Belmont at the Big A Horses in Focus for Sunday, October 9


This conditioned claiming event is a real skull buster. A few horses are exiting that Aug. 20 event at this same level. Aviano (#9) figures to attract support despite putting in a poor effort that day. That was his first time dropping in for a tag and he failed to improve with the class relief. However, now he’s making his first start off the claim for Jose Camejo, who has had success with his NYRA runners. However, he’s been more dangerous off the claim on dirt than turf. I’m slightly more interested in Sonic Speed (#8) from that Aug. 20 affair. He got a good trip until the field got into the stretch, at which point he was completely stymied in traffic. He validated the notion that he could have done better that day by returning with a narrow loss last time at Delaware in the best performance of his career. Since this race appears to be so wide open, I want to look for a runner who I can make a decent case for at a square price. Mr. Kringle (#7) isn’t the most reliable win candidate, having settled for 11 minor awards to go along with his 2 career victories. However, I do think he’s getting appropriate class relief at this stage of his career. He’s been facing slightly better competition at the New York-bred allowance level lately, and he’s actually run competitively at that level until recently. I like that the blinkers are going back on, since he seemed to run most of his better races with them. Most importantly, he should be the best price of those I’m considering.


The one thing I know about this inscrutable maiden claimer is that I don’t want to settle for a short price on anyone. Ridewiththedevil (#1) figures to be the only half of his entry to participate with Street Vender drawn three-deep on the AE list. He did face better company in his only turf start at Gulfstream, but I didn’t see him do that much running in either of his two races last winter. Bargaining Power (#12) is another who will take money as he drops in for a tag for the first time. He did encounter some traffic in the stretch of his debut at Kentucky Downs, but it also didn’t appear that he was doing much running either before or after the trouble. He’s getting needed class relief, but he figures to be a short price just by default for these connections. I’m more interested in some bigger price. One runner I want to use is On Palm Sunday (#2). This New York-bred is stepping up into open company, but he ran better than it appears last time after he ran off in the early stages of that race, setting a fast pace. He’s been steadily improving in his turf starts for David Donk and looks like the controlling speed here. My top pick at an even bigger price is Fierce Debate (#5). He looks uncompetitive based on his speed figures from last year, but he was a 2-year-old then and we haven’t seen him in 13 months. His second start at Ellis Park was actually a decent performance, at least demonstrating that he handles turf. He’s bred to better than what he’s shown so far as a half-brother to graded stakes winner Neptune’s Storm. He comes back in the barn of former Casse assistant Jamie Begg and has worked decently for the return.


Chad Brown seemingly holds a strong hand in this Knickerbocker, sending out 3 of the 10 runners in this field. However, I’m not enamored with any of his entrants and at least two of them figure to attract plenty of support. Public Sector (#10) could go favored here as the mount of Irad Ortiz. However, I’ve been somewhat disappointed with his last couple of performances. Perhaps he didn’t get the best ride at Pimlico last time, but he still didn’t offer much finish, nor did he take advantage of a fast pace two back in the Lure. It just feels like he’s tailed off a bit, and I’m not sure added ground helps him. I’m more interested in L’Imperator (#5), but I also have some questions about his overall form. He comes in with some of the best speed figures, but one of those was earned when he wired a field over a boggy course in the Fort Marcy. His Bowling Green was solid, but he got away with a slow pace that day, and he doesn’t figure to enjoy the same advantage here. Pao Alto (#8) makes plenty of sense after finishing ahead of Public Sector in his U.S. debut at Pimlico. He shouldn’t mind the added ground and is dangerous if he takes any kind of step forward. Safe Conduct (#9) is a horse who must be considered given his running style. With little confirmed front-running speed in this field, it would be no surprise to see Jose Lezcano send this guy to the early lead. He was compromised by a run-off leader when chasing a fast pace in the Lure last time, and he has prior efforts that give him a chance against this field. My top pick is Pixelate (#6). This 5-year-old has been a little disappointing in both starts this year, but I can make excuses for him. He had to alter course when attempting to rally off the layoff at Laurel two back, and then last time he got a strange ride from Joel Rosario at Kentucky Downs. He was never put in a position to make a run and altered course multiple times through the lane. He has a right to step forward third of the layoff, and this feels like an appropriate distance for him. He has prior form that would make him awfully tough against this field.

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