Happy Independence Day, all. It's a holiday for celebrating country and family, and going to the track − or at least having a flutter off-track − is a most excellent way to celebrate both. There's good racing across the country, so we will salute the good old U.S. of A. by popping in at tracks across this great land. We are handicapping for fast dirt and firm turf everywhere. There's a lot to cover, so let's go . . .
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Belmont Park Race 8 (5:18 p.m. ET) − The $100,000 Manila Stakes
For three-year-olds going a mile on the turf. The headliner here is 7-Win Win Win, who was well beaten in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, and today makes his first career start on turf. We think this is a good race to bet because we do not like him. He's obviously a talented colt, but his name recognition will cause him to be overbet, and that will produce inflated prices on the other runners. It's almost a patriotic duty to bet against a grossly underlaid favorite.
We like 6-Fog of War here, and we like him very much. This Chad Brown trainee finished a disappointing third last out, as the even-money favorite in the Paradise Creek at Belmont Park in May. But that race was at 7 furlongs, probably not his best distance, and it was his first start of the year. We expect improvement here, actually big improvement. Chad Brown trains these turf runners to take it easy early and to finish strongly − it's a method he learned from his mentor, the all-time great Bobby Frankel − and because there's a good amount of early speed in this race, that suits the projected race shape here to a tee. Because of the presence of Win Win Win, we think this is one of the best betting opportunities of the month: Fog of War would be 8-5 in this race if Win Win Win were not present. With Win Win Win in, we may get his 9-2 morning line price. That's a big overlay, in our opinion, and it's time to remove the rubber band from the bankroll. We will bet Fog of War to win.
Belmont Park Race 8
$100 W on 6-Fog of War
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Gulfstream Park Race 10 (5:34 p.m.) – The $60,000 Richard Lee Stakes
A 1 1/2 mile turf affair for horses 3 and up. Nine are entered, and the one thing that jumps out of the past performances is that eight of the nine have no early speed. And the one who does has oodles of it. That's 6-War Giant, who could probably have a 20-length lead after a half mile if jockey Edgard Zayas wanted to be that far in front.
We normally dislike front-runners on the grass, because most turf races are won by the horse with the best late kick, not the horse with the most early speed. This looks like an exception to us. We see War Giant getting so easy, and so significant, an early lead, that the other runners just may not be able to catch him. And we're getting 8-1 odds. We will bet War Giant to win and to place − we'll bet him to place just in case he gets caught, but still manages to finish second.
Gulfstream Park Race 10
$20 W / P on 6-War Giant
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Monmouth Race 5 (3:03 p.m.) − The $75,000 Rumson Stakes
It's a five-furlong dash on the dirt for horses 3 and up. There's a short field of five here, but it's a good betting race anyway, as the three inside runners − 1-Share the Ride (3-1), 2-Ray'swarrior (9-5), and 3-Wonderful Light (5-2) appear very evenly matched. They have similar speed figures, but we like Ray'swarrior, as he has a significant edge in early speed over the other two. In a race this short, that is the deciding factor. We think Ray'swarrior gets the early lead and never looks back. The fact that he comes from the high-percentage Jason Servis barn helps too. We will bet him to win.
Monmouth Park Race 5
$35 W on 2-Ray'swarrior
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Los Alamitos Race 8 (7:28 p.m.)
We'll cap the day by going out West, where the Santa Anita meeting has finally ended, and they're running at Los Alamitos in Orange County. There's no stakes at Los Al today, but we found a race we like anyway, a classy 6-furlong dirt Maiden Special Weight for fillies and mares 3 and up. We're all in here on a first-time starter, 2-Shocking Fast. This Bob Baffert-trained a 3-year-old is very well bred − sired by Distorted Humor and out of a Tiznow mare − and she has been working regularly and fast in the morning. Baffert is hitting an an absolutely unbelievable 48% with first-time starters this year − 48% is not a misprint, he has 36 winners in 75 starts − and that's enough for us. We doubt that we'll get the 5-2 morning-line price on Shocking Fast, but we will bet her anyway, as we think she will live up to her name. We will bet her to win.
Los Alamitos Race 8
$40 W on 2-Shocking Fast
That's all for today. Enjoy the holiday, and, as always, good luck at the windows.
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