By Brian Monzo
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Before we preview the entire Belmont Stakes in-depth, I figured we could take a look at three different tracks on Friday’s and Saturday’s card.
What do we know? We know that the local weather on Friday may be a little wet, so for Belmont and Monmouth, we will take that into account.
The meets have all been good. The undercard at Belmont on Stakes day is outstanding, and Friday offers some great racing.
The beauty of such great races is that it didn’t take me long to figure out which races to use in the column this week. The hard part was making my picks.
Race 9: The Grade 3 Jaipur $150K, seven Furlongs on the turf
Night Officer is firing well right now and gets Joel Rosario on his mount. He hasn’t won as much as some of the others in this, but with his closing kick, and adding some distance to his normal routine, he could be flying late. There is plenty of pace up front to allow a closer to win this. He should be close to an 8-1 and is my top choice. Mr. Commons ships from California, where he has been very successful. He has five wins in 19 races and has hit the board 13 times in his career. He gets the rail, but I think he will sit right behind the leaders. And if he runs like he can, he will definitely be there when the race is over. He is a huge shot here and I will leave him on every exotic ticket. Summer Breezing should be on, or close to, the lead with Jose Lezcano on the mount. Trained by Christopher Clement, this horse seems perfect for this race. He is perfect at this distance and has two turf wins. I think the distance suits him just fine with his speed, and I would not be shocked if he wires to the field.
Race 10: The Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap $200k, 1 1/2 Miles on the dirt
Fast Falcon has only one win out of his 13 races in his career, but I think Nick Zito is placing this horse in a perfect spot in the long race. His run in the Travers last year almost put him at the top spot and his last at Belmont was good enough to win. He looks to be in good form and I think if he stays close to the pack, he should have enough to get by late. Top pick Keep Me Informed looks to be the kind of horse that can run forever. He should stay four to five lengths off of the leader and should be firing well down the stretch. He has hit the board six times in seven tries at Belmont and has won three times in the slop. He should have some great value. Flashy Sunrise has rarely run a bad race. It took him a while to win, but he won three of his last four and will go from the start. This is a huge step up in class, but he will be going hard for the entire 1 1/2 miles. I wouldn’t be shocked to grab a share.
We head down south to Monmouth Park:
Friday – Race 4: 25K Claiming Race, 6 Furlongs on the dirt
Afleet Memories is coming off her first score in her eighth try. Her pedigree is solid (sired by Afleet Alex) and with Paco Lopez on the mount, I don’t think she will shock anyone if she closes in late for the win. This horse is very appealing. Mo Work for Tim didn’t run well on the turf and goes back to the dirt where she hit the board three straight times, including two wins. She should be close to the lead and could wire the group. Lost Yer Number is coming off a win in the slop along the rail, and with the nine post, she could come from the back against the rail once more. All three of her wins comes at this distance.
We get on the train and head west to Hollywood Park:
Friday – Race 5: 54K Allowance, 1 Mile on the turf:
Warren’s Flasher gets the masterful Rafael Bejarano on the mount. He has run well in four of five tries and has hit the board in every start. She takes well to the turf and should be sitting just off the pace and going later. She should be in the 7/2 range and is the smart play. Market Quote will be the chalk and will be closing late. Joe Talamo is a stud out in California, and if anyone is going to hold her off, they must have something in the tank late or she will blow right by them. Tribal Chatter adds some distance, but should have no trouble with one mile. It could be close to the lead, or it could be four to five lengths off. Either way, she will be a factor.
As we wait for the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, we look at a great stakes race before at Belmont:
Saturday – Race 8: The Grade 1 Just a Game Stakes $500K, 1 Mile on the turf
Centre Court is currently one of my favorite horses running. She should be sitting right off the speed and will get going down the stretch. She is coming off of three straight wins and, in her 11 tries, has never run bad. She gets top turf jockey Julien Leparoux, and I expect a big-time performance against some great turf horses. Mizdirection comes back east to try the turf at Belmont and gets Mike Smith on the mount. He should be sitting close to the lead and will be going the entire race. This is one of the best horses around, winning 10 of 15 and nine of 12 on the turf. I’d like to ignore the chalk, but it’s not a smart thing to do here. Dayatthespa gets top connections with Chad Brown and Javier Castellano. This horse is seven for 10, including four wins at this distance and a win at Belmont. She is a G1 winner, and despite having Stephanie’s Kitten and Hungry Island in the mix here, I think this will be a breakout race for Spa. This horse is too good right now to ignore.
I hope we hit some winners. These are some great races, and we haven’t even discussed the best race of the weekend.
But eventually we will…
Follow me on Twitter @BMonzoWFAN.
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