Sunday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Pamina should relish added ground in second start off the layoff

Belmont Park | Race 4 | Post Time 3:09 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs
Not already a TimeformUS member? Sign up

Too Cool to Dance (#4) figures to go favored off an easy maiden victory against overmatched rivals. She had proven her quality in her prior start when finishing just behind her highly regarded stablemate Reversethedecision, and she is the horse to beat.

Best Performance (#2) also should attract some support given her robust resume. However, I have serious doubts about her desire to stretch out even further in distance. She seems like a filly that wants to go shorter – not longer – after she flattened out following a premature move last time.

While I respect the favorite, I want to take a shot against these horses with PAMINA (#7). She took a big step forward in her return from the layoff at Monmouth last time. That day, she was thrown in against older fillies and mares, and she actually ran quite well despite not getting the easiest trip. She was wide for much of the way and seemed hopelessly beaten turning for home. Yet she unleashed a furious stretch bid once clear. She’s bred to relish added ground and she gets a significant rider switch to Irad Ortiz.

THE PLAY

Win: 7
Exacta Key Box: 7 with 2,3,4,5
Trifecta: 4,7 with 4,7 with 1,2,3,5​

Posted in Race Previews | Leave a comment

Friday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Funny Kid heading into the Belmont Gold Cup in career form

Belmont Park | Race 10 | Post Time 5:46 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs
Not already a TimeformUS member? Sign up

We’ll see who ends up taking money in this perplexing race. Generally, I’m somewhat against the Americans and want the new faces shipping in from Europe.

Call to Mind (#1) is the horse with obviously strong European form, having twice finished in the money at the Group 2 level going marathon distances. Stradivarius, who defeated him in the Yorkshire Cup last time, is one of the best stayers in Europe, so it’s no disgrace that Call to Mind lost to him by three lengths. This lightly raced, royally owned colt seems to be heading in the right direction.

At a slightly better price, I prefer FUNNY KID (#4), who has turned into a new horse this year. Despite not distinguishing himself through more than a dozen starts in his first two seasons of racing, Funny Kid has come alive since he’s been stretched out to true marathon distances. He had been doing it over synthetic surfaces, but he proved himself on turf last time, defeating the talented Ice Breeze, who had won against Group 1 company going this distance last season.

The only horse with American form whom I want to throw into the mix is Canessar (#5). His last race at Keeneland is better than it seems given the lack of pace, and he had previously run well in marathons in France. Beyond these, it looks wide open. I could even make a mild case for third European, Prince of Arran (#3), who had been keeping much stronger company throughout much of last season.

THE PLAY

Win: 4
Exacta Box: 1,4,5
Trifecta: 4 with 1,3,5 with 1,3,5,6,8,10​

Posted in Race Previews | 1 Comment

Thursday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: The reliable Professor Snape has the upper hand

Belmont Park | Race 2 | Post Time 2:31 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs

Not already a TimeformUS member? Sign up

With Autostrade scratching to instead run in a Saturday allowance, Bugle Notes (#1) becomes Todd Pletcher’s lone representative in this race. This expensive colt figures to take money following a visually impressive debut, but he will need to run significantly faster to take down this field. He certainly has a right to do so, given the he broke slowly in that initial start and rushed up to chase a fast pace. Yet, given a relatively short price, I’d rather bet others.

Some may consider Polar Jet (#2) to be an alternative, but his last race concerns me. Unlike the runner who finished just ahead of him that day, Polar Jet had no excuse to lose by over 5 lengths to the seemingly inferior Jewel Can Disco. This horse had been running in cheap races last year and I wonder if the good form that he was able to capture over the winter is now eluding him.

