Belmont at the Big A Horses in Focus for Friday, October 14


The Repole and St Elias Stables entry figures to take plenty of money in this opener, of which Crupi (#1) appears to be the stronger half. His two starts at Saratoga, both at 7 furlongs, looked pretty similar. He lost contact with the field in the early stages of his debut, was put to intense pressure on the turn, and finally responded through the stretch, passing horses quickly to nearly get up for second. He was slightly more engaged early in his second start, but still looked fairly sluggish, not kicking into gear until the stretch. I think he has to show some improvement to break his maiden here, but he is bred to appreciate added ground. Stablemate Mindtap (#1A) was a little chilly on the board in his debut, and that seemed like the weakest division of three maiden races on that Sep. 3 card. He got a pretty good trip, racing inside early before angling out into the clear on the turn. He had dead aim on the tiring leader through the stretch, but seemed to stall in the last eighth. He’s also bred to appreciate more ground, but I think both of these Pletcher runners are facing a formidable foe. Signator (#2) debuted over just 6 furlongs last month despite looking like one that wants more ground. He raced between horses in mid-pack early before advancing into the clear in upper stretch. The eventual winner got away from him at the head of the lane, but this grey son of Tapit lowered his body and lengthened his stride impressively on the run to the wire. He also proceeded to gallop out well clear of the winner. His Phipps-bred female family traces back to second dam Furlough, who won the Grade 1 Ballerina. Shug McGaughey is 8 for 30 (27%, $2.60 ROI) with maiden 2nd time starters going from sprints to routes on dirt over 5 years. I expect him to win today, and I suspect this colt could have a very bright future.


Mooney Love (#1) did everything asked of him in his U.S. debut at Saratoga, but the win was more workmanlike than anything else. He lacked early speed and Joel Rosario didn’t ride him with too much urgency. It took him a while to hit top gear in the stretch, but he did ultimately run away to a clear victory. The problem is that he was facing an unusually weak field for the level that day, and has been off for a few months since then. Furthermore, he was successful going 1 1/2 miles, and I’m not sure this cutback in distance suits him. The horse to beat might be Space Launch (#6). This 4-year-old gelding doesn’t often get the respect he deserves at the windows, as a highly consistent performer with improving speed figures. He’s recently added some improved tactical speed to his arsenal, which should make him especially dangerous in this spot. I thought he chased a the wire-to-wire winner pretty gamely last time, and the slight cutback won’t hinder him. My top pick is Kinenos (#3). This horse got a terrible trip last time at Saratoga when Julien Leparoux seemed unable to restrain him in the early going, allowing him to prematurely race up to contest the pace while racing wide without cover throughout. That type of trip is rarely going to be successful, especially in a three-turn race. He’s much better when he can get taken back to make one run, and Jose Lezcano has ridden him that way with success in the past. He’s now making his first start off the claim for Mike Maker and he has plenty of competitive prior races going distances similar to today’s trip. 


Midnight Worker (#6) is probably the one to beat as he gets further class relief. While his form this year looks pretty lackluster, he was facing a much tougher field at the $25k level last time and actually didn’t run that badly to be fifth. A few who finished ahead of him have already returned to repeat or improve their speed figures in subsequent starts. This is by far the softest group he’s ever met and he seems like a deserving favorite. I’m not thrilled with the other potential short prices in here. I don’t like Lord Gatling (#5) going this far, and Once a Giant (#7) wasn’t a factor against an even worse field at Saratoga last time. Zuzudini (#10) makes some sense as he also drops in class. However, I don’t like the way he’s finished off his last couple of races and am concerned that his form is tailing off. Therefore, I’m going in a different direction with Inspiration Point (#8). Distance is also a question for this 4-year-old, but I thought he ran fine in his only two prior dirt route attempts as a younger horse. He was meant for longer distances back then, but has since concentrated on sprints as he’s dropped in class. I actually thought he showed some signs of life last time despite a less than ideal ride. Eric Cancel got him moving forward down the backstretch, but put him in an awkward spot between horses at the break for the turn, and he steadied, losing valuable momentum. He did recover to finish third in a solid effort. I think this added distance could work for him and he’s subly in better form than it appears.

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