Belmont Horses in Focus for Sunday, July 11


This competitive N1X allowance has drawn a very strong field for the level. The horse to beat is probably Big Package, who steps up against open company after impressively winning his final New York-bred allowance condition last time out. He did get plenty of pace to close into that day, but he still delivered a strong kick through the stretch and shouldn’t have any problem handling an extra furlong. The only negative is the fact that he loses Irad Ortiz, who is serving a suspension, but he figures to be involved as long as he holds his form. Wesley Ward has a pair of entrants in this spot, of which After Five looks like the stronger contender. He had to work a little harder than expected to break his maiden last time, and a couple runners have since come out of there to disappoint. This colt has a right to do better than that, as he did show plenty of promise as a 2-year-old, placing in a couple of graded stakes. Yet it’s time for him to run a faster speed figure. Voodoo Zip is one that I considered given all the trouble that he had last time in his first start against winners. Yet I went in a different direction for my top pick. Yes and Yes has run very well going this distance in the past and I think he’s been a little unlucky in his starts so far this year. He didn’t make the lead in either of his races in May, but in the second of those he got a foolish ride, as they decided to defer to the eventual winner in the opening quarter mile. They tried stretching him out last time, and the trip was just a disaster. He broke in the air, spotting the field about 5 lengths. From there, he made a move into the race on the far turn before flattening out. He’s better than that, and he should get a more favorable trip this time, either setting the pace or sitting just off the longshot rail runner.


I’m not quite sure what to do with Jalen Journey in this race. I suppose he’s the horse to beat given his apparent pace advantage. The TimeformUS Pace Projector suggests that he’s going to be on the lead in a situation favoring the front-runner. However, TimeformUS also rated his last race pretty poorly, giving him only a 100 speed figure, adjusted down considerably due to the fact that he set a slow pace. Yet he might get a similar setup here. The big difference is that he’s now stepping up to face a much tougher field. This horse does have some back class, but I haven’t seen enough from him in his recent starts to suggest he’s up to the task of holding off some of the more formidable rivals in this race. Basin and Endorsed both contested the Grade 1 Churchill Downs Stakes this spring, and while neither one fared that well, they’re both getting significant class relief here. I prefer Endorsed, who has run well sprinting in the past and may be in stronger form than it appears. Yet I’m also intrigued by the pair of Linda Rice runners in this spot. Wicked Trick has the stronger overall speed figures, having competed against graded stakes company in his recent starts. Yet my top pick is Linda’s other runner Montauk Traffic. A paceless situation obviously wouldn’t help this guy much, but he does possess a potent closing kick and may be able to overcome an early deficit with his strong turn of foot. That’s what he was able to do against lesser company two back when the pace was moderate and he used a sprint finish to pass them all and run away from the field. I was impressed with his effort to just miss last time and Linda Rice is quite confidently skipping over the N2X condition that he’s still eligible for to run in this N3X optional claimer.


Virginia Joy is a deserving favorite in this River Memories after just missing by 2 1/4 lengths in a loaded edition of the Grade 2 New York Stakes last time. Finishing within range of runners like Mean Mary and Thundering Nights suggests that she does possess graded stakes quality and should be able to handle this listed stakes field. However, she did get a perfect trip en route to that fourth-place finish, riding the rail all the way before tipping out in the stretch. She has an adaptable running style that gives her rider Manny Franco options here. Yet she’s not the only one coming out of the New York, and others had tougher trips. One of those is Civil Union, but this mare is difficult to trust after failing to deliver in both appearances so far in 2021. She was compromised by a slow pace in the Beaugay going a distance that is probably too short for her. However, she was supposed to show more last time, never picking up over that yielding course. Firmer going may suit her here, but she still has questions to answer. I prefer a different runner exiting the New York. Mutamakina arguably had the toughest trip that day, as she raced wide around both turns, getting pushed out especially far off the rail as they approached the quarter pole. All things considered, she never stopped running, and wasn’t disgraced finishing sixth. She figures to move forward off that effort as she drops in class. This mare had shown quality last year. She probably should have won both U.S. appearances in 2020, as she was unlucky to lose the Zagora following a terrible trip. This time Rosario figures to attain forward position and may even elect to place her on the lead, which wouldn’t be a terrible decision given the lack of pace in this race.

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