Belmont Horses in Focus for Friday, June 24


Likely favorite #3 Growth Capital has been bet down to favoritism in both starts to date, and he’s likely to inherit that role again here. He seemingly had his debut race in the bag, but hung late as the winner re-rallied. He again settled for second last time at Keeneland, though he did have to cover more ground than the winner. This horse obviously has some ability, but looks ripe to get overbet once again as Chad Brown adds blinkers, seemingly in an effort to get this guy to pass horses. #1 Smoke and Heat is the other runner with recent turf form. He’s run well in both starts and took to turf without issue last time. He didn’t get as fortunate a trip as the top two finishers, going pushed very wide when launching his rally on the far turn. Yet he was still running on at the end, and gives the impression that a mile should be within his scope. I prefer a new face in #4 Fort Ticonderoga. This colt has been off for nearly a year since his unveiling as a 2-year-old. He was meant for grass in that off-the-turf affair, and actually put in an encouraging effort on dirt, lengthening his stride nicely through the lane while no match for winner Doctor Jeff. That one went on to win the Atlantic Beach on turf in the fall. Fort Ticonderoga is bred to move up on this surface, out of a Grade 3-placed turf dam who has produced Grade 2 turf winner Doswell as well as this guy’s full-brother Secretary At War, also a turf stakes winner. Shug McGaughey is 12 for 52 (23%, $2.32 ROI) off 180+ day layoffs in turf routes over 5 years.


I’m taking a stand against possible favorite #9 Miss Alacrity as she returns to the New York-bred ranks while switching back to turf. This Wesley Ward trainee figures to take money given her prior stakes form, but it’s unclear if she’s really moved forward since her unveiling last summer. She was involved in a fast pace at Woodbine last time against a decent field on synth, but she’s never been farther than 6 furlongs and doesn’t exactly give the impression that longer will be better. #1 Finest Work broke through her N1X condition at 7-1 last time, but she looks dangerous right back as she steps up in class. I liked the way she traveled in the bridle last time before being produced between horses in the stretch. She obviously relishes the 7-furlong distance, and probably doesn’t need to improve much on her last effort to get a big piece of this. #3 Khali Magic is an intriguing contender as she switches surfaces. She handled turf about as well as dirt early in her career, but she’s really moved forward on the latter surface lately. She may be able to transfer that form back to grass here, and 7 furlongs looks like an ideal distance. My top pick is #7 Dancingwthdaffodls. She’s always dangerous when she drops down into New York-bred allowance company, and sprinting on turf is her niche. She’s been tried in many spots that are too ambitious over the past year, and she’s actually run well at big prices a few times. That was the case last time when she closed down the center of the track to get third at 59-1. She’s facing a softer field here, and is reunited with Jose Ortiz, who has had plenty of success piloting her over the years.


A few horses in this field exit the May 28 race at this level, in which #5 Lord Flintshire lost by a nose after forging to a slim lead in midstretch. I thought he had every chance that day and showed his major flaw, a tendency to settle for minor awards. I prefer #7 Rally Squirrel from that affair despite finishing a couple lengths back in third. He did have to alter course in upper stretch, but really had an excellent trip without a major excuse. I just thought his tactical speed would play better in this spot. That said, this is a far more competitive field than that May 28 affair and I want to look at runners from other directions. I think #4 Front Line Dancer is somewhat interesting as he steps up against winners after breaking his maiden coming off a layoff last time. He was clearly best that day after going wide on the turns and launching a rally down the center of the course to get up. He managed to win despite racing a little greenly and failing to change leads in the stretch. I don’t think we’ve yet seen the best of him and won’t be surprised when he takes another step forward here. My top pick is #3 Agent Creed. He returns from a layoff for new trainer Michelle Hemingway, who stretches him out to the 9-furlong distance. He didn’t get ideal trips in either of his last two starts of 2021, as he was ridden to make a premature move last time and encountered traffic in deep stretch of each of those starts. He’s run some of his best races at Belmont Park, and the way this inner turf course was playing last week would flatter his running style. I also like the rider switch to Luis Saez, who should fit this one-paced deep closer.

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