First post time is 3:27 pm EDT
Belmont begins a terrific stretch of racing this afternoon. There are stakes races every day through Sunday, but the big day is Saturday, which features one of the best cards of the year, in New York or anywhere else. The headliner is the Belmont Stakes, of course, which is the first, rather than third, leg of the Triple Crown, but there are five graded stakes on the undercard — it’s a sensational lineup, and though Big Sandy is closed to spectators, we expect, in this sports-starved country, that the television broadcast on Saturday will get enormous ratings. We will certainly be watching.
There is racing elsewhere in the country, but we are going to focus solely on Belmont through the weekend, partly to get a feel for how the dirt and turf courses are playing, but mostly because the racing is so good. We’ve slogged our way through a lot of cheap races since the beginning of the year, $2,500 claimers from obscure tracks in the middle of nowhere, and this is our reward. We plan on enjoying it — and betting on it.
Today will be a mostly cloudy day on Long Island, but it’s less than even money that any rain falls, and even if it does sprinkle, it will be too light to affect the going. The dirt will be fast, and the turf should be firm. The conditions will be ideal today and should remain that way through the weekend. We have plays in three races at Belmont today, so let’s go.
$35,000 Claiming, 7 furlongs, Turf, 3 & Up
Ten go in this claiming turf sprint. We like 10-Valiant Perception. He’s a 5-year-old Michelle Nevin trainee, and a stretch-runner, which should suit him well here, as there’s a decent amount of speed in the race. Look for him to sit toward the rear early, and to be moving late. We will bet him to win at 9/2. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 5, $30 to win on 10-Valiant Perception.
Allowance, 1 mile, Turf, New York-bred Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
This first-level allowance for state-bred female turf runners drew a full field of twelve. We like a filly at a price, 5-Marquet Legacy, a 4-year-old Mark Hennig trainee who makes her 2020 debut in this spot. She broke her maiden in her last, closing into a slow pace at Belmont Park in October, and while she will have to improve off that effort to take this, we think she will improve, primarily because the shape of the race should favor her: there appears to be enough early speed to set up her late run. Look for her to be mid-pack early, to start moving around the far turn, and to get to the front in deep stretch. We will bet her to win at 10-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 8, $35 to win on 5-Marquet Legacy.
$125,000 Critical Eye Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, New York-bred Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
The Critical Eye drew a field of six, and the headliner is 2-Ratajkowski, who’s favored off a very impressive 2019 campaign, when she won four of seven starts. At even money, however, we think she is a massive underlay, as she’s coming off a long layoff, having last raced in November, and the speed figures she earned last year do not give her much of an edge over the rest of the field.
We like 9/5 second choice 5-More Mischief. The Chad Brown-trained 4-year-old filly has won her last two races, both at this mile distance, and her last was particularly impressive, as she ran down a horse who was loose on an easy lead. This is not easy to do, and it suggest that she is actually better than her figures suggest. We think she wins impressively today, and will do so by stalking the pace, and putting away the field late. We will bet her to win. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 9, $50 to win on 5-More Mischief.
That’s all for today. Until the next time, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.