Belmont Horses in Focus for Saturday, May 7

RACE 7: RUN UP THE SCORE (#6)

I’m not trying to beat #6 Run Up the Score, who should break her maiden in her second start, as long as none of the first time starters possess real ability. Little went right for this filly in her debut, and the trouble began at the start. She got away a half-step slowly, then was steadied sharply, putting her at the back of the pack early. That wasn’t the place to be in a race dominated up front on a day that favored speed types. Run Up the Score also seemed to react badly to the intense kickback, having to be spun wide to launch her run. She did close well late but just had too much ground to make up. She figures to fare better if she can manage a clean start this time. Chad Brown is 18 for 53 (34%, $2.17 ROI) with maiden second time starters in dirt sprints at NYRA over 5 years. I suppose the main dangers would be the first time starters from the Todd Pletcher and Bill Mott barns. #2 Don’t Overlook Me is by 8% debut sire Liam’s Map. There isn’t much immediate pedigree on the dam’s side, but her second dam Well Monied earned all of her victories on turf and was Grade 1-placed on that surface. Todd Pletcher is 15 for 55 (27%, $2.25 ROI) with 3YO first time starters in dirt sprints at NYRA over 5 years. She’s been training steadily at Palm Beach Downs, and looked to be traveling well within herself in company with an unraced stablemate on Apr. 8. I slightly prefer her to #5 Precursory, a homebred for Juddmonte. She’s by 15% debut sire Kantharos from a modest female family that hasn’t been especially productive for Juddmonte. Mott has good statistics with his 3-year-old firsters, so she wouldn’t be a huge surprise.

RACE 8: SACRED LIFE (#5)

If #6 Rockemperor does indeed go off as the favorite in the G2 Fort Marcy for the second year in a row, I have to try to beat him. He’s shown himself to be best over longer distances than this 1 1/8 miles, and he’s never been the most reliable win candidate. He did run well to win the Turf Classic last year, but he’s thrown down strong performances and failed to back them up before. He had some legitimate trouble in the Breeders’ Cup, but was back to his habit of disappointing when losing as the heavy favorite in the Hollywood Turf Cup. I don’t need him off the layoff at a short price. #3 City Man seems like the one to beat off his impressive return in the Danger’s Hour last time. He can get the 1 1/8 miles, and arguably ran one of the best races of his career in the Fort Marcy last year behind Tribhuvan. He’s gained consistency with age, and figures to work out a good trip tracking the likely speeds. Some may consider #7 Doswell as a horse that could take them all the way on the front end, but I would anticipate that King Cause will be aggressively ridden. Doswell has also never run as well in New York as he does at Gulfstream, so I don’t trust him to bring his strong recent form north. My top pick is #5 Sacred Life. If this race is run over a rain-softened course, he’s not going to mind some give in the ground. I think he’s run deceptively well in both starts this year. He was ridden with no urgency in the Muniz last time, having no chance to get involved from his position at the top of the stretch. And two back he actually came with a nice late rush in the Pegasus World Cup Turf but ran out of ground over a course that doesn’t really suit his running style. He won going this distance at Belmont in the Knickerbocker last year, perhaps the addition of blinkers will get him a bit more involved early.

RACE 10: ZOOMER (#3)

Likely favorite #4 Cody’s Wish has been pretty popular with the bettors. He is remarkably consistent, having earned rising speed figures throughout his career. He fell just a neck short of winning his fourth in a row last time, but the Challenger has come back as a very strong race. Scalding and Dynamic One returned to finish first and second in the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland, with improved speed figures. The other 4 horses to run back out of that race have all improved as well in their next starts. The one-mile distance suits him, and he possesses enough tactical speed to not be badly pace-compromised. Still, it’s not like he has some massive speed figure advantage over this field and he figures to be an awfully short price. Many will assume that #2 Sound Money is the lone speed here, as is indicated on the TimeformUS Pace Projector. Perhaps that’s the case, but he’s not a horse who is particularly sharp out of the gate, nor was Kendrick Carmouche at all aggressive with him in his last race. He did win in gate-to-wire fashion going 7 furlongs three back, but did so against a weaker field in a race lacking pace. I’m not way against him as the likely second choice, but I do think he’ll be overbet. My top pick is #3 Zoomer. I acknowledge that he got a perfect trip when he upset Sound Money two back in that optional claimer going today’s distance, with that rival running the better race. He wasn’t quite able to make it three in a row in his first start for the new barn last time, but came with his usual solid rally after having to alter course in the stretch. He figures to appreciate stretching back out to a mile, as he’s run his best races at this distance. While he lacks the class of some others, he does have speed figures to contend at this level. He also possesses more tactical speed than he’s displayed lately, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Dylan Davis gets aggressive and tries to take the lead away from Sound Money early. Note that won impressively in gate-to-wire fashion over a muddy track at Aqueduct last year.

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