His first post is 2:34 pm EDT.
After a few days where the major tracks were dark, the big boys are back today: there are cards at Belmont, Churchill Downs, Pimlico. We are going to focus on the cards at Belmont and Pimlico, as the weather in Kentucky is uncertain, and we don't want to guess at the track conditions there. Though thunderstorms are expected in both Baltimore and New York, we're expecting them to hold off until after today's racing, so we will handicap for fast and firm. Let's go.
Belmont has a cocktail-friendly 3:05 pm post time, and a good 8-race card. Race 4 (post time: 4:38 pm; all times are Eastern) is a first-level allowance race for horses 3 and up at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf. There are 9 turf entrants, plus two who will draw in if the race is moved to the dirt. Trainer Chad Brown has an entry here: 1-Financial System and 1A-Unleveraged look tough, especially Unleveraged, and the odds reflect that: the entry is even money on the morning line, and we think they will be even shorter at post time, probably something like 3/5. At that price, we are going to try to beat them, and we will do so with the horse on the outside: 9-Il Primo Sole. This 4-year-old ran competitively against some pretty salty company in Europe last year, and he comes back off a layoff, for a new trainer (David Duggan), and with the biggest equipment change in racing: he's running today as a first-time gelding. We think that he has a big shot, and with all the attention the Brown entry will get at the windows, we expect a fair price on him. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 4, $20 to win on 9-Il Primo Sole.
Race 6 in Elmont (post time: 5:42 pm) is another turf race at 1 1/16 miles, a starter allowance for horses 3 and up. These kinds of races can be tricky to handicap, because unlike many maiden races, where a goodly chunk of the field looks too slow to win, every horse here has won at least once: it's a condition of the race. Hence, they're all good enough to win, and it can be hard to separate the contenders from the non-contenders. This one predictably looks pretty wide open, but we like a long shot here: 12-Letterman. This 5-year-old son of Hard Spun and James Bond trainee woke up to break his maiden last out, and he did so with a lethal combination of adequate early speed and a good late kick. He's coming off a layoff here -- that win was in August -- but we think he's got a good shot to get a similar trip today, and that gives him a big chance at a big price. We will bet him to win and to place at 12-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 6, $20 to win and place on 12-Letterman.
The 8th at Belmont (post time: 6:46 pm) is a non-winners of three allowance, for older horses at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt, and the past performance of the horses in here make it look like a stakes race. There's abundant speed here, and that makes us favor 2-Expert. This Linda Rice trainee will be rolling late, and should get a good stalking trip from his inside post. We will bet him to win at 2-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 8, $25 to win on 2-Expert.
Down at Pimlico, a couple of races on the 8-race program caught our interest. The first is the 4th, which is a $5,000 claimer for fillies and mares 3 and up at 6 furlongs on the dirt. It goes to post at 2:34 pm. The pick here is 5-Gateau St Honore. This 4-year-old has been amazingly consistent, and should get a fast early pace that favors her late-running style. She's a gray, so look for the gray moving late. We will bet her to win at 2-1. The bet: Pimlico, Race 4, $20 to win on 5-Gateau St Honore.
The last play of the day is the next race in Baltimore, Race 5. It's a first-level allowance at 1 1/16 on the turf for fillies and mares 3 and up. Post time is 3:02 pm. Nine are entered, and the strong pick here is a first-time North American starter for Graham Motion: 4-Mercilla ran only once in France last year, but she won that race smartly, she's by the late, great, super turf sire Arch. Motion also is good in this spot, with a 17% win rate with North American firsters. And most important, she seems to have caught a soft group in here. The 7/2 morning line price seems a little high, and we'll probably get a shorter price, but we'll bet to win anyway. The bet: Pimlico, Race 5, $35 to win on 4-Mercilla.
That's all for today. We'll be back on Saturday for a look at the national stakes action. Until then, good luck at the windows.