PROFESSOR SNAPE (#5) is clearly the one in the best form. He has put forth three consecutive strong efforts since Antonio Arriaga added blinkers on March 30. That day, he was justifiably put up to victory after dueling with Son of Mine. Next time, he was badly hampered at the start when he turned his head just as the gates opened. Thereafter, he was forced to race in an uncomfortable spot between horses and actually ran deceptively well to be second. He rebounded with a career-best speed figure when finishing behind the undefeated Breaking the Rules last time. He should be the clear favorite in this spot, yet he may offer value due to his low-profile trainer.

THE PLAY

Win: 5

Exacta Key Box: 5 with 1,3,6,7

Trifecta: 5 with 1,3 with 1,3,6,7​

Posted in Race Previews | 1 Comment

TimeformUS Analysis: Vino Rosso can play the role of spoiler in the Belmont Stakes

Grade 1 Belmont Stakes | 1 1/2 Miles, Dirt, 3-year-olds | Belmont, Race 11, 6:46 p.m. (ET) | TimeformUS PPs
Most Likely Winner: Justify (#1)

One victorious lap around Belmont Park’s main track stands between Justify and the ultimate goal of becoming racing’s 13th Triple Crown winner. While horses attempting this feat no longer have to shoulder the added pressure of ending a three-decade-long drought, it would be unwise to lose sight of the difficulty of this task. Since the 1978 Triple Crown was conquered by Affirmed, 13 horses have attempted to sweep the series in the Belmont Stakes, and all but one – American Pharoah – have failed.

The TimeformUS Pace Projector indicates that Justify is faster in the early stages than the nine other colts contesting this Belmont Stakes, and is capable of opening up an advantage heading into the clubhouse turn. Drawing the rail post position forces the hand of Mike Smith, who must get the son of Scat Daddy away from the gate cleanly. In each of the first two legs of the Triple Crown series, Smith was able to maneuver Justify to the outside of a pace rival heading into the clubhouse turn, yet he may find that task more difficult this time as primary pace challengers Restoring Hope (#5) and Noble Indy (#9) both leave from outside stalls.

Let’s go through the entire field:

#1, JUSTIFY (4-5): Justify will go to the post as an overwhelming favorite, looking every bit the part of a deserving Triple Crown winner. If he is victorious, he would become just the second undefeated winner of this series, following in the footsteps of Seattle Slew. Barring any unforeseen developments, Justify will only lose this race should he regress significantly. Through his five career starts, he has earned TimeformUS Speed Figures ranging from 125 to 132 – exceptional numbers for a horse of any age, let alone a young 3-year-old. Notably, all but one of those figures are higher than the personal bests of each of his nine challengers. The weather forecast for Saturday remains unclear, but Justify has proven that track conditions are unlikely to derail him. If the track does come up fast by post time, it may even enhance his chances, since he has earned his two fastest speed figures over dry surfaces.

Obviously, the major question for Justify, as it is for every three-year-old in this field, is the distance. In the modern age of racing, few American horses are bred to handle 1 1/2 miles on the dirt. Justify’s sire, Scat Daddy, is not known as a strong source of stamina, yet Justify has already answered many important questions around his distance limitations. He showed true staying power in the Kentucky Derby, where he survived one of the fastest early paces in the history of that race and still drew clear to a decisive victory. The pace of this race will not be nearly as taxing, so it stands to reason that a more relaxed early tempo will enable him to get the extra two furlongs, just as American Pharoah was able to do three years ago. Some have harped on the fact that he’s making his sixth start since mid-February, which is a demanding schedule for a top horse. While he hasn’t shown any signs of weariness in his morning training since the Preakness, it’s possible that the rigors of the Triple Crown will take their toll, as they have on many throughout history. His competitors will have to hope that is the case, because if the good Justify shows up, it’s his race to lose.

#2, FREE DROP BILLY (30-1): His Kentucky Derby was over early, as he backed out of contention around the far turn despite getting a relatively good trip up until that point. He just hasn’t progressed since early in the season and it would be quite a surprise if he were to even work his way into the trifecta against a field of this quality. Pass.

