Belmont Horses in Focus for Sunday, June 20

RACE 2: MR. KRINGLE (#4)

Molino figures to attract plenty of support as he takes advantage of this starter allowance condition after slipping past the claim box when breaking his maiden for a $40k tag. Still with Chad Brown and Peter Brant, he may not have to improve too much on that debut performance to handle this field of winners. However, he was dismissed at 11-1 last time, and now he’s going to be a fraction of that price while meeting a few rivals who have already run just as well or slightly faster. I acknowledge that he can win, but others are more appealing wagering options. Kid Bourbon makes plenty of sense as he gets back on grass after running a fine second off the claim in an off-the-turf event last time. He seems to be about equally talented on dirt and turf, and he was a little unlucky to lose his turf start two back when he was given too much ground to make up. I think he’s a major player, but I prefer another at a bigger price. Mr. Kringle has had a few chances at this level and is still looking for his second career victory. It might appear that his form has tailed off, but I think you can make some excuses for his recent starts. He didn’t handle the dirt last time and two back he just got the wrong trip as he was shuffled back early and forced to race wide around both turns. Going back to last year, he was competitive in races at this level while earning speed figures that would put him squarely in the mix against this field. I find it interesting that they’re putting blinkers on today, as the connections might be looking to elicit more speed from him in this fairly paceless event.

RACE 5: MASTEROF THE TUNES (#10)

Snicket is probably the horse to beat, but how can you take a short price on a runner who has run over the turf 6 times and finished second in all 6 of those attempts? While she’s earning speed figures that do put her in the mix once again, she hasn’t really moved forward at all since she first got on turf last summer. Her typical effort will probably get her a piece, but others are more appealing win candidates at better prices. Kinky Sox makes a certain amount of sense as she cuts back to 7 furlongs, a distance over which she was a good second two back. However, she’s ridden by Irad Ortiz, whose mounts have been getting ridiculously overbet over the past several days. I prefer some runners towards the outside. Fractorzation figures to run better here after getting involved in a wickedly fast pace last time out. She basically had no chance after rushing through to contest that 21-flat opening quarter mile, especially considering that it was her first start off a lengthy layoff. She had been training well into that race, and I think she can do better here with a more moderate pace setup as the likely controlling speed. I’m using her prominently, but my top pick is recent maiden winner Masterof the Tunes. This filly has run well in both turf starts and comes into this race a little underrated despite winning last time. She encountered significant traffic in her turf debut last summer, and last time found herself racing relatively close to a quick pace that fell apart. I liked the tenacity she showed digging down to come back on and winning after getting passed in upper stretch. I don’t mind the turnback to 7 furlongs since she travels strongly in her races, and it also doesn’t hurt that she’s reunited with Joel Rosario.

RACE 9: PENALTY (#9)

Raging Bull won that Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile in a manner to suggest that he might be the best turf horse in the country. He showed improved tactical speed to take up a position in mid-pack early and made what looked like a premature move before holding of all of the closers late. While that came up a very fast race (106 Beyer and 125 TimeformUS Speed Figure) I do have some doubts about the quality of some horses who finished directly behind him. The only horses who have come out of that Maker’s Mark to run well are those who contested the pace. Everyone who was closing (Ride a Comet, Sacred Life, and Field Pass) have all turned in disappointing performances in their subsequent starts. Perhaps Raging Bull can buck that pattern, as he wasn’t as far back as some in the early going, but he’s still never been the kind of horse that I’m keen to trust at a short price. The problem is finding an alternative, since I’m not thrilled with the likely second and third choices in the wagering. Get Smokin got a victory over this course and distance in the Seek Again last time, but he had everything his own way on the front end. This time he figures to face early pressure from Veronesi, who appears to be in here to set a pace for Raging Bull. I’m also not particularly fond of Front Run the Fed, who just hasn’t taken that step forward that you’d want to see from a horse who showed so much promise as a 3-year-old. He also has to prove that he’s at his best going this one-mile distance. Therefore I’m getting a little more creative. Penalty may simply not be good enough, and he may be a horse that’s best used underneath Raging Bull in exotics. However, I’m putting him on top to highlight him as a horse that could offer value in this race. He ran very well to win that paceless 7-furlong optional claimer last time. Trakus caught him running his final quarter in 21.99 seconds as he mowed down the leaders with an impressive late kick. This horse has always had ability, but he’s often been the victim of poor trips. That was especially true two and three back when he clipped heels early in each of those races. The Bill Mott barn has been sending out live runners and I think this horse deserves a shot in this type of race.

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