First post is 2:55 pm EDT
We're going to stick to playing Belmont Park today, as the card is terrific, especially for a Thursday. Like yesterday, the forecast at Big Sandy is iffy; but like yesterday, we’re going to hope that they can avoid showers and thunderstorms, and race over fast dirt and firm turf. And also, like yesterday, we have plays in three races. Let’s go.
Maiden Special Weight, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, New York-breds 3 & Up
This state-bred maiden turf race drew a full field of ten. We’re all in on the favorite, 4-Portfolio Hedge, a 3-year-old who’s making the third start of his career, but the first since November. He finished second in his two races last year, but we think his string of runner-up finishes ends today. He runs for Chad Brown, whose barn is absolutely loaded, as evidenced by the fact that he won two races on opening day at Belmont yesterday. We think Portfolio Hedge continues the trend; we will bet him to win at 8/5, and will also bet him in the Double (see below) comprising Races 4 and 5. The bets: Belmont Park, Race 4, $40 to win on 4-Portfolio Hedge; $25 double, 4 (Portfolio Hedge) with 11 (Madeleine Must).
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 7 furlongs, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
Eleven females line up for this one, a cracking good non-winners-of-two allowance at 7 furlongs on the Widener turf course at Belmont. There are a couple of European imports making their North American debut, and we like one of them, 11-Madeleine Must, a 4-year-old filly who starts for Christope Clement and will be ridden by Junior Alvarado. We give her the edge for two reasons: one is that she was racing in the European big leagues, at Newmarket, Longchamp, and Deauville, whereas the other Euros were racing mostly at lesser tracks; the other is that she should thrive at this 7 furlong distance, which is very common in Europe, but relatively rare in U.S. turf racing. It’s farther than most sprinters want to go, and shorter than most routers want to go, and we think that Madeleine Must is going to like it, as she broke her maiden at the distance in France. We will bet her to win at 6-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 5, $40 to win on 11-Madeleine Must.
$80,000 Tiller Stakes, 1 ⅜ miles, Turf, 4 & Up
The Tiller is another terrific race, from both a sporting and wagering perspective. Thirteen older horses line up to go 11 furlongs on the sod. We like another first-time Euro here, 3-Corelli, a 5-year-old gelding who starts for trainer Jonathan Thomas. His running lines in Europe, at tracks like York, Newmarket, and Ascot, show something that is a pet angle of ours: he has generally run better the firmer the going. These horses can win on this side of the pond, sometimes at big prices, because they improve dramatically when they get genuinely the firm footing that they very, very rarely get in Europe. It’s like a serve-and-volley tennis player who has been toiling on red clay, who enters a tournament on grass, and wins, finding that the different surface is much more conducive to her game. The difference between soft and firm turf is smaller than the difference between the French Open and Wimbledon, but it can produce vastly different results, as we think it will with Corelli this afternoon. At 10-1, we will bet on it. We will play him to win. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 9, $35 to win on 3-Corelli.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.