Garrity's 11.7 Sunday Belmont Picks: Two stakes and an allowance plus a Breeders Cup recap
Judge Davis, winning for he first time at Belmont Park in September.NYRA

Garrity's 11.7 Sunday Belmont Picks: Two stakes and an allowance plus a Breeders Cup recap

The Zagora Stakes, race 4, is his first post at 1:18 pm EDT.

The two days of the Breeders Cup featured some exceptionally good horses, some terrific races with thrilling finishes, and overall went well, especially considering there were not any serious injuries involving the equine athletes. Horseplayers are a cranky lot, and it was actually nice to hear the carping after the races directed at that old railbird standby, the jockeys, rather than at a grisly breakdown. Only Friday’s juvenile turf, which featured a bizarre sequence of events that ended with the best horse, Modern Games, romping to an easy win, but only after getting scratched at the gate, put back in the race, and therefore running for purse money only, was the kind of fiasco that horse racing cannot eliminate. But even that, as much as it screwed the bettors -- and it screwed a lot of them, especially those who had Modern Games in multi-race wagers -- it was still not nearly as big a black eye on the sport as a catastrophic injury would have been. The safety and well-being of the horses has to be the sport’s first priority, and on that front, the 2021 Breeders Cup was a success.

The one thing from a handicapping standpoint that we will take away from the weekend is that the races, especially those on Saturday, were virtual primers on the importance of pace as a handicapping tool. In the Distaff, the pace was suicidally fast, which cooked not only the early leaders, but the horses just behind them, and the winner, the Japanese filly Marche Lorraine, came from far, far back to win at 49-1. The Classic was an illustration the other way, as in a race that on paper was filled with horses with early speed, Knicks Go got an uncontested early lead, and consequently dominated the race from start to finish. That either of these pace scenarios was hard to predict -- the way the Classic was run was particularly shocking, as the field was filled with horses with early speed, and none of them challenged Knicks Go up front was somewhere between inexplicable and exasperating -- is a reminder that Breeders Cup races are the most difficult races of the year to dope out, but they are also reminders that for those who manage to do it, the rewards are significant. We congratulate those who fared much better than we did.

Now for today. We have three plays, two of them stakes, from Belmont Park, where we expect fast dirt and firm turf. Let’s go.

Belmont Park, Race 4, 1:18 pm ET
$150,000 Zagora Stakes, 1 ½ miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up

Seven go in the Zagora. Eight of them have little early speed, which should leave the one who does, 3-Candy Flower, on an easy, uncontested lead, and we think she can stay in front all the way around the track. She was claimed for $40,000 out of her last race by trainer Mike Maker, who is hitting at a robust 40% clip with horses running back the first time after being claimed, and that, plus the fact that she has run well in the past at this 12-furlong distance, makes her the pick. Though other runners appear to have more ability, we think this race will be a reminder that the winner of any particular horse race can be not the best horse, but the one most favored by the way the race is run. We will bet Candy Flower to win at 12-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 4, $35 to win on 3-Candy Flower.

Belmont Park, Race 8, 3:14 pm ET

Allowance/Optional Claiming, 7 furlongs, Turf, 3 & Up

This second-level turf allowance drew a field of eleven. It’s a good betting race. We like 7-Guildsman, whose last two races were in stakes at shorter distances, and we think he will appreciate both the class relief and stretching out to 7 furlongs. Look for him to be mid-pack early, and rolling late; we will bet him to win at 9/2. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 7-Guildsman.

Belmont Park, Race 9, 3:43 pm ET

Grade 3 Nashua Stakes, 1 mile, Dirt, 2-Year-Olds

The Grade 3 Nashua drew a field of six. The early pace looks hot, as many of them are one-dimensional speedballs, and that has us liking 2-Judge Davis, who comes from the Shug McGaughey barn, and who broke his maiden in his last start with the kind of stalking trip that will serve him well here. We see him sitting behind the speed duel in front of him, and pouncing when the pacesetters begin to tire. We will bet Judge Davis to win at 3-1. The bet: Belmont Park, Race 9, $40 to win on 2-Judge Davis.

That’s all for today. Until next time, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.

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