Thursday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Deputy Flag can move forward from deceptively strong return

Belmont | Race 4 | Post Time 4:40 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs | Not already a TimeformUS member? Sign up 

Benintendi (#6) figures to be a prohibitive favorite as he returns from a lengthy layoff and drops in for a tag for the first time. This gelding looked like he was bound for stakes early in his career, following an impressive debut victory and some hard luck allowance losses. However, he never continued developing after that, and seemed to fall apart a bit last summer as a 4-year-old. He was uncharacteristically dull in his last appearance, never racing in the bridle while just getting up for second by default. He’s the horse to beat, and Brittany Russell is an impressive 5 for 11 (45%, $3.12 ROI) off 180+ day layoffs in dirt sprints. I just have some reservations about what we’re going to get from this horse on the drop. 

I’m even less confident in the other favorite Advance Notice (#1), who has been quite the money burner since winning his debut last summer at Saratoga. He might have looked like an attractive claim for $40k last time before the race, but maybe not so much after he disappointed as the 2-5 favorite. I’m skeptical that turning back will make much of a difference. I want to look for some alternatives. 

Some will considering the lightly raced runners drawn to the outside, and I do think Full Court Press (#8) is somewhat intriguing on the class drop. 

Yet my top pick is the more experienced DEPUTY FLAG (#2). This gelding hasn’t been seen very much during the past 18 months. He made one appearance in the summer of 2020, when making an ill-advised start on the turf. Transferred to Rudy Rodriguez, he needed a lot of time to get back to the races, but he did finally make his return last time at Parx. Notably not offered up for a tag, he ran very well within the context of that race, setting a strong pace before fading going 7 furlongs. That was a solid effort against a decent field, as runner-up Heart Rhythm has some quality. Now he gets an appropriate cutback to 6 furlongs and should show speed from the rail.

THE PLAY

Win: 2

Exacta Key Box: 2 with 1,6,8

Trifecta: 2,6 with 2,6 with 1,7,8

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