Belmont Horses in Focus for Friday, June 18

RACE 6: RUSE (#12)

Based on the 106 TimeformUS Speed Figure that Bar Fourteen earned last time out for his excellent runner-up finish at this level, he’s probably the horse to beat. He’s already proven that he can lay down some legitimate fractions and still hang around at the end. The problem is that he’s been generous prices in his last two turf starts and now he figures to go off as one of the favorites after his form is totally exposed. I’m not against him, but I do think some others could offer better value. A few horses exit a race at this level going 6 furlongs on May 8. Cotton achieved the best result that day as he closed for second, but he got a pretty good trip, relatively speaking. That was the case for Viking Zim, who got badly sandwiched between horses and knocked off stride at the start. He found himself in an unfamiliar position at the back of the pack, and did well to make a wide bid to get up for third. The stretch-out in distance is an additional hurdle, but he is better than his last race indicates. I ultimately decided to go in a different direction with Ruse. This horse showed promise racing on turf as a 2-year-old. He was too close to a quick pace in his debut, but subsequently stepped forward, achieving solid results at this level through the fall. He ran particularly well on Nov. 21 when he chased a fast pace, and made the first move to take over. He just got run down late by Straw Into Gold, who since has returned to do some nice things as a 3-year-old, recently beating winners with a 103 TimeformUS Speed Figure. If this horse is ready off the layoff I think he’s going to be a major say in the outcome.

RACE 8: SCHOKOLADE (#2)

I respect both horses who I think could vie for favoritism, Scuttlebuzz and Veterans Beach. The former tried this level off the claim for Rudy Rodriguez last time and fell just short, missing by a half-length to the solid allowance performer Three Outlaws. That effort was better than it might look, as the early pace was dawdling and he did well to sprint through the final furlong, as one of the only horses to make up significant ground. He makes plenty of sense here, but he may have to take another step forward to win. Veterans Beach appeared to improve off the trainer switch to Christophe Clement last year, running arguably the best race of his career when last seen in September. However, I’ve never been this horse’s biggest fan, and he only has one win to his name despite having gotten more than his fair share of good trips. I do prefer them to some others with stronger speed figures, such as Wild William and Scocciatore. The former benefited form very favorable setups in a couple of wins last year, and the latter needs to validate his surprisingly strong last effort. I wanted to try a horse switching surfaces instead. Schokolade is a runner that I’ve been waiting to see on turf ever since he made his debut at Aqueduct back in February. He handled a sloppy track that day, as well as in his second start, but seemed to fall apart over fast going last time. Perhaps he’s just not a true fast dirt horse, as there is plenty of turf influence in his pedigree. Bayern is an excellent 22% turf sprint sire and his dam was a 4-time turf winner. There is some other speed in here, so I’m hoping Junior Alvarado is able to work out a trip from this inside draw.

RACE 9: MADE MY DAY (#4)

This is a very confusing way to end the day, as you can make a case for many runners in this highly competitive starter allowance. My best guess is that Brazillionaire will go favored after hitting the board in a couple of races at this level since getting claimed by Linda Rice. He found a mile to be a bit too far for him and he ran out of ground going 6 furlongs last time, so perhaps today’s 7-furlong trip will be perfect for him. I’m not against him, but I do think some others sport similar form and will be better prices. That Quality is a bit of a puzzle as he moves up in class after just missing for a $30k tag last time. He didn’t have much excuse that day as he was alone up front and just stopped late. Perhaps he ran off a bit on the lead, but that’s just been him – he’s often his worst enemy when he gets too headstrong. I wanted to lean towards some other horses turning back in distance. Kid Bourbon makes plenty of sense as he gets back on turf. While he’s never won on this surface, he’s run pretty well in his turf starts and was an unlucky loser the last time he tried it in May. He ran well for the new barn last time so I’m not too worried about that. Yet my top pick is Made My Day as he returns from a layoff for Mike Stidham. I’m intrigued to see this horse race over slightly less ground. He’s a pretty small son of miler Kingman and he sometimes has trouble finishing off his races going longer. That was especially true last time at Tampa Bay Downs when he traveled very well into the race and then came up empty late. I think he’s best when races turn into a sprint to the wire, as was the case when he broke his maiden at Belmont last year. He has the tactical speed to work out the right trip and he’s unlikely to be favored.

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