• Super Saturday

    POSTED Sep 28, 2013

    It’s “Super Saturday,” a day when numerous Breeders’ Cup (yes, it’s that time of year already) preps take place. Below is a look at some of the action from Belmont Park:

    5th Belmont Park
    $400,000 purse. 1-1/8 miles (dirt).

    Let me start by noting that the Beldame is an invitational race and, given the field, I have to assume that my invitation to run was lost in the mail. Outside of the two marquee names – Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar — the remaining contenders have a 14-for-75 record between them. Even worse, three of the four are exiting horrendous preps.

    Using my Key Race Ratings (the higher the number, the better), here are the last-race figures for each of the Beldame entrants:

    1-Roman Invader (0.9 in a restricted stakes)
    2-Princess of Sylmar (5.0 in the Grade I Alabama)
    3-And Why Not (2.0 in a restricted stakes)
    4-Royal Delta (2.5 in the Grade I Personal Ensign)
    5-Centring (2.5 in the Grade I Personal Ensign)
    6-Lady Cohiba (1.0 in an ungraded stakes race)

    Now, it’s tough enough to jump up in class and beat the likes of a Princess Sylmar or Royal Delta, but to do so after having faced the equine version of pro wrestling “jobbers” last time…

    To me, this race comes down to two things: 1) pace and 2) current form.

    On the pace front, I have a sneaking suspicion that Roman Invader might grab the early lead. She’s on the rail with a good “gate jockey” aboard — Junior Alvarado (21 percent win rate with “E/P” types according to Brisnet.com) — and her -6 last-race early speed ration (ESR) is on par with Royal Delta’s recent numbers. Lady Cohiba, the other early runner, is stuck outside and doesn’t always show speed.

    As a result, I think the pace will be honest at the very least.

    In terms of current form, I give Princess of Sylmar a slight edge. As I pointed out on my latest podcast, at this point in their respective careers, the 3.5-year-old daughter of Majestic Warrior actually has slightly more upside than the 5.6-year-old Royal Delta does, based on a study of age and performance conducted by college professor and horse owner Marshall Gramm. The fact that the youngster is getting three pounds from her elder rival is just icing on the cake.

    To me, betting the Beldame is all about price. Below are my fair odds and some brief — very brief — comments:

    1-Roman Invader (15-1): The only horse I give a shot to upset the favorites if she gets the early lead.
    2-Princess of Sylmar (9-5): She’s getting all the buzz, but might, indeed, be the value play.
    3-And Why Not (50-1): Because she’s not very good. Question answered.
    4-Royal Delta (1-1): Clearly the one to beat, but she’s not invulnerable.
    5-Centring (20-1): Can pick up the stragglers late.
    6-Lady Cohiba (15-1): Reasonably talented, but will need to work out a trip. Worth considering at a price.

    6th Belmont Park
    $400,000 purse. 1 mile (dirt).

    This race features the ridiculously-talented Graydar making his first start since annexing the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap on March 30. Below are my fair odds and thoughts:

    1-Easter Gift (3-1 entry): He faced next-to-nothing in the Alydar (1.0 KRR), although his speed and pace figures in that race were OK.
    2-Graydar (6-5): The one to beat, but last time he came off a layoff of this magnitude, he laid an egg.
    3-Praetereo (8-1): He’s improved since being acquired by Drawing Away Stables and looks like an overlay.
    1A-Jackson Bend (3-1 entry): This guy has banked over $1.7 million in his career, but his recent LSRs have been just so-so.
    4-Hym Book (8-1): He dons blinkers for the first time, which might help given the average ESR of -1 in the Kelso… but I doubt it.
    5-Souper Speedy (7-2): Looks like the probable pacesetter and he did earn a zero LSR in the Remsen as a juvenile… interesting.
    6-Brujo de Olleros (10-1): Faced much lesser last time, but won in convincing fashion, earning a late speed ration (LSR) of -4.

    7th Belmont Park
    $400,000 purse. 6 furlongs (dirt).

    1-Forty Tales (6-1): This guy suffers from two fatal flaws: 1) No early speed and 2) No late speed. Yet he’s 7-2 on the morning line. I’ll pass.
    2-Justin Phillip (5-1): He usually runs well, but he’s no win machine. Looks like an underlay to me.
    3-Bahamian Squall (8-1): Solid ESRs in Florida and finished second to Justin Phillip last time despite a troubled trip; could improve.
    4-Strapping Groom (5-1): It’s doubtful this guy will be able to get away with the soft fractions he recorded in the Forego (-3 ESR), but he’s not a need-the-lead type — he has ability.
    5-The Lumber Guy (7-2): Defending champ looks primed to defend his crown. Yeah, his last race stunk, but it was clearly a prep for today. Trainer Michael Hushion is great with horses making their second start off of a layoff and The Lumber Guy’s workouts have been sizzling.
    6-Palace (15-1): Beat my top contender last time and has to be considered, if only for a minor award.
    7-Candyman E (20-1): Ranks fourth in speed, fifth in ESRs and sixth in LSRs. Not impossible, but definitely a reach.
    8-Private Zone (4-1): There’s not a lot of early lick in this race and this dude is dead-game; big shot at what figures to be a fair price. (At press time, 16 of the 26 six-furlong races carded at Belmont Park during the current fall meet had been won in wire-to-wire fashion.)

    8th Belmont Park
    $600,000 purse. 1-1/4 miles (inner turf).