#3, BRAVAZO (8-1): No other horse has gotten closer to Justify at the finish of a race than Bravazo did at the end of the Preakness. It looked like this colt was spinning his wheels around the far turn, as Tenfold ran past him. Yet, once angled out into the clear in deep stretch, he found his best stride and was moving fastest of all across the wire. However, I think it would be wise to temper some of the enthusiasm around the efforts of Bravazo and Tenfold in the Preakness, given how the race unfolded. It essentially developed into a match race between Justify and Good Magic, whereas Bravazo and Tenfold were just picking up pieces in the final furlong as the two leaders tired form their racelong duel. Bravazo has arguably been the biggest surprise of this Triple Crown season, as many would have argued that he didn’t even belong in the Kentucky Derby following a dismal effort at the Fair Grounds. Yet he ran deceptively well to be sixth in the Run for the Roses, and validated that performance with an even stronger effort in Baltimore. By Awesome Again out of a Cee’s Tizzy mare, he’s very closely related to Oxbow, who finished second in the Belmont for these same connections. D. Wayne Lukas is no stranger to this race, and Bravazo’s tactical speed should help him stay close throughout in what figures to be a steadily run race. I’m not counting him out this time, but he probably needs others to falter in order to win. A trifecta player.

#4, HOFBURG (9-2): This is the colt that most would deem to be Justify’s greatest threat. While he finished nearly nine lengths behind his imposing chestnut counterpart at Churchill Downs, the consensus among handicappers is that Hofburg encountered more traffic trouble than any other late closer in that race. He was stymied while attempting to gather momentum at numerous points around the far turn, and only found a clear path once the field was well into the stretch. Remarkably, he still had run left and put in a strong stretch rally through the final furlong despite never threatening the leaders. Past the wire, he continued to gallop out strongly, suggesting that he finished the race with energy to spare. As one of the most lightly-raced members of this field, there is some concern that his connections may be asking too much of him in just his fifth career start. After all, he’s not a precocious type like Justify, and has been learning his lessons against top horses in Grade 1 competition. Hofburg sports one of the best pedigrees for the 12-furlong distance as a son of Tapit, who has sired 3 of the last 4 Belmont Stakes winners. If Hofburg takes the leap forward that many are expecting, Justify may be in for a fight through the final furlongs of this race. However, there is no shortage of hype around this second choice in the wagering, and I don’t believe he would offer value at anything shorter than his morning line odds. The main threat.

#5, RESTORING HOPE (30-1): Justify’s stablemate has yet to prove that he really belongs at this level. While he typically races up close to the pace, he probably isn’t quite as fast as Noble Indy. It’s unlikely he’ll be around at the finish regardless of his trip. Pass.

#6, GRONKOWSKI (12-1): He figures to take money in this race for reasons that have little to do with his ability. If I’m to assess him based purely on his prior form, it’s very difficult to make a compelling case for him. He’s never raced on dirt, and earned his way into this race by defeating vastly inferior horses going one mile on synthetic surfaces. There is some dirt stamina breeding on the female side of his pedigree, as his dam is a half-sister to Grade 1 Stephen Foster winner Flasy Bull. However, Gronkowski is a son of Lonhro, who is renowned for instilling his progeny with speed on the turf, not stamina on the dirt. I have the utmost respect for the connections, but it seems like they’re just taking a shot. Any money that he attracts just creates additional value on the other short prices. Pass.

