Belmont at the Big A Horses in Focus for Friday, September 16

RACE 1: QUICK HAMMER (#6)

Unknown Agenda (#3) figures to attract support in his debut for the Todd Pletcher barn. This $100k yearling purchase is by 15% juvenile debut sire Munnings. The dam was unraced and this is her first foal to start. This is hardly the classiest female family, but the horse has been working well. He has looked best in company with another unraced stablemate in his recent drills, and appears to have some speed. He looks pretty well suited to debuting at this 6-furlong distance for a barn that knows how to win with these types. Yet I prefer a different firster from another powerful stable. Quick Hammer (#6) debuts for Brad Cox, who has been having a solid season with his 2-year-olds. He debuted some live runners in the last couple of weeks of the Saratoga meet, and appears to have another good one here. This $200k yearling purchase only sold for $100k at the Fasig-Tipton Timonium sale this year after working a furlong in 10 1/5. Mor Spirit is 5 for 30 with debut runners in his first crop, and this colt is a half-brother G1 La Brea winner Kalypso. The dam is also a full-sister to G2 Tampa Bay Derby winner Prospective. He worked competitively with debut runner-up Tapit’s Conquest in late July, and then was best from the gate with an unraced mate on Sep. 3. He appears to have some talent. I prefer these to the experienced Space (#5), who exits a race of dubious quality, and Signator (#4), an expensive auction purchase who looks like he might need a start.

RACE 4: GLITTER UP (#6)

Tattersalls purchase Expand the Map (#4) has obviously been a disappointment on the racetrack. She was heavily favored over eventual BC winner Pizza Bianca in her debut last summer, but was forced to settle for second after making a wide run on the far turn. She appeared to have that return race gift-wrapped for her this spring at Aqueduct, but shortened stride in the final eighth despite getting away with moderate fractions. Chad Brown is 7 for 19 (37%, $2.65 ROI) with maidens going from routes to sprints on turf over 5 years. She looks like the horse to beat, but I’m not too keen on swallowing another short price on her. I prefer Glitter Up (#6), who is finally concentrating on turf races, as her two grass races are clearly the best efforts of her career. She finally got back on this surface last time after just missing in her turf debut as a 2-year-old. She was no match for winner Mrs. Green last month, but battled on gamely to just miss second after setting a pressured pace. Now she takes the blinkers off, but still looks like the speed. She has the credentials to break through at this level and figures to be a much better price than her main rival. The other runner who interests me a bit is first time starter Wish List (#8). I really like Astern as a sire of turf sprinters, and she has plenty of pedigree for these conditions on the dam’s side. All four of this dam’s foals to race are winners, and two of them won on grass. Second dam Superstar Leo was a top turf sprinter in Europe, finishing second in the G1 Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp. John Terranova typically does better with experienced runners, but he has sent out some big prices to win their debuts on the turf over the years.

RACE 8: FONTANAFREDDA (#6)

I’m against some horses who could take money in this spot, particularly Jill’s a Hot Mess (#2) and Kokopelli (#9). The former benefited from a great pace setup when she was second at this level last time, whereas the latter just hasn’t really panned out since getting fantastic trips to win the first two starts of her career. I think there are others that are far more appealing, possibly at better prices. My top pick is Fontanafredda (#6). This filly was much the best when she won her N1X condition at Saratoga two back, overcoming an extremely wide trip to get the job done. While she crossed the wire fourth in her first start against winners, she was arguably best again that day. She got taken up soon after the start, and then was again forced to race wide. She was 3-wide early on the turn, and pushed out to race 4-wide approaching the stretch, losing significant ground in a race dominated on the front end. Things then got even worse when she was pushed out in the stretch, for which a rival was disqualified. She’s subtly shown significant improvement in recent starts, and I think she’s actually the horse to beat in this spot. Social Whirl (#5) should appreciate the slight cutback to 6 furlongs after fading in her last start going seven-eighths. She was forced to miss the Saratoga meet, but was in decent form prior to that and just seems like a logical fit here. The other runners that I want to use are Shesawildjoker (#3), who was compromised by a slow pace when unwisely rated last time, and Towering Orbit (#4), who showed affinity for grass against weaker last time but has to break more alertly after having gate issues in most of her recent starts.

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