He resurfaced following the 2 1/2 year layoff last time and didn’t run badly. He was a little too keen in the early stages before just coasting home in a race that turned into a sprint to the wire. He should have needed that start for fitness and now he’s dropped down to a level at which he should be competitive. I’d like to see him more forwardly placed under Joel Rosario.

RACE 7: KILLER DRESS (#2)

I’m not enamored with a few of the fillies who could take money in this spot. One of those is Mopolka, who has been in good form lately. However, she’s gotten a series of perfect trips in her victories, and she’s now moving up in class. Furthermore, the TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a faster pace this time with a few other speeds signed on, so she figures to have more company on the front end. Another short price that I want to avoid is Summer in the City. She returns from a lengthy layoff for Todd Pletcher after narrowly breaking her maiden last June at Gulfstream. While she achieved that victory at the maiden special weight level, it was a relatively weak race for that condition. Furthermore, in each of her last two starts, she’s benefited from very favorable trips stalking slow paces. Her top TimeformUS Speed Figure of 84 doesn’t make her much of a player in this field, and some of those turf events from last year haven’t aged well. Pletcher does do well off lengthy layoffs on turf, but this filly is going to attract plenty of support with Irad Ortiz named to ride. I prefer Fair Grounds invader Killer Dress. This filly might actually be better than her running lines indicate. She showed some promise in her first couple of starts before getting rained off the grass in her 3-year-old debut. She got her first major class test on Feb. 5 when facing a solid allowance field, but her trip didn’t work out. She was launching what looked like it might be a winning move up the rail at the top of the stretch before getting completely sawed off by some drifting rivals. She received class relief last time and rebounded nicely, deploying an impressive turn of foot to win a race where the pace mostly held together. And that performance was flattered when runner-up Hohohoho returned to cross the wire first in an allowance race here last week. She has a versatile running style and comes in with upside as a 3-year-old filly meeting older rivals. I would also use fellow 3-year-old Rose E Holiday with her in exotics. She ran well in her turf debut a few weeks ago. This might be a tougher race for the same level but she should be a square price again.

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