Belmont Horses in Focus for Friday, October 15

RACE 6: MEZCAL (#1)

A couple of fillies exit the 10th race on Sep. 3 at Saratoga. There’s an argument to be made that Sitting Pretty was unlucky not to win that day, as she looked loaded on the far turn but Rosario could just never get her into the clear in the stretch until it was too late. She never had to steady sharply, but she was jostled multiple times while searching for room. The posted fractions and time of that race look slow, but those are all incorrect. They actually went pretty quickly up front (Trakus has 47.55 to the half) so she got a decent pace setup. Added distance should be no issue for this Christophe Clement trainee, but I wonder if she’ll get overbet off that last trip. Pruning also exits that Sep. 3 affair, but I thought she got a pretty good trip, stalking inside early before finding room on the rail. I want to go in a different direction with Mezcal. She did not get a particularly clever ride last time, as she looked like the clear speed on paper, but was instead rated off the pace. To make matters worse, she was never on the rail on a day that featured a significant inside bias on the inner turf course. No official fractions are available, but the pace was extremely slow according to my colleague Craig Milkowski, who timed it from video. Mezcal found herself in the opposite situation two back when she got involved in a heated duel through fast fractions before fading at Saratoga. She’s better than her recent results indicate. Stretching out to 1 1/4 miles is a question mark, but I think she’s the most likely winner and she may not be favored.

RACE 7: HONEY PANTS (#12)

Bay Storm is clearly the one to beat off her dominant Christiecat score, which earned her a field-best 113 TimeformUS Speed Figure. There are no official times posted, but she actually set an honest pace on the lead, based on video timings of the race. That said, she was racing on an inner turf course that was heavily biased towards rail runners, and she rode the hedge the entire way. She now must stretch out to 7 furlongs and deal with some other speed. Furthermore, Jonathan Thomas is just 2 for 25 (8%, $1.54 ROI) with last-out winners in stakes on the turf over 5 years. I’m skeptical of this likely favorite. Caldee also makes sense coming out of that Christiecat. She figures to appreciate getting slightly more ground here, but she also rode the rail until getting into the stretch last time, which may have aided her performance. Invincible Gal makes plenty of sense as she cuts back in distance. I’ve always liked this filly going shorter distances and her recent form is better than it appears. She got the wrong trip in the Tepin three back and then was stymied in traffic two back at Saratoga. In some ways, I think Invincible Gal is the horse to beat, but I wanted to go for a bigger price. Honey Pants is the horse that I want to take out of the Christiecat. It may look like she regressed that day, but she got an impossible trip over a biased course. She was ridden to stay in touch early behind a legitimate pace, but was 2- to 3-wide all the way while rail runners dominated. I don’t think the gap between she and Bay Storm is nearly as large as that last result indicates. She doesn’t have the flashy speed figures of some others, but she’s run deceptively well in a few races, particularly three back when overcoming a slow pace to win on June 20. There’s talent here and she’s going to be a much better price this time.

RACE 8: UNION GABLES (#5)

Whispering Pines is obviously the horse to beat as she tries again at this N2X allowance level after losing as the 6-5 favorite last time out. She was a little overbet that day and didn’t run poorly in defeat, basically repeating her usual speed figure while just running into a superior rival. She’s run well in most of her starts for Horacio DePaz, but now she does have to cut back slightly in distance and she lands in a race that doesn’t feature an abundance of early speed. She’s a deserving favorite, but I think others figure to offer better value. Patty H and Easy to Bless battled when they met on July 16 at Saratoga, with the former just gaining the advantage at the wire. Both have been claimed since then, with Patty H going to Mike Miceli and Easy to Bless now with James Ferraro. I slightly prefer Easy to Bless, who may get somewhat ignored due to the apprentice rider, though I don’t fully trust either one. My top pick is Union Gables. I’m not sure why this filly’s connections seemed so intent on turning her into a turf horse when she’s seemingly better on dirt. She wanted no part of the distance three back at Belmont, but I thought she ran well getting back into a dirt sprints two back at Monmouth. She ran a legitimate speed figure that day and won going away in the end. I don’t care about her last grass start when she was always outrun after getting steadied at the start. She should get the right kind of outside stalking trip and she figures to be a decent price.

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