Belmont at the Big A Horses in Focus for Friday, October 7


I expect Chulligan (#2) to attract plenty of support as he makes his second start. This $825k son of Justify is out of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Bar of Gold, so he’s obviously bred to be a good one. However, he looked very much like a work in progress on debut at Saratoga. He didn’t seem to be engaged early in the race when dropping to the back of the pack, and only got involved until the very late stages. However, that was a race that featured a strong pace, so he was basically picking up pieces at the end. He has a right to improve on the stretch-out to a mile, but I’m not keen to pick him at a short price. I’m more interested in runners coming out of a different race. Atlanta’s Acuna (#4) took plenty of money when he made his debut late in the Saratoga meet, but also ran a like a horse who needed the race. He broke a step slowly, rushed up to chase the pace, and then hung on his left lead while lugging in through the stretch. He strikes me as one that will improve with added ground, though I could also see him preferring turf eventually. My top pick is Mr. Marlin (#6). He finished behind Atlanta’s Acuna in that Sep. 5 affair, but he didn’t seem to put forth his best effort that day. Breaking from the rail, he just never looked to be traveling comfortably, reacting badly to kickback at a few points. We saw something similar in his debut when he dropped back on the turn before rallying strongly when angled into the clear for the stretch drive. Given that tendency to resent kickback, I like the outside post position for him. He also seems like one that should appreciate the stretch-out to a mile.


Sinful Dancer (#2) must have been a frustrating project for his prior connections, as he clearly has ability but could just never put it all together. They ultimately gave up, dropping him into a $25k claimer last time. Yet he still failed to get the job done while nevertheless producing a respectable effort. Now goes first off the claim for Mertkan Kantarmaci, who switches him to back to turf here. While he did finish off the board as the favorite in his lone prior turf attempt, he got off to a poor start that day and didn’t run as badly as it seems. He’s still hard to trust as the favorite. The same goes for Martinez (#3), who showed some improvement off the claim for Rudy Rodriguez last time. Yet he’s had plenty of chances to break through at this level and just has a tendency to settle for minor awards. I’m trying to beat them with Steerage (#7). He had quite a trip on July 31 at Saratoga, as he was off slowly and then proceeded to get steadied in traffic after rushing up to chase the pace. He was again steadied in upper stretch when attempting to rally. While it may not seem like he improved at all last time, that was a much tougher spot. He was also chasing a fast pace in tandem with Heymackit’sjack, who came back to win. I think he’s capable of better than what he’s shown so far and he’s drawn well outside the other speeds.


Central Pride (#4) just seems like a logical favorite as he gets needed class relief while dropping in for a tag for the first time. I’m not sure why they ran him on turf 3 times, as he never showed much affinity for grass. All of his dirt performances against maiden special weight foes suggest he’s good enough to break through at this lower level. He was beaten by superior rivals last time out and actually finished up with some interest, suggesting a mile may be within his scope. However, John Terranova is just 3 for 31 (10%, $0.86 ROI) with maiden special weight to maiden claiming dropdowns over 5 years. I could also consider Midnight Express (#6) from that same race, as he does have some upside. He didn’t do much running after racing greenly early, but he should also appreciate the class relief, and Steve Klesaris does well with second time starters. My top pick is Bert Bert Bert (#7). This colt’s debut wasn’t actually that bad, as he was facing a pretty tough field of maiden special weight foes. He lacked early speed that day but was finishing up with some interest towards the end. He didn’t fare as well in his second start, but he was off for a long time thereafter. Since then he’s returned to run twice on turf for Charlton Baker with little to show for it. However, he’s better bred for dirt, so I like him getting back on this surface. The class relief figures to help, and I think he can finally build on his debut now that he’s spotted appropriately.

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