Belmont Horses in Focus for Friday, October 22


Clara Peeters has finished third in both 2021 starts despite going off at short prices each time, and she figures to take money once again here. The turnback to 7 furlongs may benefit her, since she earned her only U.S. victory going this distance last season. The question is whether she’s still as good as then. She hasn’t had any major excuses from a trip standpoint in her last two starts, though she is arguably facing a softer field this time. She’s a contender, but I didn’t want to take a short price on her. I have similar feelings about Publication. A repeat of her April 24 performance makes her a deserving favorite, as she defeated the very good High Opinion, who would later go on to place in Grade 2 company in the Ballston Spa. However, that was going 1 1/16 miles, and she didn’t handle the cutback to today’s distance particularly well in the Intercontinental. She took a ton of money that day and never picked up the bit, finishing last. Perhaps something else was going on, as she’s now been off for nearly 5 months. She obviously runs well fresh but she needs a bit of pace ahead of her. I want to get a little more creative here with My Sweet Wife. This filly has  run some of her best speed figures on the turf but she’s never hit the board on this surface. She has been successful going this distance on the dirt, winning both prior 7-furlongs starts, so perhaps a slight turnback on the turf is what she wants. The problem is that her recent form looks spotty. Though, note that she didn’t run as poorly as it might seem last time at Monmouth. The turf was wet and the race was dominated up front. She’s a little better than her form might suggest, and she’ll be a square price for capable connections.


There are a couple of first time starters who could take money in this spot and I’m not thrilled with either one. Make a Wish is by Curlin out of the Grade 1-winning dam Got Luck, who was best routing. That makes her a full-sibling to Overtook, runner-up in the G3 Withers going 9 furlongs earlier this year. However, Todd Pletcher is just 2 for 23 (9%, $0.85 ROI) with 2-year-old firsters in dirt routes over the past 5 years. Her Saratoga workouts this summer were fairly ordinary, and she’s had a series of slow and steady drills since then. She’s not the biggest filly, considering her pedigree, and I wonder if she’ll take money just because of the connections. I have even more questions about Nostaglic. This filly was entered to debut on Sep. 25 and was a vet scratch. She had reportedly trained well into that race, but I haven’t liked her recent workouts. She’s been outworked in the morning by a couple of maiden stablemates in the Bill Mott barn who both are turf horses. Plus Mott has worse numbers than Pletcher with juvenile firsters routing on dirt. The horse to beat is probably Handbelle, who ran decently in her debut and is bred to stretch out. I’m hardly against her and think she probably deserves to be favored. I also would give a look to Into Happiness on the stretch-out. She showed very little in her debut, but she’s bred to relish the added ground given her stamina-laden damside pedigree. I could have put either of them on top, but I want to get more creative. The first time starter that I find most intriguing is Toosweettobesour. This filly was a $55k RNA as a yearling, and then sold for $45k at OBS June after working a quarter in 21 4/5. Mastery is off to a slow start as a sire, but the dam won 4 of her first 5 starts, including the Shine Again on dirt. This is her first foal to race, but the dam is a half-sister to Horse of the Year and BC Classic winner Mucho Macho Man, and is a full-sister to G2 Brooklyn winner Marconi. James Begg is 0 for 2 with firsters in his solo training career, but both of those finished third. She looks to be spotted at the right distance, and it’s interesting that Luis Saez lands here.


This Carle Place has drawn a wide open field of 12 runners with no clear standout. I think the horse to beat is probably Easy Time, who exits a solid runner-up performance in the Grade 2 Franklin-Simpson at Kentucky Downs. He was facing a couple of classy European shippers in that spot and did well to close for third while coming up the rail. I think 7 furlongs is the perfect distance for this horse, as he won going this far over Tapeta in his career debut last year. He didn’t fare so well in his lone prior start at the NYRA circuit in the Hall of Fame, but he got taken up sharply in the stretch of that race. There should be some early pace for him, and I just think he makes the most sense. I’m also not against the two horses coming out of the Allied Forces earlier in this Belmont meet. Smokin’ Jay got the better trip that day, as he just saved ground on the rail and found running room to move through inside in upper stretch. Arzak, meanwhile, broke slowly and switched out to come around horses at the quarter pole, which proved to be the wrong move. I think Arzak is just as good as Smokin’ Jay and could be a bigger price this time. They’re all worth using, but I’m most interested in a new face. Snow House switches back to the turf for the first time since his career debut. He had a bit of a trip that day, getting shuffled back on the far turn and encountering some traffic in upper stretch. Since then he’s improved on dirt, placing in the Grade 3 Dwyer, but I’m intrigued by him getting back on grass. He’s by versatile sire Twirling Candy and his second dam is multiple Group 1 winning Special Duty, who was elevated to victory in both the English and French 1000 Guineas via disqualification. Notably, Snow House has been training over turf recently and he’s been outworking this barn’s Slicked Back, who runs in Saturday’s Hill Prince. 

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