Belmont Horses in Focus for Thursday, June 17

RACE 2: FLASHING RED (#5)

Vip Nation is the horse to beat as she attempts to win her second in a row. While she was dominant in victory last time, drawing off by over 4 lengths, she had everything her own way on the front end and basically turned the race into a quarter-mile sprint for home. This time she figures to get a bit more pace pressure from the likes of Athwaaq as well as potentially Short Pour or Flashing Red. It’s not the first time that Vip Nation has come up with a big front-running effort and she handles 7 furlongs, but I just don’t need to take her as the favorite. The alternative that appeals to me most is Flashing Red. This filly is just getting the class relief that she needs after trying 1 1/4 miles against significantly tougher company last time. Furthermore, she was setting an unreasonably quick pace in that spot, and was then indecisively taken back mid-race. That was just the wrong race and trip for her, but she had previously run well against some decent rivals over the winter at Fair Grounds. This will be the first time that she’s dropping into a straight claiming event since she won over this course last October. The cutback to 7 furlongs is a bit of a question mark, but she did win sprinting on the dirt last summer. I would also use Short Pour, who didn’t get the best trips in her last two starts down in Florida. However, I’m somewhat troubled that she was a vet scratch about a month ago and only has one workout since then at the end of May. 

RACE 6: HARVEY’S PRINCESS (#6)

I found this to be a very intriguing race, as I believe you make cases for most of the runners involved, albeit some being more obvious than others. I suppose Miss Bonnie T and Palamos will vie for favoritism, though I have trouble latching onto either one of them. I’m more against Miss Bonnie T, who has had her chances at this level and seems betting suited to slightly shorter trips than this 1 1/4 miles test. I do like the stretch-out for Palamos, who is a full-sister to 11-furlong G2 Glens Falls winner Mrs. Sippy. At first glance her last race looks somewhat disappointing, but she was never in a great position behind a very slow pace in a race dominated up front. I still would have liked to see more of a turn of foot from her, but I do think she can move forward with that effort under her belt. I’m using her, as well as Graham Motion’s other runner Single Soul. This daughter of Dubawi showed some promise behind the talented Technical Analysis as a two-year-old, and is certainly bred to stretch out. The Motion runners are the logical players that appeal to me, but I want to get a bit more creative with one of the longshots. Harvey’s Princess debuted for a $40k tag last month going 7 furlongs. That felt like it was perhaps a stepping stone for a filly who looks like one that needs more ground. While she was never a threat to the winner, she did run on well in the late stages once her rider finally worked her into the clear, and she galloped out strongly past the winner. She has pedigree to stretch out, being out of a dam produced from the mating of stamina influence Pure Prize and Divine Lady, who broke her maiden going 10 furlongs on turf at Belmont. Furthermore, this filly should be forwardly placed under Luis Saez in a race that features a pretty murky pace scenario.

RACE 8: STAR DEVINE (#7)

I’m not trying to beat the likely favorite Star Devine, who lands in a better spot after encountering a very salty field of 3-year-olds in the Grade 3 Soaring Softly last time. Despite that stakes drawing an 11-horse field, there was very little speed signed on, and Star Devine found herself right up on the pace following a sharp break. Racing on the lead may not be the ideal running style for this filly, considering that she was so impressive when held up in her debut. That explosive turn of foot that she displayed at Aqueduct was nowhere to be found last time, as the steady pace of the Soaring Softly seemed to dull her late kick. This time there are others to go forward, and I would imagine that Joel Rosario will take this filly to mid-pack, trying to emulate the ride that Trevor McCarthy gave first time out. Added distance is not supposed to be an issue given that she’s out of a dam who is a half-sister to 12-furlong Group 1 winner Blue Bunting, winner of the Irish and Yorkshire Oaks. This 3-year-old feels like one that still has real upside in a race where some others seem like they’re already exposed. Her main rival might be Stolen Holiday, though I wasn’t impressed with her return effort in late April. She got a good trip setting a moderate pace and just had no answer for the closing winner. That race has not come back very strong as the two horses that beat her disappointed in subsequent starts. That said, Stolen Holiday was off a long layoff last time and does have a right to progress here in just her fourth start. The wild card in this field is Ice Princess, who has plenty of turf pedigree, but has been targeted at dirt races ever since winning her off-the-turf debut. If she transfers her best dirt form to turf, she has a chance, but Danny Gargan has poor stats with this move.

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