Belmont Horses in Focus for Thursday, October 28

RACE 3: SHASTA STAR (#2)

My Roxy Girl could vie for favoritism after the expected scratch of Spun d’Etat, who is entered back on Friday’s card. This 6-year-old mare suddenly got back into top form last time first off the claim for Juan Vazquez, making a bold far turn move to blow the race open. She was undoubtedly facing a weaker group that day and now steps up in class. She’s a player here if she holds that form, but I’m somewhat skeptical given her prior inconsistency. And this isn’t a barn I want to take at a short price. Fair Regis and Customerexperience are the logical alternatives. The former is among the most consistent runners in this field and is getting class relief as she drops out of allowance company. Customerexperience is an interesting claim by Gustavo Rodriguez given his prior work with her former trainer Rudy. She ran well to win for Mike Miceli last time and is confidently moved up in class for the new barn. My top pick at what should be a bigger price is Shasta Star. She put in a couple of strong efforts for Robertino Diodoro two and three back, despite not winning either of those races. She was facing a tougher field of $50k claimers in May and returned with a solid effort off the layoff at Saratoga in August. She set a quick pace that day and had every right to get tired late. She didn’t run particularly fast at Monmouth last time but she always appeared to be in command of that race. Now she’s moving back up in class first off the claim for Wayne Potts, who is 6 for 36 (17%, $2.14 ROI) first off the claim on dirt at NYRA. She also appears to be the controlling speed under the 5-pound apprentice.

RACE 5: CHARLIE FIVE O (#6)

There are two coupled entries in this field, and such races are often good betting opportunities if you like a horse who isn’t part of either entry. Among the two coupled pairings, I prefer the Rudy Rodriguez/Repole Stables entry. Both Devious Mo and Advance Notice are legitimate contenders at this level. Devious Mo ran fine against a similar field las time, showing speed before fading. Though the stronger half of the entry may be Advance Notice, who was 3-wide against a rail bias in his last start on Sep. 18. He’s now dropping to a slightly softer level and would be tough if he can get back to one of his best races. Looking beyond the entries, there are a few legitimate alternatives. Prince James could attract some support as he ships in from the mid-Atlantic region. However, his trainer Miguel Vera, who has plenty of success out of town, is just 3 for 40 ($0.63 ROI) at NYRA over the past 5 years. I’m a little skeptical of a horse who was protected in all of his prior starts dropping in for a tag as he comes to this circuit. My top pick is Charlie Five O. I’m not sure why his connections decided to immediately switch him over to turf after claiming him at Saratoga. He doesn’t have some appealing turf pedigree, and he had run well in his recent dirt starts. It turns out that he’s just not as good on grass and now he’s getting back to his preferred surface. I thought he ran deceptively well on Aug. 21 when he got caught in a pocket on the far turn and was bounced around in traffic in upper stretch. A repeat of that performance should be good enough to put him in the winner’s circle here. 

RACE 7: SEVEN LILIES (#2)

Big Bobby is clearly the horse to beat as he makes a third attempt to break through this N1X state-bred allowance condition. He’s run some of the fastest speed figures in this field and has been beaten some talented horses in his last couple of starts. It’s understandable that he was no match for a breakout performance from Judge N Jury two back at Saratoga, and last time he ran into the swift Gold Panda. As long as he maintains his form he seems well positioned to pick up his second victory. However, there are a few potential foes standing in his way. The obvious danger is Uno, who returns from a lengthy layoff for Todd Pletcher. This barn does great off these kinds of layoffs, but I have some questions about this gelding’s overall ability. He looked impressive winning his debut, but it’s unclear how strong that race was or if this son of Laoban just really appreciated the muddy track. He didn’t have much excuse losing as the even-money favorite next time out, and then was against a track bias last time. He may rebound, but I’m a little skeptical. I prefer Seven Lilies. The Rob Atras barn got off to a slow start at this meet, but they’ve picked up the pace lately. Atras won with 4 of his 7 starters across all circuits last week, including a couple of impressive winners at Belmont. Seven Lilies made his return earlier in this Belmont meet for Atras and just looked a little dull off the layoff. He still put in a solid late run but just couldn’t quite get there. I think we’ll see a better effort this time in a race that is supposed to feature a bit more early pace. This horse has the back form to be competitive with Big Bobby and he ran some of those top races when previously in Rob Atras’s stable.

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