RACE 6: KING’S HARLEQUIN (#6)
Chad Brown sends out a pair of runners who both figure to attract support in this optional claiming event. #2 Nevisian Sunrise stretches back out in distance after failing to handle sprinting in the Intercontinental last time. I like the distance for her, but I’m just not thrilled with her prior form. She beat a mediocre field at Keeneland two back, and figures to vie for favoritism given the fact that Irad Ortiz is riding. #7 Zainalarab is perhaps more appealing since she’s only had the one start on turf, in which she ran quite well to be second. However, now she’s stretching out to a mile and it’s no guarantee that added distance will suit her. I won’t be shocked when either wins, but I wanted to look elsewhere. I think #5 Miss Dracarys could bounce back at a square price. She ran well behind Love and Thunder two back, albeit with a very good trip. I didn’t like her last effort but she may prefer more ground than 7 furlongs these days, as she just seemed to have trouble keeping up with the pace on the turn. I’m going with a different horse out of the Love and Thunder race. #6 King’s Harlequin finished fifth that day, but it was her U.S. debut while returning a one-year layoff. Christophe Clement does not do well with foreign shippers first time in this country, but he does do better second off a layoff. Over the past 5 years, he is 12 for 48 (25%, $2.23 ROI) second off a 180+ day layoff in turf routes at NYRA. King’s Harlequin has solid French form to build upon from early in her career. She got a wide trip last time and should fare better here.
RACE 7: QUEEN BOURBON (#5)
Christophe Clement arguably has the two fillies to beat in #2 Eylara and #8 Classic Colors. I much prefer the latter of the two. Classic Colors delivered a career-best performance in her return last time, closing into a moderate pace to win pretty easily over a couple of next-out winners. This is a step up in class as she tries open company, but she appears to have matured since she tried this level as a 3-year-old. The bigger question is the stretch-out in distance, but she has enough stamina on the bottom side of her pedigree to handle it. She has plenty of upside, whereas Eylara has just been a little disappointing in her two U.S. starts to date. A couple of fillies are shipping in from Churchill Downs. #4 Stepper finished well to be second behind the talented Lady Rockstar in that May 7 race at this level. However, that was by far the best performance of this 3-year-old’s career, and I’m not convinced that the added distance is going to suit her. I’m far more interested in #5 Queen Bourbon. This filly made her turf debut a winning one after a trio of solid dirt efforts last year. It took her a while to get back to the races after that, and I think she’s run deceptively well since returning as an older horse. She was facing better rivals both two and three back, as April 15 winner Ocean Road returned to win the G1 Gamely out west, and Lady Rockstar came to New York with a dominant performance. I also thought she might have moved too soon in that May 7 affair. I wouldn’t be too concerned about the stretch-out for her, since she’s handled 1 1/4 miles on dirt. She picks up Irad Ortiz, who should have her forwardly placed in a race that doesn’t feature much early speed.
RACE 9: THE ICEMAN COMMETH (#6)
It’s hard to trust anyone in this wide-open maiden claiming affair, which closes out the Belmont meet. #2 North Carolinaonce had turf form that towered over this field, but his recent efforts leave a lot to be desired. #9 Calloway Peak has to be considered on the class drop. Even though he hasn’t done much running in his races, he’s exiting one of the best maiden special weight events of the meet and may have found the right field returning on short rest. A couple of runners exit that 10-furlong maiden special weight event on May 20. #8 Dream of a Day stayed on mildly late without really threatening, though he’s another who could appreciate the drop. I’d be more interested in #7 Greg’s Honor, who got a somewhat indecisive ride, making an early move on the backstretch before fading. He should fare better as John Velazquez takes over. My top pick is #6 the Iceman Commeth. I had though this horse was an interesting prospect in his debut prior to that race getting rained off the turf. He clearly needed the experience, as he got squeezed back at the start and had no speed thereafter. Yet he did get rolling in the last quarter mile, passing tiring runners before galloping out with interest. Keen Ice has had a bit of success with turf routers, and the dam earned some of her best speed figures on turf despite never winning on the surface. Second dam Duty Dance was an excellent turf performer, so there is plenty of pedigree for him to handle the surface. Tom Morley runners tend to do better with experience, and this gelding isn’t meeting the toughest field.