Belmont at the Big A Horses in Focus for Sunday, October 30

RACE 2: WAR TERMINATOR (#5)

I do quite like this turnback for expected favorite Frank’s Art (#4). I didn’t get the sense that stretching out was the right move for him when he went two turns over the summer, and maintain that view even though he ran fine in those races. He got rank when attempting to settle behind horses last time and only produced a muted run through the stretch. He displayed an explosive turn of foot in his career debut and I think he’ll handle this shorter trip. I just don’t love the likely short price on him, especially since I’m fond of one of his rivals. War Terminator (#5) got a tougher trip than Frank’s Art when they met on Aug. 10. He was 2 to 3-wide around the track during a time when rail position was essential on the inner turf course. He’s another who is better off going a little shorter than that. He stayed in that off the turf race last time, but now he’s getting back on the right surface. I don’t know why there’s been a trainer switch to Rob Atras, but this seems like a lateral move for a horse who just appears to be getting back into the right spot. The other horse that I would include at a price is Courageous Oh La (#7). He rarely gets much respect going out for low-profile connections, but he’s run well in all of his recent starts on this circuit, including a couple of turf tries. There is other speed in this race, but he appears to be quicker than the rest early and could take them a long way up front.

RACE 8: FINEST WORK (#4)

I’m not trying to beat Finest Work (#4) here, even though she’ll be a short price than last time. This filly upset the Hettinger at 8-1, but that victory shouldn’t have been much of a surprise, as she’s been subtly improving all year long. She was a little unlucky when she was beaten by Marvelous Maude at Saratoga three back, and she was a comfortable winner at Monmouth in early September. She unleashed a terrific turn of foot to take over in upper stretch last time before getting a bit leg weary in the last sixteenth. If anything, turning back one-sixteenth of a mile will only help her cause. Marvelous Maude (#7) also put in a good effort in defeat last time, but I don’t see why she’s supposed to turn the tables here. She’s typically overbet, as she was in the Hettinger, where she couldn’t quite catch Finest Work. I liked the way she found another gear to make it close late, but I think the slightly shorter distance of this race will work to Finest Work’s advantage instead. Runaway Rumour (#5) was also right there at the finish last time, but she’s lost 11 straight races. Perhaps the interesting new face is Spungie (#10), who showed real promise as a younger filly last year. She hasn’t run quite as fast in two starts since returning from a lengthy layoff, but her last victory was a step in the right direction and she could still have upside. I’ll use her underneath.

RACE 9: SUNSET LOUISE (#2)

I’m not particularly fond of either potential favorite in this Empire Distaff. Brattle House (#7) and Let Her Inspire U (#8) have been pretty popular with the bettors lately and could vie for favoritism here. The former seems especially dubious to me as she stretches out around two turns for the first time in her career. I’ve never thought added distance helps Brattle House, and she didn’t have any excuse to lose at a short price last time. She has met some solid open company rivals lately, but she’s failed to step forward since registering two runaway victories at Belmont earlier this year. Let Her Inspire U did handle the 9-furlong distance when she was a close second in the Fleet Indian, but I still don’t think this longer trip is a natural fit for her. She had to work harder than expected to win an allowance race at a short price last time, and I think the added ground works more to the advantage of the two fillies who finished just behind her. Caragate (#3)was third that day, and was arguably staying on best of all at the end of the race. She’s won going this distance before and seems like one of the few in here who is really suited to the 1 1/8 miles. She just has to get a little faster, and I think the horse who finished between these two in that Sep. 24 affair has a bit more upside. Sunset Louise (#2) hasn’t ever gone 9 furlongs, but she strikes me as one that will handle it. A daughter of Tonalist, she’s a full-sister to solid allowance performer The Reds, who has run well going this far. I loved her effort at Saratoga two back when she drew off impressively in a commanding performance. She found herself in an unfamiliar position on the lead last time after a surprisingly alert break, and she hung on well after setting some honest fractions. I like her stretching out and think she’s one of the few in this field who still might have a step forward in her. I would also use Ice Princess (#5), since she arguably has the most and best experience going this trip. However, I do wonder if her best days are behind her now.

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