Belmont at the Big A Horses in Focus for Sunday, October 2

RACE 4: IRON LION IN ZION (#9)

I suppose Misbehaved (#4) is the horse to beat as he drops back in for a claiming tag for the second time in his career. He broke his maiden when risked for $50k two back Churchill, though he did benefit from a very fast pace that day. He was never a factor against starter allowance foes last time at Saratoga, but I can be somewhat forgiving of that performance, since he was facing tougher company. This is a realistic drop, but I do find it odd that Pletcher is putting blinkers back on after this horse ran two of his worst races with blinkers. There isn’t much speed signed on in this race, which could work against Blu Grotto (#3) as he returns from a layoff. He does have plenty of prior races that make him a contender here, but he’s fairly unreliable and this barn isn’t known for success off layoffs. I’m going with a different closer. Iron Lion in Zion (#9) is going to have to find a way to sit a bit closer to the pace here, but I do think he ran better than it appears last time out. He was slammed by another rival coming out of the starting gate before settling in mid-pack. He then launched a decent rally to nearly get up for third behind a pair of superior rivals. The third-place finisher from that affair returned to run well against a tougher field here last week with an improved speed figure. He has more upside than some others and fits at this level.

RACE 6: WASP (#2)

While Jane Grey (#1) did handle the mile last time and improved her speed figure a few points, I’m not convinced that she’s necessarily better with added distance. She also got the front end that day, and this time there is plenty of other speed drawn to her outside. She’s arguably the horse to beat after handling the slop last time, but I preferred others. Spiked (#7) makes plenty of sense as she cuts back to a mile after chasing home the undefeated Fingal’s Cave at 1 1/8 miles last time. She’s taken a step forward with each start and is an effective stalker who doesn’t necessarily need to be vying for the lead. They’re both logical contenders, but I wanted to go with a more experienced foe. Wasp (#2) doesn’t have the obvious upside of the aforementioned two, but she has been in solid form lately. I’m not going to hold her loss in the Yaddo against her, since she was put in the difficult position of dueling with heavy favorite Make Mischief on the front end. Prior to that she had run some nice races at this level. I like her running style for this race, because there’s plenty of speed signed on and she’s been effective closing from mid-pack. She also wouldn’t mind some moisture in the track, as she’s run well over sloppy surfaces before.

RACE 8: AMERICAN ROCKETTE (#2)

Chocolate Gelato (#4) is the filly to beat in this Frizette off her impressive maiden score in her second career start at Saratoga. She had been hyped prior to her debut on opening day, but was a little lackluster on that afternoon. She obviously benefited from the experience, as she displayed improved early speed in her second start, and ran clear to an easy victory. That said, she did get away with a pretty moderate pace last time, and now she has to deal with a few other quality speed types in here. All three runners drawn to her outside want to be vying for early command, so Irad Ortiz could be forced to use Chocolate Gelato more aggressively than the connections might like. She’s a deserving favorite, but I didn’t want to accept a very short price on her given the question marks. The Great Maybe (#6) is one of those who should be challenging the favorite early. She didn’t break that sharply in her debut, but quickly rushed up to duel for the lead. She got away at the quarter pole and ran clear to a commanding score. Like the favorite, she has to stretch out an extra two furlongs here, but she’s obviously talented. Some may also be enticed by You’re My Girl (#7) off a similarly impressive debut score, but she was beating a much weaker field of New York-breds and has to get faster. Two contenders in this Frizette exit last month’s Spinaway at Saratoga, including winner Leave No Trace (#1). She was obviously in great form over the summer, running well to win her debut before putting forth a similar effort in that stakes last time. However, she got perfect trips on both occasions and now has drawn the inside post. I’m instead interested in American Rockette (#2) out of the Spinaway. She obviously has to get faster as one of the slower fillies coming into this race. However, she severely compromised herself at the start last time when she bolted to the outside fence after the gates opened. She ultimately got back on track, but was still a little green while rejoining the field. I thought she did well to pass rivals in a race that didn’t exactly favor the closers. She has to prove she can handle added distance here, but she strikes me as one that’s still figuring things out. She also figures to get the right pace setup when plenty of speed signed on.

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