Belmont Horses in Focus for Friday, June 25

RACE 2: JUMPSTER (#9)

Multiple Expansion may go favored here as he drops out of maiden special weight company into this bottom-level maiden claimer. He’s also switching surfaces after getting bet down to 2-1 in his debut against a pretty solid field for state-bred maidens. It was a little surprising to see him take so much money given that he doesn’t have a particularly convincing turf pedigree. His dam was best on synthetic, and her top foal was a stakes winner on dirt. Yet all that may not matter much as he gets significant class relief here. He appears to be training reasonably well on the dirt in the mornings and he could be tough to beat if he improves at all. I definitely want the lightly raced runners in this field, as I’m not thrilled with a runner like Flipping Fun, who could also take some money. While this horse is in career form right now, he’s a 17-start maiden who has done his best work sprinting. I don’t see the evidence that he can be as effective going this one-mile distance. I prefer Jumpster, who stretches out in his third career start. He ran pretty well in his career debut, chasing an honest pace that fell apart. He looked like he might be tiring in upper stretch, but he stayed on well late to come back for third. He did regress slightly last time, but he also encountered some traffic around the quarter pole. Now he makes his first start off the claim for Gary Sciacca. He’s bred to handle the stretch-out, and Sciacca is a solid 7 for 42 (17%, $2.12 ROI) with maidens going from sprints to dirt routes over the past 5 years.

RACE 6: U SHOULD B DANCING (#5)

There are many ways to go in this highly competitive maiden special weight affair. Kreesa La Wrote, Get the Candy, and No Payne all figure to attract some support, and I don’t have particularly negative takes on any of them. Kreesa La Wrote probably owns the best race of that trio, having finished second at this level to the talented Runaway Rumour two back. She comes off a poor effort last time, but that was going a mile, which may just be beyond her ideal range. She makes plenty of sense, but her margin for error is pretty slim. No Payne ran well against a tough pace scenario when she defeated Get the Candy last November, and she has a race under her belt as a 3-year-old whereas Get the Candy is off a layoff. I slightly prefer the upside of Get the Candy, but I want to go to a different layoff horse for my top pick. U Should B Dancing only made two starts on turf last year and both were solid efforts. She found 7 furlongs to be a little far in her grass debut last October, as she struck the front in midstretch and just couldn’t quite hang on in a race that was falling apart late. And then on Nov. 8, she set a very fast early pace and might have hung on had her rider been able to keep a straight path. Yet she bore out badly through the stretch and got nailed on the wire. I’m a little concerned about that tendency to drift, as she was also tough to handle in her two-year-old finale on dirt. That said, the time away may have done her well, and she has a right to insert herself into the mix with routine improvement.

RACE 7: THERISASTORMBREWIN (#5)

I have some reservations about the possible favorite, Striking Speed. This horse is coming off a performance that would make him awfully tough to beat. That 106 TimeformUS Speed Figure from last December was earned against a better field, and he was flattered when winner Our Last Buck went on to win a stakes in his next start. However, his prior form wasn’t quite up to that standard, and now he’s returning from a layoff and switching into the barn of Rob Atras. This stable is having a strong meet, but its one weakness is layoffs. Rob Atras is just 3 for 31 (10%, $1.09 ROI) off 120 to 240 day layoffs, and I think it’s a slight negative that this horse is in for a tag upon return. The problem is finding an alternative. I don’t really want anyone out of that May 20 race at this level. I suppose Fast Break ran the best race in that spot, as he nearly got up for the victory despite chasing a fast pace on the outside. However, he’s not the easiest horse to trust, nor is that race’s third-place finisher O’Trouble, who may not want to go this far. Shotski is the trip horse from that May 20 affair, as he was off a bit slowly and made a wide move into the fast pace. However, I’m concerned that he’s just lost a step and doesn’t possess the gate speed that was once his greatest weapon. I’m going instead with the ambitiously spotted Therisastormbrewin. This horse looks a little cheap, but he’s run some competitive speed figures going this distance. He could play out as the main speed drawn inside of Shotski, and I like the optimistic placement off the claim. I know some will be turned off by the recent record of Mertkan Kantarmaci, but this barn is underrated first off the claim. At NYRA, Kantarmaci is 6 for 28 (21%, $2.12 ROI) moving up in claiming price by 50% or more first off the claim on dirt. In a race where the short prices do very little for me, he offers some price appeal.

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