Belmont Horses in Focus for Sunday, May 29

RACE 4: VINTAGE HOLLYWOOD (#1)

This didn’t come up as the toughest N2X allowance, so you have to consider last-out winner #2 Anejo even though he’s moving up in class. He earned a speed figure that puts him right back in the mix against this tougher field, and he seems like a horse who’s still improving as a lightly raced 4-year-old. I liked the grit and determination that he showed in victory last time, fending off Best Idea even after sustaining some bumps from that rival in upper stretch. He’s the horse to beat, but there are some others to consider at bigger prices. #6 Six Percent could take some money off his solid speed figure upon return against claimers last time. However, he never looked like a serious threat to win that race and his lack of early speed could be a detriment in here given the likely race flow. I’m more interested in #1 Vintage Hollywood, who should be a slightly better price. This horse didn’t get the savviest ride last time, as he was rushed up to contest the pace early before taking over from the leaders through some deceptively fast early fractions. The two horses who were dueling with him in that opening quarter were the last pair across the wire, beaten by 37 and 39 lengths. One of those runners, Invest, returned to rebound with a much faster speed figure in his next start. Considering that race flow, Vintage Hollywood did well to nearly hold on for second behind the heavy favorite No Salt. He showed improvement off the claim for Gustavo Rodriguez, and I think he’s dangerous here if he can build on that last effort.

RACE 6: VOODOO ZIP (#6)

I’m still trying to figure out how #1 Maxwell Esquire went off at 3-1 last time in a spot where he looked very logical. He’s kept some strong company over the past year, and was just getting the class relief that he needed dropping into that optional claimer to race for a tag first off the layoff. He also got a surprisingly strong pace to close into, as heavy favorite Artemus Citylimits ran off on the front end. He now makes his first start off the claim for Linda Rice, who is just 3 for 22 (14%, $0.73 ROI) first off the claim in turf sprints over the past 5 years. He’s dangerous again, but he is meeting a couple of talented rivals. #2 Matta was in strong form last year and has run well on this circuit before, having upset a Saratoga allowance field at 14-1 last year. However, he’s returning from a layoff and may be better off going slightly shorter than this. My top pick is #6 Voodoo Zip. Although he concentrated on route races for the majority of his career, I thought put forth some of his best efforts turning back to sprint last year. He ran very well to get the job done on July 11 last year when closing over a turf course that was favoring speed. He then showed the ability wo in at today’s distance in October when slicing through the pack to get the job done. He’s only raced once since then, when returning from a layoff at Gulfstream last month. However, he didn’t get the right trip that day, as he was in traffic right from the start and was just never in a position to do any serious running. He’s better than that and should benefit from having that race under his belt.

RACE 8: HIGH FRONT (#2)

#4 Big Invasion figures to go off as a heavy favorite in this Paradise Creek as he seeks to extend his winning streak to four in a row. However, he has to prove that he can handle a bit more distance, he’s never gone a step beyond 5 1/2 furlongs. He has been visually impressive in those shorter races and has run some impressive speed figures, as high as a 118 on the TimeformUS scale. A repeat of that form will make him pretty tough to handle here, but it’s no guarantee that he’ll be as effective over this elongated distance. He’s also facing a couple of intriguing runners from Europe. #7 Asymmetric is the one who interests me a bit, as he is switching into the barn of Wesley Ward and appears to have been training well in this country. He showed a big turn of foot to win the Group 2 Richmond Stakes last year before he was just unable to handle the step up in class to the Group 1 level at the end of the season. He’s also stretching out to 7 furlongs, but he has the foundation to handle this step up in trip. I prefer him to #6 Maritime Wings, who did show ability in Ireland last year. However, his connections have said that he got a late start this year and is being transferred to race in the U.S. under Todd Pletcher, which might not be a great sign. All three of these runners make sense, but I want to look elsewhere for my top pick. #2 High Front began his career at Gulfstream looking about as impressive as Big Invasion. This son of Summer Front got to the lead and absolutely crushed a maiden field back in January. He had an excuse in his second start when he was off awkwardly and made a middle move. And then last time I thought he arguably ran the best race, as he hopped at the start and was racing 4-wide around the turn trying to make up ground. He got there in upper stretch before hanging late. However, that was a tough field of older horses and I like that he held his own against a seasoned older rival like Yes and Yes. That form should translate well here and he can step forward if he’s finally able to break sharply.

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