Belmont Horses in Focus for Monday, May 31

RACE 1: DEVIL BOY (#6)

The day’s opener boils down to a two-horse race between the second and third-place finishers from the extraordinarily fast maiden race won by River Dog earlier this month. Big Bobby undoubtedly ran the faster race that day as he ranged up racing wide on the far turn and gamely chased home the winner. He earned a strong 106 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that performance, and he still has upside in his second start for Bill Mott, especially considering that he didn’t take much money in his debut. I’m not against him, but I do believe that his main rival Devil Boy is likely to take the bigger step forward. This uncoupled stablemate for that race’s winner River Dog had been working with that foe in the mornings, but their trips in the afternoon couldn’t have been more different. Whereas River Dog broke alertly and took over on the far turn, Devil Boy found himself at the back of the pack after breaking tardily. Jose Ortiz didn’t seem to feel any urgency after the start, as he rated this horse at the back of the 12-runner field until they approached the top of the stretch. Once Devil Boy straightened up for the drive, he kicked into high gear and produced an impressive late burst to get up for third. According to Trakus, he ran his final quarter mile in a strong 23.46 seconds, topped only by winner River Dog’s closing fraction. If he breaks alertly this time, I think we’re going to see him much closer to the pace.

RACE 6: ROBIN SPARKLES (#3)

The two main players in this Mount Vernon are drawn towards the outside. Myhartblongstodady was unstoppable in these New York-bred events last year, winning four in a row against state-breds, including the Yaddo and Ticonderoga. However, it must be noted that she benefited from extremely favorable setups in all of her 2020 victories, as her competitors seemed resigned to conceding the early lead to her. That all changed when she stepped out to face open company in some tougher spots, and she hasn’t been quite as effective since then. She put in a decent late run for third in the Forever Together last fall, but her two efforts so far this year have been somewhat lackluster. I prefer her rival Classic Lady, who didn’t get the right setup when she lost to Myhartblongstodady in the Yaddo last year. Prior to that Classic Lady was in strong form, just barely losing this very race to the accomplished Fifty Five in her return from a layoff last summer. If she can return in similar form this year she’s going to be a handful. Yet I want to go in a different direction for my top pick. Robin Sparkles will attempt to stretch out to a mile for the first time, and I think she’s an intriguing addition to this somewhat depleted filly and mare turf division. The stakes we saw the two aforementioned mares contest last year were hungry for some new faces and Robin Sparkles is just that. She wasn’t really tested in her first few turf starts last year, proving superior to her competition in lesser allowance events. I wasn’t thrilled with her final effort of 2020 when she just barely hung on as the 3-5 favorite. However, she may have returned as a better horse now as a 4-year-old. She ran very well off the layoff in the License Fee, staying on gamely for second behind a talented winner. That was going 6 furlongs, but I’m optimistic about her handling added ground. She has a versatile pedigree and she’s a leggy type of filly that has the physical frame of one that should stretch out. Furthermore, she may control the early pace over a soft turf course, which can be an advantage.

RACE 9: GOOD CREDENCE (#9)

Mrs. Orb is always a contender in these New York-bred stakes events, having attained remarkable consistency over the past couple of seasons. She’s only finishined out of the exacta once in her last 11 starts, and went out a winner when last seen in the La Verdad back in January. A flat mile is a perfect distance for her and she has a versatile running style that should allow her to work out a trip. I have no knocks against her, other than the fact she could go favored in a fairly competitive event. Espresso Shot and Love and Love filled out the exacta in the Biogio’s Rose back in March, with the former getting the better of the other Mike Miceli runner over today’s distance. Espresso Shot is just as good as Mrs. Orb when she’s at her best, and her recent form has generally been strong. I’m using both of these mares, but I think there are some intriguing new faces stepping up out of allowance company. The one that I prefer is Good Credence. This filly took her game to the next level late last year when impressively dominating a N2X allowance race by over 6 lengths back in October. Her connections may have gotten a little too ambitious after that, taking a shot in the Grade 3 Rampart at Gulfstream. While she finished off the board, she actually put in a solid effort in defeat. She was shuffled back coming around the far turn and might have attained a higher placing if more aggressively handled. All things considered, that was a strong race won by top mare Letruska. Good Credence needs to be at her best as she returns from a layoff, but she should be a square price in this spot and she’s one of the few fillies in this race who still has real upside.

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