Belmont Horses in Focus for Thursday, June 24

RACE 4: BLUE PAYNT (#3)

It’s hard to know where the public will land in this confusing $16k claimer, as there isn’t a ton of convincing route form among any of the entrants. I suppose Irresistible Girl will attract support for the sheer fact that Irad Ortiz is riding. To this filly’s credit, she arguably ran one of her best races going this distance in her second career start on Feb. 14. She was attending a strong early pace that day while racing 3-wide against a rail bias. All things considered, she hung on well for third. However, she never really moved forward after that, and she’s coming off her worst effort yet last time in her first start against winners. Rick Schosberg does a good job, but I don’t want her at a short price. Make Or Break has some of the best dirt route form in this field, but she’s pretty inconsistent and isn’t in such appealing form herself. I suppose one could argue that she’ll appreciate getting back on fast track, as her last five dirt starts have come over sloppy, sealed surfaces. Yet it’s still hard to get excited about her 1 for 22 lifetime record. I’m going for a new face with Blue Paynt. This filly was overmatched when she made her lone prior start on the NYRA circuit, getting soundly defeated in a maiden dirt sprint in the slop. She’s seemingly better going a little longer, and she did well to break her maiden when last seen at Parx in January. She didn’t run the fastest time that day, but she did fend off a decent rival in Bravo Regina, who has since improved considerably. I know the Mertkan Kantarmaci barn is suffering a long losing streak at the moment, but this outfit does a good job and they’re dropping this filly down to a level at which she belongs.

RACE 6: CONSTITUTIONALRAGE (#8)

Kaz’s Princess comes into this race with the best overall speed figures on turf. She ran well in her only turf sprint attempt on a NYRA track last summer when hanging on for third at the maiden special weight level in Saratoga. She subsequently fell apart going a longer distance, and it’s probably not a great sign that she was risked for a $25k tag on dirt after that. Yet she got back on track last time in her return at Penn National. I’m not sure she was facing the best field that day but she does seem like a reasonable fit here as she drops in for the $40k tag. However, I prefer a couple of lightly raced rivals who exit the same race. Write This Down makes plenty of sense after fading late going 1 1/16 miles last time on May 15. She contested an honest pace and just couldn’t quite see out the trip. I thought that effort represented a subtle improvement on her prior dirt outing, and she figures to appreciate this slight class relief. Yet my top pick is the filly who finished just behind her in that May 15 affair. Constitutionalrage lost all chance in that race soon after the start when her rider was a little indecisive and got steadied badly. She had been chasing the leaders for the first furlong, but subsequently found herself at the back of the pack following that trouble. She never really recovered, but that was a tougher spot and it was her first start off a layoff. She had run pretty well going this distance last year when launching a belated stretch move to finish fourth in her turf debut. If she can build on that effort, I think she’ll be tough for this field to beat.

RACE 8: CATCH A BID (#7)

Robin Sparkles is the horse to beat as she moves back into allowance company following a couple of stakes appearances. She ran very well in her seasonal debut in the License Fee, staying on gamely for second while running against the toughest field that she’s yet faced in her brief career. She also showed a new dimension that day, as she rated off the pace and held her position through the stretch. She got the job done on dirt last time, but that’s not her preferred surface. She’s back in an appropriate spot this time, but she will have to deal with the early speed of Jakarta and potentially even Karak. She may simply be the best horse in this race, but she’s also likely to be favored and it’s not as if she has much margin for error. Some may consider a closer like Madeline Must as the alternative, but I haven’t been thrilled with any of her turf races in this country. She got a great trip when she won at Aqueduct last November and accomplished that win against a much weaker field than she meets here. She has met some tougher rivals in stakes company since then, but she was never a real threat to win those races. I instead prefer the other closer Catch a Bid. This mare was a turf miler for Chad Brown before she recently cut back in distance for new trainer Joe Sharp. She handled the initial turn back well in April at Keeneland, just missing going 5 1/2 furlongs after slipping through inside. Yet she couldn’t quite go with a faster field in the The Very One last time at Pimlico, where she was outrun every step of the way. I think this 6-furlong trip will be perfect for her, and she’s clearly capable at her best. Joe Sharp has been enjoying a strong meet at Churchill Downs this summer, and he’s 10 for 42 (24%, $2.66 ROI) in turf sprints at Belmont over the past 5 years.

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