Belmont Horses in Focus for Sunday, May 15

RACE 4: KLICKITAT (#3)

I would imagine that both Christophe Clement runners will take money in this NY-bred optional claimer, and I’m not particularly fond of either from a wagering standpoint. #2 Straw Into Gold probably wants to go a bit farther than this and I thought he should have won last time after getting a nice trip stalking a moderate pace. #8 Panster may have a bit more upside as he two races second off a layoff. He didn’t have much closing punch going 6 furlongs last time, but that race was dominated up front. They both make some sense, but I thought there were similarly talented options at better prices. #6 Chulainn might have a better closing kick than both of the Clement runners. I thought he ran pretty well at this level last November, closing determinedly between horses when he finally found daylight. Seven furlongs might be a good distance for him, since he’ll get more pace up front. I’m also intrigued by #5 Not Phar Now returning from the lengthy layoff. He ran a big race in his lone turf start almost a year ago, which came over today’s course and distance. Runner-up Turn of Events exited that race to have success, so he beat a nice rival. This is a big ask off the layoff, but he may have the talent to pull it off. My top pick is #3 Klickitat. He’s a solid fit at this level, having run well in similar spots multiple times in the past. He didn’t even run that badly first off the claim for Mike Maker when he tried the much tougher Mohawk late last year. He subsequently failed to show up at Gulfstream, but that course just doesn’t suit him. He’s now returning to New York and cutting back in distance. Mike Maker is 8 for 37 (22%, $2.45 ROI) going from routes to sprints on turf at Belmont over the past 5 years. If he shows up with his good race, he’ll be tough to beat, and the price should be fair.

RACE 6: SOUTH STREET (#6)

I have no major issues with #3 Dr Ardito, who is very logical as he seeks his fourth consecutive victory for the Chad Brown barn. It’s not easy to advanced right through New York-bred allowance conditions into open company, but this grey gelding has improved with each successive start. I do wonder where his ceiling lies since he earned a big speed figure last time and is now stepping up to meet a tougher field. I’m not against him, but I didn’t feel the need to take him at a short price. I am a little more confident in his trustworthiness than likely second choice #7 Jerry the Nipper. I can’t fault this horse for losing to the talented Pipeline last time, and he was chasing wide against a strong rail. However, he barely held off Uncle Moonlight for third and that rival wouldn’t exactly be that formidable in this affair. He could receive some early pressure from Perceived or American Rule, and I haven’t loved the way he’s finished in either start since returning from a layoff. I’m instead going for a bigger price with #6 South Street. This 3-year-old obviously needs to improve from a speed figure standpoint, but he does have plenty of upside. I thought he was pretty game to get up for the victory at Aqueduct two back despite coming into the stretch with plenty to do. He was subsequently flattered when runner-up Awesome Aaron came back to win. I don’t want to get too caught up in the margin of defeat in the Tesio last time, since he got a pretty uncomfortable trip that day, ridden into traffic on the backstretch before getting shuffled back. He’s better than that and figures to get somewhat ignored in the wagering.

RACE 7: NEW YORK GIRL (#10)

This optional claimer came up unusually tough for the N2X condition, and Chad Brown has a couple of strong contenders. Both #2 Love and Thunder and #9 Flighty Lady have run well enough to make them competitive here, but have also been a little disappointing during their U.S. campaigns. The former settled for second when she should have won on more than a few occasions last year, but she was pretty impressive winning over this course in October. She projects to get a good trip and is dangerous off the bench. I slightly prefer her to Flighty Lady, who wasn’t beating a particularly good field at Aqueduct last April. She subsequently failed to step forward, though she might not have appreciated a yielding turf course at Saratoga last summer. An intriguing new face in this affair is #5 King’s Harlequin, who makes her U.S. debut for Christophe Clement. As a 2-year-old, she defeated subsequent Group 1 winner Sealiway, as well as G3 winner Harajuku. She was very game in the G3 Prix de la Grotte two back, as she got passed in mid-stretch but re-rallied to almost come back for the victory. Christophe Clement, who is 5 for 33 (15%, $1.20 ROI) with foreign shippers off 180+ day layoffs over the past 5 years. My top pick is #10 New York Girl. She showed excellent form when she first appeared in this country, just missing to some classy foes like Micheline and Blowout in Grade 2 races. However, she put in an inexplicably poor effort in the Just a Game and hasn’t hit the board since then. Though her form may not be quite as poor as it looks. She did have a serious spot of trouble in that Aug. 1 allowance race at Saratoga before going to the bench. Then last time she just got too far back in a race that was dominated on the front end, but was finishing best of all. I think she lands in a good spot and could go off at a square price.

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