Belmont Horses in Focus for Thursday, June 9


#2 Aunt Naughty is probably the horse to beat on the basis of her runner-up performance going this distance last time. She’s had more chances than a few of her rivals here, but she fits the mold of a typical Shug McGaughey runner that’s been brought along slowly. My only issue with her is that she benefited from riding a rail bias in her last start, so her improvement might not be legitimate. I’m still not way against her, and could even upgrade her if she’s not favored. There are a few second time starters in this field worth considering. The two that figure to attract the most support are #8 Veronica Greene and #3 Milan’s Girl, who both hail from powerful stables – Chad Brown and Brad Cox, respectively. They both have pedigrees that suggest they should improve with added ground, but I wasn’t thrilled with their debut efforts. They’re also coming out of slow races of dubious quality, so I was reticent to take either one at a potential short price. My top pick is another of the second time starters, #7 Precursory. Whereas Brown and Cox have fairly mediocre statistics stretching out maidens, Bill Mott is 7 for 21 (33%, $2.83 ROI) with 3-year-old maiden second time starters going from dirt sprints to routes over the past 5 years. This filly ran like one who needed a race on debut as she showed good tactical speed and was battling on late, just unable to make up ground over a sloppy track. She has plenty of stamina on the bottom side of her pedigree, so I like the stretch-out. She also has the tactical speed to be forwardly placed while getting a rider upgrade to Joel Rosario.


Chad Brown has been awfully dangerous with his dirt horses at this meet, and he sends out another live runner here in likely favorite #10 Asymmetric. Let’s not fault him for losing to the talented Overstep in his career debut. He did lose as the 1-2 favorite in his second start, but he was racing wide against a rail bias that day and probably ran better than the 91 TimeformUS Speed Figure indicates. He’s returning from a lengthy layoff, but Brown excels with this move. I’m not against him, but he’s going to be an awfully short price and some others in this field figure to offer better value. I can’t bring myself to give another shot to #3 Devil Boy, who looked so promising at the start of his career in 2021. However, gate issues have plagued him in every single start. He probably did need a race off the layoff last time and can do better here, but another slow break could seal his fate. #6 Conquist returns from a layoff similar to the favorite, having not been seen since last November when he made his career debut. He ran pretty well that day, making an early move into a fast pace that fell apart. That should be an effort he can build on, but John Kimmel has poor starts off layoffs. I’m going in a different direction with #4 Tommy Gun. This George Weaver trainee showed excellent early speed in his career debut, dueling for the lead with the eventual winner before fading. He earned a strong 101 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that performance, and horses have returned from that race to validate the strong rating. Tommy Gun is one of the few who regressed out of that Mar. 31 event, but he had an excuse in the NYSS stakes last time, hitting the gate at the start and unable to make the lead. Now he gets a rider upgrade to Irad Oritz and lands in race that doesn’t feature an abundance of pace.


The Wesley Ward-trained #4 No Nay Hudson is arguably the one to beat in this Tremont after impressively winning his debut by 4 lengths at Keeneland. However, he got away with a very slow opening quarter that day before sprinting through the stretch. He’s going to have to deal with much more early pressure this time while stretching out an extra furlong. Furthemore, Wesley Ward is having an uncharacteristically dull year with his 2-year-olds in 2022. He’s just 4 for 26 (15%, $0.70 ROI) with all 2-year-old starters so far this season. This horse also has a strong turf pedigree, so I wonder how far he’ll be able to progress on dirt. #5 Valenzan Day and #7 Two of a Kind also figure to attract support following debut wins. The former had to work hard to put away a Ward trainee before drawing off. Two of a Kind may be the quickest of all in the early stages after he broke sharply from the rail in his debut and never looked back. That hasn’t yet come back as the strongest race, as the runner-up regressed in his next start. Though he’s obviously a danger if able to shake loose up front. I prefer the runner drawn just to his outside. #8 Zelenskyy Strong could go off at a bigger price than the aforementioned colts. Like No Nay Hudson, he got away with a slow opening quarter before drawing clear impressively in his debut. He didn’t appear to be facing much at Gulfstream, but he finished up like a horse that could appreciate more ground despite racing on his left lead throughout. He’s bred to be a good one as a 3/4-brother to multiple stakes winner Jackson. He also picks up Irad Ortiz for Peter Walder, whose runners have generally improved or run back to their Florida form when shipping to New York in recent months.

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