Belmont | Race 8 | Post Time 5:05 p.m. (ET) | TimeformUS PPs are now available on DRF.com. Go to PPs
There’s little doubt that Zandon (#7) is the horse to beat in this Westchester as he returns from the layoff to launch his 4-year-old campaign. Yet there are some questions he has to answer. Chad Brown had intended to run him in a softer optional claiming race last week, and he was forced to target this spot instead after the track came up sloppy.
Brown has a reputation for doing well off layoffs, but he is just 5 for 25 (20%, $0.74 ROI) with horses off 120 to 240 day layoffs in dirt stakes over the past 5 years, in a sample primarily composed of short prices. There’s little doubt that this colt was one of the best 3-year-olds in the country, but he disappointed slightly towards the end of the year. This one mile distance is supposed to be right up his alley, but he did disappoint going this far as the favorite in the Cigar Mile.
Chad Brown’s other entrant Dr Ardito (#3) could take money based on his string of recent victories, but I think he would have to improve to beat the toughest field that he’s ever faced.
Repo Rocks (#8) would be a strong contender if he could get back to the form we saw out of him this winter. However, he’s regressed slightly twice in a row since that breakout performance in the Toboggan two back. I’m skeptical that he can turn things back around.
Weyburn (#6) appears to be back in top form after struggling in the second half of 2022. He ran well twice down at Gulfstream since being reunited with original trainer Jimmy Jerkens. I think some others in here have a higher ceiling, but he does figure to be a decent price.
My top pick is Unbridled Bomber (#5). There was always the frame of a top horse here, but it took him a long time to put all the pieces together. He showed promise as a 2-year-old, but then seemed to lack focus during the early part of that 3-year-old season. Things finally started to click into place last fall, and now he’s won 3 of his last 4 starts. The most recent stakes attempt in the Queens County went awry, but he reportedly wasn’t himself that day and subsequently got some time off. He looked better than ever off the layoff last time, showing improved tactical speed before sailing clear late. His 125 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that performance stacks up favorably against the favorite. The fact that he’s wheeling back in just 3 weeks would appear to suggest that he’s done well since then.