#7, TENFOLD (12-1): As I noted when assessing Bravazo’s Preakness effort, both of these horses were somewhat aided by the flow of that race. Justify dueled Good Magic into defeat in what had essential become a match race, so the late runs of both this colt and Bravazo were somewhat illusory. To Tenfold’s credit, he at least did make an attempt to go after the two leaders when they spurted away from the field around the far turn, yet I still don’t think he ran nearly as well as either Justify or Good Magic. Tenfold does deserve credit for putting forth a career best effort in the Preakness off just 3 prior starts. However, it’s much easier to run well as a lightly-raced horse in the Preakness than it is to do the same in the Kentucky Derby. In recent years, the Preakness has drawn smaller fields with far fewer top caliber three-year-olds than the Kentucky Derby, and this year’s race was no different. It’s one of the primary reasons that horses exiting losing efforts in the Kentucky Derby have been far more successful in this race than those exiting losses in the Preakness. Tenfold has a solid pedigree to handle the Belmont distance, and his grinding running style should be well suited to the projected flow of this race. I have serious doubts that he’s really up to the task, and would rather take those coming out of trouble efforts in Louisville. Another trifecta player.

#8, VINO ROSSO (8-1): As I noted in my analysis for this year’s Kentucky Derby, this colt was never going to be well suited to that race. The Derby typically features an extremely fast early pace and a crowded field of 20 runners, two factors that are incongruous with a notoriously laid-back horse who prefers to run outside of rivals during his races. While John Velazquez was able to get Vino Rosso to the outside at Churchill Downs, in doing so he was forced to race five or six paths off the rail around both turns. Vino Rosso is once again drawn in an outside slot for this race, but Belmont’s large main oval with its more gradual turns should allow him to get into a steady rhythm, something that he was never able to do last time.

Vino Rosso’s trainer, Todd Pletcher, has a knack for getting horses to rebound in the Belmont Stakes. In the 12 editions contested since 2006, Pletcher has sent out either the first or second place finisher on 8 occasions, winning it three times – a remarkable feat in a notoriously demanding race. Vino Rosso seems tailor-made for this 12-furlong test and has a similar profile to Pletcher’s prior Belmont winners, Palace Malice and Tapwrit, who both finished off the board in Kentucky. No other horse in this brings a pedigree with so many stamina influences. His sire Curlin nearly won this race, and his dam is a half-sister to Commissioner, who was also narrowly beaten in the Belmont Stakes. Vino Rosso ran a competitive speed figure when he won New York’s Wood Memorial two back, and he has shown the ability to sit closer to the pace than a closer like Hofburg. If Vino Rosso puts forth his best effort, I believe he has a strong chance to upset Justify’s Triple Crown bid, and he figures to offer better value than Hofburg. The selection.

#9, NOBLE INDY (30-1): Much has been made of this colt’s common ownership with both Justify and Vino Rosso. He’s a longshot in this race, but he certainly has a right to run based on merit as the winner of the Louisiana Derby. He was completely ignored on the tote board in the Kentucky Derby, and he never seemed to be himself that day while failing to show his typical early speed before backing up. The distance is a question mark, but his early tactics are no mystery. Noble Indy runs best when he can be forwardly placed and Jav​ier Castellano figures to send him to the lead from this outside post position. At that point, whether Justify goes on with it or takes back to swing outside of this horse is up to Mike Smith. If those two slow down the tempo enough, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Noble Indy could hang on for a small slice, especially considering Pletcher’s outstanding record in this race. Use underneath on deeper exotics tickets.

#10, BLENDED CITIZEN (15-1): The Peter Pan winner is the only horse in this field with experience running over Belmont’s main track. He presents himself as the kind of runner that should be able to gallop the 12 furlongs at a steady pace. However, he’s never run a particularly fast speed figure and he beat a relatively weak field in that Peter Pan score. He’s much more likely to hit the board than horses like Free Drop Billy and Gronkowski, but a top two finish seems like a stretch. Another to throw in on deeper exotic tickets.

THE PLAY

To see how we’re going to play the race, get our Betting Strategies as part of the TimeformUS Belmont Stakes Package.

