Belmont Horses in Focus for Sunday, October 24

RACE 3: AMERICAN DAY (#3)

Ansel was probably facing some slightly tougher fields at this level during the Saratoga meet. He never really got involved after a slow start in his career debut when finishing behind subsequent Grade 2 Pilgrim runner-up Portfolio Company. He fared better last time, as he tugged his way into a more forward position and finished well once in the clear. Winner Kiss the Sky returned to finish second in a stakes at Kentucky Downs. He now cuts back a bit in distance but that’s not a major hurdle. He’s trained very well on dirt recently, and seems to be sitting on a good effort. One of the most intriguing rivals for the favorite is firster Sy Dog. This homebred is by Slumber, who is 0 for 11 with first time starters. However, among Slumber’s 7 progeny to try the turf, 4 are winners over it, including G2 winner Fluffy Socks. The dam was a 2-time turf winner and her only other foal to race is this one’s full-sibling Jimmy P, a turf winner. I’m using him, but I’m most interested in a much bigger price. American Day is obviously stepping up in class coming from Monmouth, but I think this horse is better than his form indicates. Obviously he doesn’t have much dirt ability, but he took a huge step forward on grass last time at the Meadowlands. He arguably could have won that race with a smoother trip, but his rider found traffic at a few points. Most horses might have given up after such a stop-and-start trip, but American Day still finished up very gamely in tight quarters. The overall quality of that field last time is unclear, but this colt may have another move forward in him and shouldn’t just be dismissed here.

RACE 5: PLEASE THE PHAROAH (#2)

Advise and Consent seems like the horse to beat off his solid debut effort. That was going 6 furlongs but he’s bred to stretch out as a son of Tourist from a dam that won routing. The winner of that last race may be pretty good, and this guy was running on very strongly in the last furlong once he finally got clear in the lane. I think he has some ability, though it’s a little unusual to see Chad Brown stretch horses out this dramatically after debuting in a turf sprint. That said, he’s not catching the strongest field for the level and seems like a legitimate contender. I just doubt he’ll be much of a price. Arguably the most interesting horse in this field is North Carolina. This 4-year-old gelding may seem a little hard to like off his running lines, but he’s always been cut out to be a good one. He took a ton of money in his debut in the summer of 2020. He didn’t run well that day but was off for a long time after that. He resurfaced in Barclay Tagg’s barn this year and was working up a storm on the dirt at Saratoga over the summer. It was understandable that the connections tried him on dirt off that stellar worktab, but he didn’t handle it in the afternoon. Now he’s probably just getting back on the right surface, but he has to finally show up. I’m going in a different direction with Please the Pharoah. This colt has never hit the board on turf, but he steadily moved forward in his turf starts last fall and winter. He actually faced some decent rivals two back at Gulfstream and he was closing well in the very late stages after getting held up in traffic for much of the stretch run. I didn’t love his last race quite as much, but now he’s been off for a long time. If he’s improved at all since then he could easily handle a field like this. I know this barn isn’t known for success off layoffs, but this horse has some ability and should not be ignored.

RACE 9: BEACON HILL (#5)

This Point of Entry did not attract the strongest field. The two runners with the strongest class lines are obviously Tide of the Sea and Shamrocket. The former could have a pace advantage since he possesses more tactical speed than the plodding Shamrocket. However, whether or not he gets to the front could be dependent on the tactics of Mo Gotcha, who would seemingly be in this race to set the pace if the connections decide to start. Tide of the Sea doesn’t necessarily need the lead to be successful, but he’s run his best races from a front-running position. He did defeat Shamrocket when they faced off going this distance in the Grand Couturier earlier this year, but his form since then has been spotty. Shamrocket is more reliable, as he seems to always show up and run a respectable speed figure. The problem is that he’s not really a winning type and often just plods along to pick up the pieces. He’s arguably facing the weakest stakes field that he’s met this year, and 12 furlongs is obviously right up his alley. I’m not against him, but I didn’t want to take a short price on either of these horses. My top pick is Beacon Hill. This Michael Matz trainee is stretching out to a marathon distance for the first time, and I think he’s going to like it. Progeny of Blame can certainly stretch out and there’s plenty of stamina breeding on the bottom side of this pedigree. Beacon Hill returned from a layoff earlier this year and I think he’s really flourished with the move to turf. He outran his odds to be fourth in a tough optional claimer at Saratoga in August, and more recently I thought he was a little unlucky when trying to rally between horses last time at Keeneland. There isn’t much speed in this race, and he figures to work out a perfect pocket trip in behind Tide of the Sea and Mo Gotcha.

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