Belmont Horses in Focus for Sunday, June 5


There’s very little reliable form in this maiden claiming opener. #2 No Code figures to take money for Todd Pletcher mostly because he’s disappointed fewer times than many others in here. It’s of some concern that he was so dead on the board in his debut at Gulfstream, though he ran like a horse that might appreciate more ground, and he’s bred to stretch-out. Though Pletcher has just mediocre numbers with this move and I wanted others at similar prices. #1 Nobodyridesforfree might be the horse to beat after facing tougher rivals at the maiden special weight level in his recent starts. I wish he had shown a bit more in those races, but he does figure to appreciate the drop in class. I want to go in a different direction with another lightly raced option. #4 Endowed made one start on turf last fall in which he showed very little, outrun every step of the way. Yet it’s possible that turf just isn’t his preferred surface, as he’s by Tonalist out of a dam who was Grade 1-placed on the dirt. He had trained pretty well for his debut, putting in some nice dirt works last fall. Furthermore, Christophe Clement is 4 for 5 (80%, $4.34 ROI) with MSW to MCL dropdowns going from turf to dirt over the past 5 years. 


Pat Reynolds holds a very strong hand in this race, sending out the two likely favorites. #1 Remembermom and #4 Motion to Strike both make plenty of sense in here. The former is coming out of some tougher races and will appreciate the drop in class. He’s earned his better speed figure going longer than this, but he did break his maiden sprinting back in February. Motion to Strike has a lot more speed than his uncoupled mate, but he’s moving up in class after just missing at the $16k level last time. He probably needs to do a little better than that, and he is a horse that has performed much better on wet, sealed tracks than dry, harrowed tracks. I want to go in a different direction with a horse who may get mildly overlooked. #6 Taco Bean has been facing significantly tougher foes in his recent starts against NY-bred allowance company. He was never going to race competitively against the likes of Key Point two back, or promising 3-year-olds Hot Rod Rumble and Who Hoo That’s Me last time. Prior to that he had run some competitive speed figures over the winter, and he was a decent second in his prior foray into the conditioned claiming ranks. This is a logical drop in class, and he’s going to be an overlay due to the low-profile connections. He also runs some of his best races when he can be forward, and there’s not that much speed signed on here.


I’ll be very interested to see how the pace of this starter allowance plays out. The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a scenario favoring horses on or near the lead, but I see plenty of early speed signed on. However, I’m not sure anybody can run with #2 Nicholas James early. I know both of his prior efforts have come in routes, but he’s shown excellent gate speed on each occasion. That was particularly true in his career debut when he blasted off to the lead through an insane opening quarter. The horse that was pushing him early that day faded to lose by about 50 lengths, and came back to win his next start on the turnback. I know Nicholas James has always been better suited to sprints, and now he’s finally being entered at an appropriate distance. There’s no true closer in this field to pick up the pieces if things fall apart, so I think there’s a chance he just runs them off their feet. The two runners with the best recent form are #4 Life Changer and #7 Baltasar, and I don’t have a strong argument against either one. I did think Life Changer got a soft trip when beating a weaker field last time, and I don’t fully trust him to run back to that race. Baltasar is perhaps more reliable, since he showed improvement first off the claim in his last start, and was flattered when runner-up Capone came back to win. He’s drawn well outside the other speeds and looks like the one to beat. I’ll just try to wire the field from the front end with a horse who figures to be a better price.

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