Belmont Horses in Focus for Sunday, May 22

RACE 2: CARA’S DREAMER (#2)

The Chad Brown-trained #5 Marvelous Maude figures to go favored again here, as she’s usually pretty popular at the windows. Amazingly, 5 of the 6 runners entered for turf in this spot all met up in a race at this level nearly 6 months ago on Nov. 27. A close viewing of that affair is essential handicapping information for this race. Marvelous Maude achieved the best result that day, finishing ahead of the four rivals she meets here, while checking in second. She arguably should have won, as she was never inside and had to cover plenty of ground on the turns while launching her bid. This filly is lightly raced and has moved forward with each turf start. I wouldn’t be too concerned about the layoff since the barn is one of the best in the business with this move. She’s the one to beat, but I prefer the fourth-place finisher from that Nov. 27 event who figures to be a better price. #2 Cara’s Dreamer finished 3/4-length behind Marvelous Maude that day, but she also got a wide trip and ran better than it seems. She’s not exactly a win machine, but she always shows up with a good effort regardless of the company. She really stepped up her game in the second half of last season, as she picked up a couple of stakes placings over this course. She also has a recency edge on some others, having gotten in a prep at Aqueduct. She closed well, but was cost a victory by having to alter course to the far outside in upper stretch. If she can work out a smoother journey here, I think she can find her way to the winner’s circle. 

RACE 5: SUMMER AT THE SPA (#6)

#12 Tis a Pity figures to go off as a substantial favorite in this 12-horse claiming affair. She’s previously run well against New York-bred allowance foes, so this drop in for a tag is supposed to put her in the winner’s circle. However, I wasn’t thrilled with her last race. She rightfully took money that day, going off as the 2-1 narrow second choice. Yet she failed to capitalize on a perfect setup, as she got plenty of pace ahead of her and only closed mildly for fourth. That performance is probably good enough to beat this field, but she is returning from a layoff for a barn that doesn’t have the best stats off breaks like this. I want to find some alternative and there are a few to consider. #7 Thegoddessofsnakes and #8 Ofalltheginjoints both possess the tactical speed to get the jump on the favorite. Both are coming off decent runner-up performances, but I don’t think either were facing particularly strong fields last time. I instead want to look in a different direction with #6 Summer At the Spa. This mare has sprinted effectively in the past, finishing second at this level in April 2021, and prior to that picking up minor awards at the New York-bred N1X level. There’s an argument that she was in better form back then, but I don’t think her recent turf races are as bad as they seem. She got involved in a quick pace on June 19 of last year, and then in her return last time she was very wide around both turns. The turnback suits her as she switches into the barn of Horacio De Paz, who is 4 for 15 (27%, $4.02 ROI) off trainer switches on turf over the past 5 years. 

RACE 8: ZOOMER(#4)

This is one of the more intriguing races on the card, as you have a few formerly promising runners meeting up here as older horses having squandered some of that early potential, chief among them the enigmatic #8 Hidden Scroll. He’s one of just two horses in this optional claimer being offered for the $80k tag, notably after being purchase at auction by his current owner for $525k. The fact that I’ve pegged that popular 6-year-old as the longest price on the morning line speaks to the overall depth of this field. The horse to beat is arguably #6 Fortin Hill. A $575k auction purchase as a two-year-old, he began his career in impressive fashion but has had a few significant stops and starts along the way. He’s now in Bill Mott’s barn as a 6-year-old making his third start off a lengthy layoff. I thought he ran reasonably well last time in the Sir Shackleton despite not getting the most comfortable trip chasing from the inside. He’s logical, but I didn’t want to take too short a price on anyone in this field. #1 Whistling Birds and #2 Mr Phil are both coming off victories with solid speed figures, but both enjoyed perfect trips in those races and are stepping up to face tougher this time. I instead preferred a couple of horses dropping out of stakes. My top pick is #4 Zoomer. This hard-trying gelding can run effectively over a variety of distances, but I think he’s best between 7 furlongs and a mile, especially in races that feature some early pace. He figures to get that here with a few other speeds signed on. They tried the Grade 3 Westchester with him, but he was just no match for the improved Cody’s Wish. He’s now back in a realistic spot for Linda Rice, whose barn has woken up a bit at Belmont after a slow winter. The other horse I’d want to use at a bigger price is #5 Lobsta. He was no match for the classy Ny Traffic in a NY-bred stakes last time, but he’s now stretching back out to his best distance and has some speed figures that put him in the mix. I won’t fault him for failing to handle a mile two back, as he can win this race if he runs back to his stakes victory from last December.

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