Posted in Race Previews | 2 Comments

The TFUS Belmont Stakes Package: Here’s the schedule of all the coverage

Our analyst David Aragona is going to do the sort of deep dive that you’ve come to depend on from TimeformUS: horse-by-horse analysis of the full fields for each of the ten stakes on the Belmont Stakes Day Card, plus Betting Strategies (yes, the actual tickets) for each race, including related pick 4 and pick 5 tickets. It’s an essential package for anyone who is serious about crushing the Belmont Day card…

OK, ready to get started?

First: go here to purchase the package now.

Then: Go here to access the PPs.

Finally: Beginning at 2pm on Friday, the Betting Strategies Deep Dive will be available at the top of the Belmont PPs, under the Strategies Tab:

Questions? Please email us at TFUSSupport@drf.com

Posted in Player's Point of View, Product features, Race Previews, Welcome to TimeformUS | Leave a comment

Sunday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Peculiar Sensation set for a step forward second off the claim

Belmont Park | Race 7 | Post Time 4:46 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs

Not already a TimeformUS member? Sign up

I’m not thrilled with the two horses likely to vie for favoritism. News Anchor (#9) is the horse to beat, but he’s likely to get overbet. He is a lightly raced colt for a trainer who knows how to get runners to improve with time. The only issue is that he really does need to get better to win this race, as his 2-year-old form does not make him particularly formidable. Shug McGaughey’s numbers off these kinds of layoffs on turf are merely decent.

The other runner who will attract support is Elenzee (#5). I suppose he’s the other one you want off his most recent effort, but I’ve never been a great fan of this horse. He typically needs everything to go his way in order to be successful, but his speed does make him dangerous.

If I’m going to take a horse coming out of that fourth race on May 10, I want it to be PECULIAR SENSATION (#4). This runner was basically doomed from the start that day, as the field was pretty bunched up and he could not get over to save any ground from his outside post position. He raced four wide all the way around the far turn, which is especially detrimental when the rails are as far out as they were on that occasion. I think you can forgive that effort because this gelding actually has some races from last season that give him a shot in this race. Furthermore, Gregory DiPrima has surprisingly strong numbers second off the claim. Over the past five years, he is 8 for 38 (21 percent, $4.78 ROI) in such situations, and he’s won with plenty of prices. The Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring runners on or near the lead, and he’s quick enough to be racing close up in the early stages.

THE PLAY

Win: 4

Exacta Key Box: 4 with 1,5,6,9

Trifecta: 4,9 with 4,9 with 1,5,6​

Posted in Race Previews | Leave a comment

Saturday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: An improving Catch a Cab can handle the rise in class

Belmont Park | Race 4 | Post Time 3:09 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs
Not already a TimeformUS member? Sign up

This is a wide-open race, as about six horses have a solid chance to win. The horse to beat is probably Wicked Freud (#8) off the claim by Brad Cox. This gray gelding has run plenty of competitive races at this level, and the one-turn-mile distance suits him perfectly. If he improves at all for the new barn, he will be very tough.

A few runners exit race 7 on May 12. There’s little doubt that Changewilldoyagood (#12) ran the best race that day. He’s typically dangerous when left alone up front, and he figures to be the controlling speed once again. However, he can be inconsistent, so I don’t fully trust him to repeat that last effort. Converge (#2) is a wild card off the trainer switch to Rudy Rodriguez, though the barn does not have strong numbers off layoffs on turf.

I’ll use all of them, but I’m going to try to beat these seasoned veterans with the quickly improving CATCH A CAB (#7). There were reasons to be skeptical of this horse when he returned to turf this spring, but he has put forth two solid efforts at this meet. While he wasn’t beating any superstars last time, he finished very strongly to win, running a final quarter-mile that was 0.71 seconds faster than the second-quickest finisher, according to Trakus. In retrospect, this horse has always had some ability, but layoffs and troubled trips have prevented him from showing it. It seems that the Mark Casse barn finally has him sorted out, and I think he’s ready to continue his ascent.

THE PLAY

Win: 7
Exacta Key Box: 7 with 2,6,8,9,12

Posted in Race Previews | Leave a comment