We're going to focus our attention on beautiful Belmont Park today. This is partly because they have a good card, and partly to get a feel, in advance of the mammoth day of racing on Saturday, for the way the track is playing. Despite some overnight rain, we expect the dirt to be fast and the turf to be firm. There's a cocktail-friendly 3:05 pm Eastern first post, so let's go.
We'll start with Race 1 (3:05 p.m. ET), a very, very good allowance for horses 3 and up at 1 3/8 miles on the turf. This is a first-level allowance race, for horses who have not won a race other than maiden/starter/claiming, and we mention that because the five here look to be enormously talented; we would bet our lungs, if we could, that we'll see a couple of these guys in stakes races later this summer. The pick here is 3-Heirarchy: this Phipps Stable homebred, trained by Shug McCaughey, has a devastating late kick, and, as is usually the case with McGaughey horses, has been brought along patiently. In a short field with not much pace, we see Heirarchy sitting just behind the pacesetter (who should be 5-Crackspeed), and seizing control of the race at the top of the lane. We won't get rich betting him at 8/5, but he looks the likeliest winner, and we will bet him to win to get off to a good start.
Belmont Park Race 1
$25 W on 3-Heirarchy
Race 3 at Big Sandy (4:07 p.m.) is another turf race, but this one is a stakes: it's the Grade 3 Wonder Again, a 1 1/8-mile affair for 3-year-old fillies. There's an overwhelming favorite here, 3-Newspaperofrecord, who won last year's Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, and who's 1-5 on the morning line. While she is by far the likeliest winner, there are reasons to think she may be vulnerable: she's never run on firm turf, and while her front-running style was effective in her first three career starts, which were all wire-to-wire wins, she did get caught last out in the Grade 3 Edgewood at Churchill Downs. There is also some other speed in here, and while none of the others is likely to be able to stay with Newspaperofrecord, it is possible that they could make her go faster early than she's like, and make her vulnerable late.
Our pick is 5-Chocolate Kisses. This girl has raced primarily on dirt, but she's done well on turf, with two wins from three career starts, including an overnight stakes at Saratoga last summer. Her sire, superstar stallion Candy Ride, does well with turf runners, and we are expecting a big effort from her today: we think she will be rolling late. At 8-1, she is a much better bet than taking Newspaperofrecord at a miserly price. We will bet her to win.
Belmont Park Race 3
$20 W on 5-Chocolate Kisses
The 7th in Elmont (6:14 p.m.) is the Grade $150,000 Astoria Stakes, a 5½-furlong dirt sprint for 2-year-old fillies. There's a good and deep field of nine lined up, and one could make a case for most of these runners. But we are going to go with a tried and true angle here, and that is to go with trainer Wesley Ward in juvenile races: he's got the outside horse in this one, 9-Miss Headley. She broke her maiden smartly at first asking at Churchill Downs in May, and gets the coveted outside post here. We think that adds up to a good stalking trip, and getting her picture taken in the winner's circle. We will bet her to win at 4-1.
Belmont Park Race 7
$30 W on 9-Ms Headley
The 8th on the card (6:46 p.m.) at Belmont is another stakes, the Grade 3 Intercontinental. It's a field on 10 older females going 7 furlongs on the dirt. Trainer Chad Brown has two in here, including the 7/2 morning-line second choice 5-Stella di Camelot. But we like the "other" Brown horse in this one, 4-Zonza. This 4-year-old disappointed in her first North American start Keeneland in April, but that was over yielding turf course that was probably softer than what she prefers. Today she'll get the firm footing she wants, and she figures to improve in her second start on this side of the pond. She's run well at this distance in Europe, and we think she's got a big shot at a big price. We will bet her to win at 8-1.
Belmont Park Race 8
$40 W on 4-Zonza
That's all for today. We'll be back tomorrow with some more excellent racing from Belmont Park. Until then, good luck at the windows.