The seasons are changing, and so is the racing calendar. The summer meetings are over, and have begun to give way to fall racing. This is something to celebrate, because horse racing in the fall is probably the sport at its absolute best. We will embrace the yellowing leaves by playing some stakes races at Belmont Park, Kentucky Downs, Louisiana Downs, and Los Alamitos. We expect fine weather, and fast dirt and firm turf, everywhere. Let's go.
● ● ●
Belmont Park, Race 8, 4:43 pm ET
$300,000 Jockey Club Invitational Stakes, 1 1/2 miles, dirt, 4 & up
Eight older horses drew into this one, a rare 12-furlong dirt stakes. The pace figures to be slow, partly because of the distance, but mostly because the field lacks a true front-runner. We are going to look for a horse who will be near the front during the race's early stages, as the dawdling early pace will make it difficult for the closers to catch up. 4-Realm is the pick. This 6-year-old gelded Barclay Tagg trainee has an edge in the speed figures, has enough tactical speed to be close early, and will relish the distance. He's a grinder, so don't expect a dazzling turn of foot, but his kind of even-paced running style fits a mile and a half on the dirt the way a glove fits a hand. We don't think we'll get his 6-1 morning line odds -- we think he'll be lower -- but we will bet him anyway.
Belmont Park, Race 8
$30 to Win on 4-Realm.
● ● ●
Belmont Park, Race 9, 5:15 pm ET
$750,000 Jockey Oaks Invitational, 1 3/8 miles, turf, 3-year-old fillies
Eight sophomore fillies go in this one, and it's a very interesting field: there are five U.S.-based horses running, and three European imports. The American brigade looks weak to us, so we will look to the Euros, and we will look to the filly who looks to like the firm going, which they will get at Belmont today but which they very rarely get in Europe. That runner is 5-Love So Deep. This Japanese-bred filly has been running in England and France, and her last two were very good, a win in a minor stakes at Newmarket in July and a fine runner-up second in the Grade 2 Prix de Pomone at Deauville in France on August 18. We think a repeat of her last might be good enough to win this race, but we actually think she will be better on firm turf. She gets the services of top European jockey Jamie Spencer, who crosses the pond to ride. We will bet her to win at 9/2. and we will also bet her with 9-Spanish Mission (see below) in the double.
Belmont Park, Race 9
$40 to Win on 5-Love So Deep
$25 Double, 5 (Love So Deep) with 9-Spanish Mission.
● ● ●
Belmont Park, Race 10, 5:47 pm ET
$1,000,000 Jockey Derby Invitational, 1 1/2 miles, turf, 3-year-olds
This 12-furlong turf stakes, like its filly counterpart the race before, has three European imports running against a larger group of North American-based horses. And unlike the Oaks, the Americans have a representative who can hold up to the Euros: it's 8-Digital Age, who's trained by Chad Brown. He has three wins in five career starts, and has yet to run a bad race. His main competition lines up just to his outside, 9-Spanish Mission, who earned some big figs in his last two stakes, at Goodwood and Newmarket in England. We love Spanish Mission in this spot. European turf horses are, as a rule, better than their American counterparts, and this one looks to us like another horse who will thrive on firm turf. We expect a thrilling stretch duel between the two, but we think Spanish Mission will outkick Digital Age to take the prize, and we think that 1-A Thread of Blue, who should set the pace from the rail, will hang on for third place. We will bet Spanish Mission to win at 3-1, and we will also bet these horses, in this order, in the exacta and trifecta.
Belmont Park, Race 10
$40 to Win on 9-Spanish Blue
$10 Exacta, 9 with 8
$5 Trifecta, 9 with 8 with 1.
● ● ●
Kentucky Downs, Race 10, 6:35 pm ET
Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup, 1 1/2 miles, turf, 3-year-olds
Grass races at a mile and a half are frequently run with slow early fractions, but even in that context, we can't remember seeing a field with this little early speed. A walking pace is a distinct possibility here, and because of this, we are going with a price, and a horse we think might be able to steal it on the front end: it's 6-Factor This. This Brad Cox-trained 4-year-old son of The Factor has won three in a row, including a stakes last out at Kentucky Downs, which is key, as it's an idiosyncratic, undulating, European-style turf course, and some horses do not thrive on it. Factor This is in good form, will be in front at the top of the stretch, and we think he will get there expending so little energy that we think he can finish strongly on the front end and hold off the closers. And even better, he's 12-1 on the morning line. We will bet him to win and to place.
Kentucky Downs, Race 10
$25 to Win/Place on 6-Factor This.
● ● ●
Louisiana Downs, Race 11, 6:07 pm ET
Grade 3 Super Derby, 1 1/16 miles, dirt, 3-year-olds
Ten colts drew into the Super Derby. 8-Knicks Go was a horse we did not like during the Kentucky Derby prep season in the spring, but we like him very much in this spot. He's got an edge on both speed and pace figures; we think he wires the field. We will bet him to win at 9/5.
Louisiana Downs, Race 11
$30 to Win on 8-Knicks Go.
● ● ●
Los Alamitos, Race 5, 5:58 pm ET
$75,000 Beverly J. Lewis Stakes, 6 furlongs, dirt, 3-year-old fillies
We like 2-Flor de La Mar here. This Bob Baffert trainee is coming off a layoff, and she faltered at longer distances, including a 12-place finish in this year's Kentucky Oaks, but she has won at this distance before, and her recent morning workout pattern is nothing short of sensational. Baffert also enters the filly to her inside, 1-Message, but the fact that Baffert's his go-to top jockey, Mike Smith, chose the mount on Flor de La Mar is an indication of the filly they think is better. We'll take 9/5 on the chalk, and bet Flor de La Mar to win.
Los Alamitos, Race 5
$40 to Win on 2-Flor de La Mar.
● ● ●
That's all for today. Enjoy the racing, and, as always, good luck at the windows.