Belmont Horses in Focus for Friday, July 2


Tapalist could go off favored here as he makes his NYRA debut off the claim for Robertino Diodoro. This barn hasn’t had too many starters in New York over the past year or so, but he does have an excellent record of improving horses off the claim at other circuits. This colt did put forth a strong performance two back when he won impressively for the $10k tag at Oaklawn. He couldn’t handle a step up in class last time, but that was probably a tougher field than the one he meets here. If he improves at all he’s going to be tough for this field to handle. However, there are questions about him and others to consider. I’m not a big fan of Pier Forty, who just seems to have gone the wrong way of late, and Beach Front seems like a dubious candidate to get a mile. Therefore, I’m going in a different direction with Beatthatflew. He wasn’t defeating much of a field when he won his N2L condition two back, but he drew off impressively through the lane and earned a respectable speed figure for the level. Some may dismiss him due to the fact that he was well beaten in his first start for the Joe Parker barn last time, but he was badly overmatched against allowance company. Despite the stiff competition, he was running on late in that race, confirming that he has taken a step forward since the winter. Now he’s back at the right level, and he ran the best race of his career over a sloppy, sealed track, which he could encounter again.


I’m sticking with the same pick in this race whether it’s contested on dirt or turf. On grass, I want to take a stand against the likely favorite Dancing Firefly. This filly earned a competitive speed figure in her debut, but she got a perfect trip against a fairly mediocre maiden claiming field. The gap between special weight and claimers isn’t as wide with the New York-bred maidens, but I still think she needs to improve to overtake some of her more experienced rivals. Caumsett showed that she could handle added ground last time when hanging on for second after setting an honest pace. I would use her prominently, but there are a few first time turfers to consider. Most will gravitate towards Tapple Cider or La Victoria, but I’m a little skeptical about both of them transitioning to grass. The former has a bit more pedigree, but it seems doubtful that her connections paid $290k for her expecting her to be a grass horse. And La Victoria just seems desperately placed after disappointing twice on the dirt. I’m most interested in Cali Fitz as she stretches out in her second start. This filly was extremely green in her debut, as she reacted badly to racing in tight quarters on the backstretch, climbing while taking herself out of the race. She was outrun for much of the way but was running on at the end, as if more distance won’t be an issue. If this race stays on the turf, she does have some pedigree to handle it. California Chrome has been a 10% turf sire with limited starters and there is some grass in the second generation of her pedigree. On dirt, proven main track horses like A Bit o’Irish Sass and Raffinity would draw into the race, but I still prefer the upside of Cali Fitz.


Likely favorite Kokopelli is one of two Christophe Clement-trained daughters of Into Mischief in this field. She’s undefeated after two starts, having put in professional efforts on each occasion. Yet she’s also worked out perfect trips in each of those victories. She saved ground along an advantageous rail path in her debut before closing outside in the stretch, and last time she was reserved off a torrid early pace before closing down the leaders. I suppose she does still have upside in just her third career start but this is easily the best field she’s faced thus far. You’re not going to get much value with Irad Ortiz taking over the reins. She’s a win candidate, to be sure, but not one that I’m eager to bet at a short price. I actually think Clement’s other runner Mischievous Dream is just as interesting. She’s been in some tough spots ever since winning her debut last summer at Saratoga. She put in a professional effort to beat males that day, and was flattered when runner-up Thin White Duke returned to run win some stakes later in the summer. That was her only start against NY-breds until now, and she might just be getting the class relief she needs. I also think she could appreciate the cutback in distance. I’m using both of them, but my top pick is Silky Blue. This filly got the wrong trip last time when losing as the 3-2 favorite. She found herself chasing an honest pace in a race that ended up falling apart in the late stages, as the horse that she was dueling with on the front end faded to finish a distant last. This filly tried to kick for home with the closers but just couldn’t match their speed in the last furlong. She had been in great form coming into that start, just missing twice at this level. She now finds herself in a paceless race where she should be able to control the early pace through moderate splits. New pilot John Velazquez has done well at this meet when able to slow down the early pace in turf sprints.

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