Belmont at the Big A Horses in Focus for Thursday, October 27


I’m not trying to beat likely favorite Quarrel (#6) as she switches to the surface that she was intended to debut over. This filly had trained forwardly into that first start and the connections probably kept her in the race on dirt for that reason. She delivered a strong performance, but just couldn’t quite stay with the winner late after challenging that one at the quarter pole. She’s bred to move up on turf as a daughter of Speightstown out of the stakes-placed mare Promotional. She’s also a half-sister to Daunt, who races for these same connections and has won twice going longer on turf. Some may be reticent to take a short price on this barn, but they appear to have a good one here. I would primarily want to use first time starters along with her. Galileo’s Jewel (#10) seems worth including as she makes her debut for Tony Dutrow, who has had some success with those types this year. This daughter of Kingman was an RNA for $714k when she was offered at auction overseas. She hails from a strong female family, as the dam is a half-sister to European Group 1 winners Alpha Centauri, Alpine Star, and Discoveries. I would also use Geyser Road (#2), who goes out for the always dangerous Jorge Abreu barn. She’s a half-sister to two turf winners including turf sprint specialist U Should B Dancing. 


Thin White Duke (#11) has to be considered the horse to beat off his performances two and three back at Saratoga. He signaled his improvement with that close third-place finish behind Golden Pal at odds of 30-1 in the G3 Troy. Yet he then validated that form next time when winning a slightly softer Lucky Coin Stakes. He got great rides and trips on both occasions, but things didn’t work out as well last time in the Belmont Turf Sprint. He was always too far back over a yielding course where the winner dominated up front. He’s clearly better than that and can rebound here if any pace develops. Ranger Fox (#4) could lead this field early, but I’m just not quite convinced he’s good enough to win at this level after he faded with a good setup last time. I’m instead hoping that Noble Emotion (#1) sits the right trip from his inside post position. He rebounded from a disappointing effort at Saratoga in July to win a tight photo at this level a month later. However, he was unable to replicate that form at Woodbine last time when defeated by a rival he had beaten in his prior start. That said, he didn’t get the best trip that day as he was out of position early before launching a mild premature bid that quickly flattened out. I think he’ll be more aggressively handled from the rail here as he’s reunited with Jose Ortiz. The other horse that I would use is Maxwell Esquire (#3). He started off his 5-year-old season the right way, winning at this level. Things have gone awry since then, but he hasn’t really had a fair chance in either start since getting claimed by Mike Maker. He was going too far with a wide trip two back, and last time couldn’t close in a speed-dominated race. He may fare better here if he gets some pace up front.

RACE 9: MR. MARLIN (#12)

Likely favorite Provision (#6) has settled for second in all three career starts, the last two at short prices. He was simply beaten by a better rival two back, and last time he didn’t have the easiest trip, forced to race 3-wide around both turns, but still fought on gamely in the stretch to get up for second. I just haven’t seen much progression from him since his encouraging debut, so it feels like others might have more upside. That said, his prior form makes him a strong contender and he’s drawn a better post position this time. I could also use Barry the Builder (#7) from that same race he exits, as he may have been too aggressively handled early before fading late. Among those with turf form, I’d rather go to the stretch-out Itsallcomintogetha (#8). He was arguably best on debut when he was badly fouled at the start, sandwiched between rivals in a chain reaction caused by the eventual runner-up. He was understandably favored next time out but failed to take a step forward, just staying on at one pace for fourth while working out a better trip. Yet perhaps going longer will suit him, since a few of his siblings did run well over route distances on the turf. Phil Serpe is just 4 for 49 (8%, $1.28 ROI) going from sprints to routes on turf over 5 years, but this colt does have some upside. My top pick is first time turfer Mr. Marlin (#12). He showed some ability on debut when closing well for third after racing greenly through the early stages of that race. He appeared to react badly to kickback, only passing horses when steered into the clear. He subsequently failed to improve in two more starts, though he was wide last time against a potential rail bias. The fourth-place finisher from that race returned to win with an improved speed figure, so I think he ran better than it appears. Paynter is an underrated turf sire, as his progeny win 15% of their turf route starts. The dam never tried turf, but she has produced two foals to win on this surface. I think he has a chance to improve and he figures to be a fair price.

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