Sunday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Saguaro Row has found her niche as a sprinter

Belmont | Race 7 | Post Time 4:45 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs 
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The two horses likely to vie for favoritism in this spot are Bluegrass Jamboree (#1) and Honor Way (#4). The former is probably the horse to beat given her superior tactical speed. There is very little pace signed on for this race, and the Pace Projector is predicting that Bluegrass Jamboree will be sitting in a good spot stalking the likely leader Summer Punch. I don’t expect this mare to run back to her 8-length score two back when she rode a strong rail bias to victory. She didn’t perform quite as well as the favorite last time, but she nevertheless put forth a respectable effort. There is rain in the forecast and she handles a wet track even though she’s never won over it.

Honor Way suggested that she might have improved for Linda Rice when finishing third in the Interborough back in January, but she has not gone on since then. She showed some signs of life in the Correction two back, but was then highly disappointing as the last-place finisher at this level last time. She’s clearly good enough to beat this field at her best, but the lack of pace in this race could severely compromise her chances.

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I’m taking a shot against these with SAGUARO ROW (#6), who ships in to New York from Kentucky. This filly has sprinted only twice in her career, but both of those were winning efforts. She returned from a one-year layoff at Keeneland last time and won in impressive fashion. The pace of that race was extremely slow for the distance and this filly resented being rated in the opening furlongs, throwing her head about while refusing to settle. Many horses would give up after fighting their rider in the opening stages, but she kicked nicely once she was worked into the clear on the turn. She should have no trouble handling a wet track as a daughter of Union Rags, and her outside post position should allow her to work her way into a comfortable early position.

THE PLAY

Win: 6
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 1,2,4
Trifecta: 6 with 1,2,4 with 1,2,4,5

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Belmont Horses in Focus for Sunday, May 12

Race 6: Rockin Jo (#2)

  • The Pace Projector is predicting that he will play out as the main speed, and he does best when able to control up front.
  • Has done better than it appears in his turf races, running the best race of his life going a mile over this Widener course.
  • Is claimed by under-the-radar trainer Dennis Lalman, who can do very well off the claim.

10-1 on ML

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Race 7: Saguaro Row (#6)

  • Ran very well to win last time after fighting her rider through the early stages.
  • Both of her sprint attempts have resulted in victories.
  • Should handle moisture in the surface if it rains, as a daughter of good wet track influence Union Rags.

4-1 on ML

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Race 9: Quiet Out East (#9)

  • Ran deceptively well on the turf two back when closing down the center of the track over a rail-biased course.
  • Has been training strongly for his 3-year-old debut and should be set for a better performance.
  • DRF Formulator Fact: Over the past 5 years, Christophe Clement is 8-for-31 (26%, $2.72 ROI) with turf maidens getting Lasix for the first time off 120+ day layoffs.

4-1 on ML

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Saturday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Arklow flying under the radar in the Man O’ War

Belmont | Race 10 | Post Time 6:24 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs 
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The likely favorite in this international Man o’ War field is Focus Group (#6). This 5-year-old is finally delivering on the potential he displayed as a younger horse, showing a true affinity for these marathon distances. He put forth a superb effort to take the John’s Call at Saratoga last summer, but that was going 1 5/8 miles. I’m a little concerned that the 11-furlong distance of this race will be slightly short of his best trip. He won his return at Gulfstream in the Pan American, but he had to work hard to do so with a very good trip going 1 1/2 miles. I think he’s the horse to beat, but I worry that he’s going to be an underlay.

Magic Wand (#5) is another short price I would use since she clearly has the class to compete against this group, based on her good efforts in the Breeders’ Cup and Pegasus Turf. I just wasn’t thrilled with her race in Dubai last time, and Aidan O’Brien has poor numbers with females in U.S. turf races (just 2 for 39 over the past five years). There are a couple of viable alternatives at better prices.

Channel Maker (#8) deserves a look as he gets back to the NYRA circuit. He got the wrong trip in the Pegasus Turf two back and then was far too keen in the early stages of the Mac Diarmida. Joel Rosario rides him well, and he would be formidable if Bill Mott can get him back into the form that he displayed last summer. The 131 TimeformUS Speed Figure that he achieved in the Turf Classic last fall remains the highest number in this field.

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My top pick is ARKLOW (#4), who may be the best price of the runners I’m mentioning. This horse took a step forward during the latter half of 2018. He actually ran very well in the Sycamore behind today’s rival Zulu Alpha after refusing to settle and making a premature move to the lead. He was hardly disgraced in the Breeders’ Cup Turf to finish off his campaign, and you can throw out his return race, where he lost the rider. I believe this distance is perfect for him, since I sometimes get the sense that 1 1/2 miles is a bit too far. He clearly handles turf courses with some give to them, and we’re not yet dealing with the rock-hard courses Belmont course that we typically see in June and July. Brad Cox’s runners have been performing very well over the last few weeks in New York and I believe Arklow’s best effort can get the job done.

THE PLAY

Win: 4
Exacta Key Box: 4 with 2,5,6,8
Trifecta: 4 with 6,8 with 1,2,5,6,8

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Belmont Horses in Focus for Saturday, May 11

Race 1: Pacific Gale (#1)

  • Her 125 TimeformUS Speed Figure earned last time out is the highest in the field.
  • Possesses the tactical speed to sit a good trip in a largely paceless affair.
  • Strong worktab since her last race suggests that she may be sitting on another big effort.

