Belmont Horses in Focus for Thursday, June 3

RACE 2: GAILHORSEWIND (#3)

Favoritism in this maiden turf sprint figures to go to either the Wesley Ward-trained Six Feet Apart of the MyRacehorse filly Quick Conversation. At first glance, the former has an appealing look to her, having finished third in her only start at Keeneland after setting the pace. Ward’s runners have been performing exceptionally well at this meet, and he’s a remarkable 8 for 11 when teaming up with John Velazquez. However, she wasn’t meeting the strongest field in that prior effort, and she didn’t have much excuse to surrender in the lane. I’m slightly more optimistic about Quick Conversation, who put in a solid late rally to fall just short going this same distance on May 1. She got a pretty good trip that day but ran a competitive speed figure and now gets the services of excellent turf sprint pilot Joel Rosario. I’m using her, but I actually prefer a different runner out of that race. Gailhorsewind is a filly that I’ve been waiting to show up in the entries after her sneaky debut, in which she finished about 2 lengths behind Quick Conversation. She clearly wasn’t meant to win that day, considering that she was sent off at 54-1 and is trained by Linda Rice, who almost always gives her first time starters a race. Yet, in spite of the fact that she wasn’t fully cranked, this filly showed turf ability. She was fairly sluggish in the early going, but put in a nice run around the far turn to reach contention. She looked like she might mount a stretch bid before ducking in awkwardly and clipping the heel of her stablemate in upper stretch. After that, Hector Diaz barely even rode her to the finish yet she lost by less than 3 lengths. She’s likely to benefit a great deal from that experience and now she gets a rider upgrade to Jose Lezcano. She’s my top pick, and I would also use the Chad Brown European import Isle of White, who could turn things around in her U.S. debut for the new barn.

RACE 4: DUSTGETSINYOUREYES (#7)

Sheriff Bianco and King Angelo hooked up early in a race at this level on April 15 and dueled for five furlongs before getting overhauled by first time starter War Terminator in deep stretch. Sheriff Bianco just edged out King Angelo for second, and now they will match up against each other for a second time at the same distance. That prior start was contested over a yielding turf course at Aqueduct, and they could once again catch a grass horse with some moisture in it after significant rainfall last weekend. They’re both legitimate contenders, but I think there is one intriguing alternative. Dustgetsinyoureyes made one start as a 2-year-old last season, finishing third in a two-turn maiden event at Aqueduct. While he faded in the last furlong, he ran quite well within the context of the pace situation, as he attended some quick early fractions and put away the other speeds before succumbing to a couple of closers. The jury is still out with regard to the overall quality of that field, but I think Dustgetsinyoureyes is a candidate to improve turning back in distance. He’s out of a dam who won sprinting on the turf, and War Dancer has been an effective turf sprint sire. I expect an improved performance in his 3-year-old debut.

RACE 8: PLUM ALI (#10)

Todd Pletcher holds a strong hand in this Grade 3 Wonder Again, sending out a couple of fillies who have each never finished out of the exacta on turf. The stronger half of his uncoupled pair is undoubtedly morning-line favorite Jouster, who has been well-bet in all of her turf starts following a dazzling maiden score on this surface back in January. She possesses plenty of early speed and on occasion has done a little too much on the front end, as was the case two back when she launched her sprint for home too soon and got reeled in late. She comes off a victory in the Appalachian in which she beat today’s rivals Gift List and Plum Ali, but she had all the best of it on the front end setting pedestrian fractions. Those two fillies who followed her across the wire ran every bit as well and arguably have more upside in this spot. Gift List returned from that Appalachian defeat in her U.S. debut to win the Edgewood in impressive fashion. It helped that main rival Aunt Pearl failed to show up, hampered by a bleeding incident, but Gift List nevertheless delivered a strong effort in victory. She has to prove that she can handle a more demanding 9-furlong distance here, but she’s one to respect in her current form. Yet the one I prefer most out of the Appalachian is Plum Ali. This Christophe Clement trainee showed a great deal of talent as a two-year-old, winning the first three starts of her career in impressive fashion. She was no match for Aunt Pearl in the Breeders’ Cup when never able to produce her typical late rally, but I thought she took a step forward in her return from the layoff last time. Although she was beaten two lengths by Jouster, she was finishing fastest of all late. She has to overcome a wide draw this time, but she strikes me as one that should relish the added ground. I’ll trust in Joel Rosario to work out a trip. Chad Brown also has a couple of contenders in this incredibly deep Grade 3, led by the Irish-bred Technical Analysis. She produced an electrifying turn of foot to win her 3-year-old debut last time against a solid allowance field. As tough as this field is, it would be no surprise if she were ready to tackle stakes company, and she has the tactical speed to get the jump on most of her rivals. And I wouldn’t totally discount Brown’s other runner Fluffy Socks, who got rolling too late in the Memories of Silver last time. She could appreciate the stretch-out to 1 1/8 miles more than anyone. 

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