Belmont Horses in Focus for Thursday, October 21

RACE 2: SHUTTERS (#8)

The two horses likely to attract the most support in this New York-bred maiden event are Umbria and Yarrow, who finished second and third, respectively in a similar spot on Aug. 27 at Saratoga. Yarrow has run back since then, finishing a decent second going shorter earlier in this meet. Both make sense here, but their form is exposed at this point, and there are a couple of more lightly raced rivals in this field with upside. Christophe Clement has a pair of strong contenders in here, as he also sends out the second time starter Mr. Connecticut. I actually prefer this colt out of that Aug. 27 affair. He didn’t take much money that day, going off at 9-1, but he ran a respectable race. He was reserved towards the back of the pack early behind a moderate pace in a race dominated up front. Christophe Clement only has mediocre stats with maiden second time starters in turf routes. However, this one seems liable to improve and he’s unlikely to be favored over his stablemate. I’m using him prominently, but I prefer another second time starter at a bigger price. Shutters was bet down to favoritism in his debut, and was fairly disappointing. He never really got into the race, lagging back in last place early before only passing a couple of tired runners through the lane. He did race a bit greenly and was hitting his best stride at the end, just far too late. Now he adds blinkers for his second start. He had trained well prior to his debut, and he’s continued to do well in the morning while wearing that new equipment. I get the sense that there’s more here than we saw first time out. Furthermore, it’s always worth giving Chad Brown trainees a second look when they’re ridden by Manny Franco. These two are 13 for 44 (30%, $4.81 ROI) teaming up together on the turf over the past year. 

RACE 3: SCOCCIATORE (#7)

The likely short prices in this N1X allowance event aren’t exactly trustworthy. Perhaps the public goes for Mahaamel one more time, but he’s pretty hard to endorse off his dull effort last time. This colt seemed so full of promise at the start of his career, but his form has steadily declined ever since that maiden victory back in June. He’s obviously a contender if he can get back to any of his first four races, but I don’t like when runners for this barn appear to be in decline. Perfect Munnings is arguably even more of a puzzle as he goes out for the same trainer. He’s a major player here off his impressive victory over New York-breds two back at Saratoga. However, it seemed strange that they went back to turf last time and he was absolutely dreadful as the 4-5 favorite. He’s probably getting back on his preferred surface now, but it’s hard to have any confidence in him. I prefer others. Wudda U Think Now seems like a logical alternative. He didn’t run a step last time in the John Morrissey, but he was racing over a sloppy track and coming back on just 12 days’ rest. He’s since had a brief layoff and can certainly win this race if he bounces back into form. My top pick at a bigger price is Scocciatore. This horse has been campaigned on turf for the majority of his career, but there’s an argument that the two best races he’s ever run have come on the dirt. That dirt loss against claiming company in the summer of 2020 was an underrated effort, as he survived a fast pace to be second. And when he got back on the main track two back at Saratoga, he absolutely demolished a field by 9 lengths. He did benefit from a slow pace going that quirky 5 1/2-furlong distance, but the runner-up came back to validate that form in his next start. The Chris Englehart barn is always dangerous going turf to dirt, and I like this rider switch to Jose Ortiz.

RACE 7: IRISH SEA (#1)

There are many lightly raced runners in this field with intriguing profiles. Yet the horse to beat might be the most experienced of them all. Fromanothamutha ran an excellent race going this distance lats time. He dueled with today’s rival Vodka Mardini through honest early fractions before putting that one away and gamely battling the winner to the wire. It was a reasonably fast race for the level and that prior route experience could be valuable. I like the tenacity this colt displayed last time and think he’s a major contender once again. The horse that could go favored over him is second time starter Mo Donegal. This son of Uncle Mo didn’t take much money in his debut, and he ran like a horse who needed the race. He was off last in the field and had to be ridden for much of that sprint journey, but he did eventually respond and was finishing best of all at the end despite racing on his wrong lead. He got some pace to close into that day, but there’s obviously talent here. His second dam is 10-furlong Delaware Handicap winner Island Sand, so the added distance shouldn’t be an issue. Plus, Pletcher is a solid 15 for 48 (31%, $1.84 ROI) with 2-year-old maiden second time starters going from sprints to dirt routes over the past 5 years. I’d use him, and there are plenty of other lightly-raced options to consider, including the first time starter Constitutionlawyer, who has been working well for Ray Handal. Yet I’m going in a different direction for my top pick. Irish Sea is worth one more chance at a price. This attractive son of Honor Code has no doubt been a disappointment so far, but there are some reasons to give him a long look. He obviously needed the debut when he chased an honest pace and faded. He looks like one that wants to go longer than that, and he got that chance last time, just on turf. A slow break put him out of position, and he had little chance to make up the ground in a strong race for the level. How he’s back on dirt and McGaughey is 6 for 22 (27%, $1.75 ROI) with maidens going from turf to dirt routes. Notably, he’s been working strongly in the new blinkers lately, galloping out with excellent energy. He seems primed for a better effort. 

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