We like the card at Belmont Park today, and we will play a few races there. We will also play one race from Thistledown in Ohio, because there's an angle in that race we like. We have handicapped all races for fast dirt and firm turf; let's go.
Belmont Park, Race 4, 2:57 PM ET
$25,000 Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, turf, New York-breds 3 & up
A field of ten drew into this state-bred turf claimer. It's a good race to handicap, as the top contenders appear evenly matched. We like a horse on the outside, 9-Mobridge. He was claimed two back by trainer Mertkan Kantarmaci, a race he won, and then was bumped up to the $40k claiming, where he ran a creditable third. Now he drops back to the level at which he was claimed, a level at which we think he fits. He has a good closing kick, which will be a key asset in a race that looks to be won by the horse who can finish most strongly. We will bet him to win at 9/2. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 4, $20 to win on 9-Mobridge.
Belmont Park, Race 6, 4:05 PM ET
$32,000 Claiming, 7 furlongs, turf, 3 & up
Seven drew into this one. We like 6-Life in Shambles, who's trained by Jason Servis. He drops from two allowance/optional claiming races, one at Saratoga and one at Belmont, and he should thrive at this lower level. This 8-year-old gelding was a graded stakes winner last fall, and though it appears that age has caught up in recent races, and he's not the same horse he was last year, we think he should have the ability to handle this group. And he has the tactical advantage of an outside post position, which will suit his stalking style. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 6, $35 to win on 6-Life in Shambles.
Belmont Park, Race 7, 4:40 PM ET
Starter Allowance, 1 1/16 miles, turf, 3 & up
Only seven horses will go to the post in this turf affair, but it's an interesting race to handicap in spite of the relatively short field. There's some speed in here, and while we expect the pace to hinder the chances of the front-runners and pace-pressers, we do not expect the pace to be so fast that the winner will come from way back. So we're looking for a stalker, a horse who can sit mid-pack, pass the tiring front-runners at the top of the stretch, and be able to finish strongly enough to hold off the deep closers.
That runner is 7-Scholar Athlete. He's been running, and running well, against much tougher company, with his last a 4th-place finish in a handicap race at Colonial Downs. In that one, he took the lead at the top of the stretch and got caught late; today, we expect him to take the lead at the top of the stretch and hold on. We will bet him to win at 5-1, and we will also key him on top in the trifecta, with 8/5 favorite 5-Lemonist, who almost always hits the board but rarely wins, and 2-Sentry, a deep closer who should get a piece, but does not to us appear to be a threat to win. The bets: Belmont Park, Race 4, $25 to win on 7-Scholar Athlete; $5 trifecta, 7 (Scholar Athlete) keyed on top, with 2 (Sentry) and 5 (Lemonist) in second and third. That trifecta ticket, if you're calling it a a betting window, is 7 with 2,5 with 2,5; the bet will cost you $10.
Thistledown, Race 7, 4:40 PM ET
Allowance, 6 furlongs, dirt, 3-year-olds
The favorite in this first-level allowance is 3-Macca Tree, and at first glance, his record would suggest an empty-your-pockets win play: he ran a 72 Beyer Speed Figure in his last, and that is head and shoulders better than what any other horse in the race has run.
But we think he's a play-against, especially at a short price, because he is a speed horse, and he earned that figure on a track that was heavily biased in favor of speed. With what we are assuming will be a fairer racing surface today, he is likely to regress. Even worse: he didn't win his last, which was under the same conditions as today's race. If he couldn't win with a track bias pushing him along, what are the chances he wins on a normal track? Not good, we say.
We like 7-Sharks Cove. He broke his maiden last out, coming from just off the pace, and we think he can get a similar kind of trip today, especially breaking from the outside post position. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Thistledown, Race 7, $40 to win on 7-Sharks Cove.
That's all for today. Good luck at the windows.