    1-Tannery (1/1 entry): Part of an entry with Laughing. This gal is the ying to the latter’s yang — a deep closer with good LSRs.
    2-Mystical Star (6-1): This girl has consistently outrun her breeding and could be tough given the right pace scenario.
    3-Somali Lemonade (8-1): Doesn’t win much — just 3-of-14 lifetime — but she’s usually in the hunt.
    4-Valiant Girl (15-1): Captured an ungraded stakes in mediocre time in her most recent outing; needs to show more.
    5-Kissable (12-1): Favored in the Waya* last time and had tons of trouble… the problem is her previous efforts don’t look good enough, even if one puts an “X” through that race.
    6-Qushchi (4-1): Looks to be improving. The only question is today’s distance, which — believe it or not — is shorter than any of Qushchi’s previous tries.
    1A-Laughing (1-1 entry): She’s the only Group I or Grade I winner in the field and she figures to be on the engine in soft fractions once again — should prove tough to overhaul.
    7-White Rose (20-1): This filly ranks second in overall LSRs and I think she has a reasonable upset chance despite the 20-1 fair odds I assigned her.

    * The Brisnet speed figure for the Waya appears to be an aberration. Handle with care.

    9th Belmont Park
    $600,000 purse. 1-1/2 miles (turf).

    3-Nutello (8-1): Bid and faded in his US debut, hinting at an improved performance today.
    1-Imagining (7-2 entry): Blinkers went on last time and they led to a stellar performance in the restricted Idle Rich Stakes.
    2-Big Blue Kitten (8-5 entry): Only out-of-the-money finish came at Ascot. Other than that, this five-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy has been a model of consistency. The one to beat.
    4-Slumber (10-1): Has started exactly two times since Nov. 27, 2011.
    2B-Real Solution (8-5): I’m still not sold on the Arlington Million champ, but he adds to the strength of the Ramsey entry.
    5-Twilight Eclipse (4-1): This guy has a bad habit of hanging in the stretch, but he’s unquestionably talented.
    1A-Boisterous (7-2 entry): He’s been favored in eight of his last 10 starts, including two (of three) Grade I events, which tells you all you need to know about how good this horse is.
    2X-Joes Blazing Aaron (8-5 entry): Son of Graeme Hall could be the key to the race. How can a horse that was just claimed be the key to a Grade I contest, you ask? Well, it’s because the Ken and Sarah Ramsey-owned gelding is likely in this race to do one thing — ensure a decent pace for his more esteemed entry mates. And his latest ESRs — a -7 in a 5 ½-furlong sprint (hey, there’s a good prep for today’s 12-furlong tilt) and a -8 in a 1 1/16-mile affair — lead me to believe Joes Blazing Aaron is up to the task.
    6-King Kressa (10-1): I would like this guy if it weren’t for the presence of the horse I just talked about, Joes Blazing Aaron. Simply put, King Kressa appears to be a need-the-lead type and he will surely face pace pressure today.
    7-Little Mike (12-1): He’s another frontrunner, but one that I think has seen his better days. Needs to be respected based on his past class, but I’d insist on a price if you’re betting on last year’s BC Turf champ to hit the board for the first time in 2013.

    10th Belmont Park
    $600,000 purse. 1-1/4 miles (dirt).

    1-Ron the Greek (15-1): Appears to have lost a step, as both his speed figures and LSRs have been mediocre (at best) of late.
    2-Orb (3-1): It’s time for the Kentucky Derby champ to put up or tell his supporters to shut up… and I think he might just do the former. If one takes the (reasonable) view that the son of Malibu Moon was short in the Travers, one is left with an inescapable conclusion: that was a heck of an effort. Not only did Orb earn a 108 Brisnet speed rating in that Grade I affair — the best last-race number in the field — but his -3 LSR is also tops. A potentially slow pace is the only drawback.
    3-Last Gunfighter (8-1): His effort in the Pimlico Special could win this… but his last two tries temper my enthusiasm.
    4-Vitoria Olimpica (20-1): The field he beat in the ungraded Alydar was only slightly stronger than the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense… or offense… or special teams… you get the picture. That said, his speed and pace digits from that race were pretty good — and he’s got the right running style.
    5-Alpha (10-1): After more bad runs than a pair of panty hose in a rose garden (hey, it’s late and I’m scrambling to get this column finished), Alpha annexed the Grade I Woodward in gutty fashion. On the down side, the son of Bernardini was able to draw clear early lead while recording a -1 ESR that day — don’t think he’ll have that luxury today.
    6-Flat Out (6-1): Seven-year-old is ultra-consistent, but he has the look of a major underlay today.
    7-Palace Malice (7-2): His versatility leads me to believe he is among the best three-year-olds in training — if not the best. However, I wonder how much his outstanding effort in the Travers — he stumbled at the start, raced wide and came charging late — took out of him.
    8-Cross Traffic (3-1): Once again, the fact that Todd Pletcher trains the speediest frontrunners in the race (à la the Travers) creates headaches for handicappers. My suspicion is this guy will be sent and Palace Malice will stalk, but who knows? If Cross Traffic does set the pace, how fast he goes early will likely determine the outcome of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Personally, I’m a bit dubious of Cross Traffic’s ability to handle 10 furlongs and would not bet him at odds of less than 7-2.

    FREE Brisnet Past Performances

    In honor of "Super Saturday," I'm teaming with TwinSpires and Brisnet to offer free past performances, featuring my pace figures, for some of the bigger races at Belmont Park and Santa Anita on Sept. 28, 2013. Enjoy!

    Belmont Park (races 5-10)
    Santa Anita Park (races 7-10)


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