RACE 2: AMISTAD (#2)
This depth of quality in this race would change significantly if either of the first two runners on the also-eligible list were to draw into this field. I made Public Information and Cowtown the first two choices on the morning-line despite the fact that they aren’t part of the main body of the field, since both possess superior recent form. That’s especially true of Public Information, who would be very tough to handle if he were to repeat his maiden breaking performance from 5 weeks ago. He unleashed an impressive turn of foot to sail clear that day, and was flattered when runner-up Jarreau returned to win at the same level last weekend, improving his TimeformUS Speed Figure by a point. Yet it’s possible that neither one gets into the race, leaving us with a muddled picture among those guaranteed a spot in the starting gate. I’m not particularly fond of Lokoya Road, who broke his maiden on dirt last time, nor do I trust Stanhope to get back to his previous superior figures for the Brad Cox barn. I want to go in a different direction with Amistad. This horse stretches out on turf for the first time in his career after making four starts sprinting on this surface. The inclination might be to say that he’s purely a turf sprinter based on the fact that he’s been successful in those races. However, he’s shown much more versatility on dirt, posting similar speed figures at both sprint and route distances. He’s bred to go longer, and I think he deserves a chance to stretch out on grass, especially given that his lack of early speed often puts him at a disadvantage in sprints. He would have been more competitive last time, but his rider didn’t motivate him to start his move until it was too late. I think he’s capable of better as he gets a switch to Jose Lezcano. I also want to upgrade him due to the fantastic run of recent success by Chris Englehart. This barn is 21 for 49 (43%, $3.47 ROI) over the past 45 days, and is 5 for 16 at Belmont during that period with a couple of turf wins.
RACE 5: BAD GUY (#9)
Danfusi could go favored in here as he returns from a layoff for Brad Cox. He was heavily backed at the windows in his 2020 finale, which was also his first start over a sprint distance. He actually ran reasonably well to be third, but he also got a great trip, stalking inside early before angling out into the two-path on the far turn. He had every chance to win that race and just couldn’t quite fend off a late challenge. Now he’s stepping up into what may be a tougher spot and he will have to deal with the speed of Bardolino on the front end. I prefer some alternatives. The logical one, and my top pick, is Bad Guy. I know some may be reluctant to take a horse who is 3 for 48 in his career with just a single turf victory to his name. However, this 6-year-old has been in solid form since switching back to this surface in April. He ran well to be second in a starter allowance event, only losing to superior rival Mandate. And last time he arguably would have been right there at the finish if not for significant traffic trouble in the last quarter mile. His rider got him buried on the inside and he had to wait for room and awkwardly alter course in mid-stretch before finishing gamely. He should really benefit from this rider upgrade to Joel Rosario, and his overall career tally may ensure that he isn’t favored. The other horse that I want to use at a bigger price is Royal Suspect. This runner has only made a couple of prior starts on the turf earlier in his career, despite the fact that he’s by strong 14% turf sire Animal Kingdom. He actually ran reasonably well at a huge price in that claimer last October, losing to three rivals who would all be among the favorites in this race. Since then his form has actually improved, and may be switching back to turf at just the right time.
RACE 8: CLASSIC COLORS (#11)
Chad Brown holds a strong hand in this spot as he sends out a pair of recent maiden winners. The one who figures to attract more support is Keeneland maiden winner Nevisian Sunrise, who graduated in her third career start. She only got an 86 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that performance, but the final time of that race was restricted by the slow early fractions. She finished gamely once she was steered into the clear for the stretch drive. Furthermore, she had already run faster in her prior start, earning a strong 104 TimeformUS Speed Figure in defeat two back at Gulfstream. She’s arguably the horse to beat, but I think Brown’s other runner Amortization is just as appealing. She looked like a filly who needed a race in her debut last fall and she improved in her second start at Aqueduct. Brown has had a great deal of success with progeny of Kingman, and this filly feels like one that could take a big step forward as a 3-year-old. That said, I’m taking a shot against the Brown duo with one of the two runners sent out by the rival Christophe Clement barn. Some may make a case for stretching-out Magisterium off the layoff, and I would certainly use her underneath. Yet my top pick is the in-form filly Classic Colors. This New York-bred will step out against open company after defeating older state-bred rivals in her 3-year-old debut last time. While she was facing a weaker field that day, she won in very impressive fashion, launching a strong stretch rally to go from last to first under confident handling by Jose Ortiz. She had also run better than it looks when she broke her maiden last year, and her one prior start against open company resulted in her finishing between Season and Fluffy Socks, both fillies who have been competitive against stakes company since then. This filly should get some pace to close into with plenty of speed drawn to the inside, and she could be tough to hold off if she produces her typical late kick.