5-2 on ML

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Race 3: Science Fiction (#10)

  • Ran deceptively well in return to turf last time, rushing up after breaking slowly and getting hung out wide.
  • Should play out as the controlling speed in a race that doesn’t feature any other confirmed front-runners.
  • Has maintained improved form since switching into the Rob Atras barn.

6-1 on ML

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Race 7: Competitionofideas (#3)

  • Put in a dazzling late run to take the American Oaks at 10 furlongs, but handles shorter distances.
  • Is undefeated on turf since Chad Brown added blinkers.
  • Appreciates some give in the ground and the turf courses have been rated “good” following last weekend’s rain.

7-5 on ML

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Race 10: Arklow (#4)

  • Made a premature move to the lead when unsettled in the early stages of the Sycamore, costing him the victory.
  • Proved his class when finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
  • Brad Cox’s runners have been performing very well on the NYRA circuit in recent weeks.

8-1 on ML

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Race 11: Elektronic (#4)

  • Was somewhat green in his debut but finished well after coming wide off the far turn.
  • Is bred to excel in this spot, by City Zip out of a dam who won 12 turf sprints during her career.
  • Linda Rice gets a 100 TimeformUS Trainer Rating with second time starters.

3-1 on ML

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Friday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Achilles Warrior’s speed gives him the edge over Chad Brown pair

Belmont | Race 7 | Post Time 4:45 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs 
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Chad Brown has two runners in this allowance, and both figure to attract support. Identity Politics (#2) is the class of the field on the basis of his Grade 1 placing in the Malibu last December. However, he’s been somewhat disappointing since then. He lost as the 4-5 favorite two back at Gulfstream despite receiving a highly favorable pace setup. I can excuse his poor effort in the Carter, but I’m starting to wonder if we saw the best this horse has to offer over the winter. Furthermore, the Pace Projector is predicting that this race will favor horses racing on or near the lead, and he is projected to be at the back of the pack.

His uncoupled stablemate, Payne (#3), is also quite interesting as he returns from a long layoff. He looked great in his only start for this barn last summer, defeating the well-meant Hersh in a fast maiden event. He appears to be training well for his return, and I would not be surprised if he’s the Brown runner whom you really want.

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I’m using both, but my top pick is ACHILLES WARRIOR (#4). I was disappointed not to cash a win bet on this runner last time since he ran too well to lose that race to an improbable longshot. Achilles Warrior had hinted that better things were on the horizon with his workouts at Gulfstream this winter, the last of which featured him outdrilling his talented stablemate Strike Power. While he benefited from a moderate pace in his return at Aqueduct, he figures to get a similar setup on the front end here. He only has to outrun The Caretaker to the front, and the early lead should be his. As long as he continues his forward momentum, I believe he can upset the Brown pair.

THE PLAY

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

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Belmont Horses in Focus for Friday, May 10

Race 7: Achilles Warrior (#4)

  • Hinted at improved form over the winter by outworking classy stablemate Strike Power at Gulfstream.
  • Put forth best effort of his career off the layoff last time.
  • The Pace Projector is predicting that he will be on the lead in a situation favoring the front-runner.

5-2 on ML

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Race 8: Mo Gotcha (#9)

  • Was green in his debut, flicking his ears about while just toying with his competition.
  • Must run faster, but figures to do so while stretching out in distance.
  • Has put together a faster worktab since his debut win, suggesting that improvement may be forthcoming.

12-1 on ML

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Thursday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Orbolution looks ready to fire fresh following lengthy hiatus

Belmont | Race 1 | Post Time 3:05 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs
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Lion in Wait (#7) and Miss Munnings (#8) figure to vie for favoritism if this race remains on the grass. Lion in Wait has been a terror at Belmont Park, having finished in exacta in 9 of 10 starts over these turf courses. She is effective from both leading and stalking positions, and she handles firm or soft going. While she has benefited from good trips in many of her triumphs, she usually makes her own racing luck. She made one start this winter at the Fair Grounds, and her effort was not as poor as it seems. She was meeting a tougher field than today’s group, and was unwisely rated early before having to alter course in the stretch. I slightly prefer her to her main rival.

Miss Munnings required 9 starts to break the maiden, but has been improving steadily and now appears to be in the best form of her career at age 6. She won both of her starts at Gulfstream this winter, most recently making slingshot last-to-first move before drawing off impressively in the finest effort of her career. She now returns from 3-month layoff, which is not Kimmel’s strong suit, but she is a contender nonetheless.

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I’m using both of these mares, but my top pick is the returning 4-year-old filly ORBOLUTION (#2). I don’t often endorse horses returning from 18-month layoffs, but Pletcher has remarkable statistics in this situation. Over the past 5 years, he is 8-for-17 (47%, $4.55 ROI) off 300+ day layoffs in turf routes. Orbolution showed some serious ability as a 2-year-old, winning both of her Spa turf starts in the summer of 2017. She sustained a nightmare trip in the Breeders’ Cup to end that season, getting locked in on the rail with nowhere to go for the entire stretch drive. She appears to be training very well for her return, and can improve her speed figures with natural maturity.

THE PLAY

Win: 2
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 6,7,8
Trifecta: 2,7 with 2,7 with 5,6,8

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