Belmont at the Big A Horses in Focus for Thursday, October 13

RACE 2: MY SWEET WIFE (#7)

Neither of the favorites in this $25k conditioned claimer do much for me. I suppose Vallarand (#2) is the horse to beat as she drops in class, but I have some significant questions about her current form. She was somewhat overmatched when she returned in an optional claimer at Saratoga, but she didn’t put forth much of an effort. We haven’t seen her put in a competitive performance last the prior summer at Saratoga, and now she’s dropping off a trainer switch that some may view as positive. Her biggest weapon could be her tactical speed since, there isn’t much pace in this field. I do slightly prefer her to Funwhileitlasted (#4), who is really more of a turf horse. She has handled dirt both times she’s tried it, but she beta a weak field at Laurel earlier this year, and didn’t run particularly well in her last dirt race in July. It also feels like her form has gone in the wrong direction since then. I’m trying to beat these two with My Sweet Wife (#7). She’s not the most trustworthy dirt performer either, but I do think she’s better than her last dirt effort at Saratoga. She was off to an awkward start and then raced along the rail taking plenty of kickback. I like that she’s drawn outside this time as she adds blinkers, which could bring out some more tactical speed. She handled dirt early in her career and I think she can step forward second off the claim for Michelle Nevin.

RACE 6: SWEETER (#5)

Likely favorite Freudian (#6) figures to be pretty tough based on her speed figure two back when she broke her maiden at Gulfstream. However, I’m a little skeptical that we’re going to see her bring that form to New York. That was her first start off the claim for Peter Walder and she obviously improved. However, she failed to back up that form last time when just picking up a minor award. Now she’s dropping significantly down to this bottom level $16k conditioned claimer. He’s also shipping her to New York where she’s very likely to get claimed. She won’t be much price with Irad Ortiz climbing aboard, and she just looks a little too obvious for my tastes. I want to find some alternative, but I’m not thrilled with others who could take money like Predetermined (#4) or Merger of Equals (#8). The former failed to handle turf last time, but I didn’t like the way she lost her action on the turn and was eased. Now she’s dropping significantly following a layoff. Merger of Equals is just pretty slow on speed figures and she has to improve returning to the NYRA circuit from Finger Lakes. If I’m going to take a horse that needs some speed figure improvement, I’d rather it be a price like Sweeter (#5). Her return race last time isn’t quite as bad as it might look on paper. There was no pace to set up her late run and she was basically geared down late once it became clear she wasn’t passing anyone. While her form last year wasn’t exactly stellar, she did race competitively at this level a couple of times. Chris Englehart is 5 for 20 (25%, $4.46 ROI) second off a 180+ day layoff at NYRA over the past 5 years. Her lack of early speed is a concern, but perhaps the addition of blinkers can help her be more forward.

RACE 8: KLICKITAT (#5)

If this race stays on the turf, I would struggle to know what to do with Call Me Harry (#2). He comes in with the best last-out speed figure, earned for beating an open N1X field at Saratoga going this same once mile distance. He’s now dropping slightly off that win to race for a tag against state-breds, and he’s found himself in a race where he once again appears to be the controlling speed. The problem is that I liked him at 11-1 last time, and now he figures to vie for favoritism despite the fact that he’s hardly proven over route distances in the long term. I won’t be surprised when he wins again, but I wanted to find an alternative. One of those to consider is Catch That Party (#3), who has been in great form recently for Mike Maker. He’s seeking his third victory in a row as he ascends the class ladder. However, he also lacks early speed, and seems like one who will be particularly compromised by a potential slow pace. I’m instead going to Klicktat (#5) as my top pick. He possesses better tactical speed than most other contenders in this field, so he should be able to work out a trip tracking Call Me Harry. He could only manage to finish fourth first off the claim for Linda Rice last time, but that felt like it was purely a prep going a shorter distance. He actually ran well considering his trip, as he was pushed out 4-wide on the far turn. His prior form at this level makes him pretty formidable, and Linda Rice is in the midst of a strong meet.

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