06/12/2015 10:32AM

Fornatale: Play-by-play from the NHC Tour leader


As a new feature on the DRF Tournaments blog, we're going to feature a detailed look at how contest players prepare by choosing one each week and having him or her walk us through some thoughts on how to handicap a given contest sequence or race. For our first installment, I reached out to current NHC Tour leader Ryan Flanders. Flanders, who spends in excess of an hour on each race he handicaps, offers a detailed look at Belmont's 10th race on Saturday, June 13. It's an important race in the BCQualify.com and DRFQualify.com contests. It goes as the ninth race in the 12-race sequence. It's a full field of New York-bred maiden special weights going a mile on the grass. If you want to follow along, free PDF PPs are available here:  http://www.bcqualify.com/BCQPPS.PDF

Take it away, Ryan.

#1 Jax Heritage (4-1):  In Jax’s debut, he ran a very solid race, so much so that his connections kept on with him, opting to try him on dirt rather than “wait out” the grass offseason in New York. He whiffed, but his freshening and return to turf resulted in a very solid effort. All of the top five finishers in that race, with the exception of Jax, came from well off the pace. Hennig takes blinkers off and Maragh sticks, and I like it when jockeys stay for equipment changes – Maragh very well could have communicated that this horse needs blinks off. He is well drawn and there is a lot to like in my opinion, but the problem is his price. If Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher take a ton of money, it’s possible we might get a big enough price to take him, but we’ll have to wait and see.  He looks solid to me.

#2 Talladega (10-1): This horse interests me. He is a 4-year old whose freshness cost him last time. The horse is a clear closer and has run several respectable races, but I think he was pushed early last time when he clearly runs better with a target. He gets a positive rider switch, is well drawn, and could set fire to the tote if he scores.

#3 Longisland Express (30-1): Not for me. Last time two things happened: 1) The horse probably bounced. 2) He was drawn in the 11-hole in a field of 11, so it’s likely the rider just gathered him up and looked to pass – and the strategy didn’t work. Today he’ll likely “go” and Cancel up hints at that strategy, especially considering he’s drawn inside. The only problem is that there is some other speed lined up and I like some of the others that will be big prices more than this one.

#4 Space Oddity (6-1): A lot to like here. First time out this horse sprinted and was dismissed at 35-1. And he laid an egg. But next time out he went less than 7-2! His connections were extremely confident he’d take to the long grass game in his second career start, a race that featured a full field of 12, and he almost came through, polishing off 11 of his rivals. And he was about 500 yards in front of the third place finisher – who came back to beat straight maidens going wire to wire in the slop and jogging by four lengths. He should have matured from his short 2-year-old campaign, has a nice work pattern in his last two works, gets some speed to run at, and would not surprise at all.

#5 Ant and Bee (20-1): Not for me. Although he did run like a router in his last, he seems a quicker sort that should be a pace casualty.

#6 Sebonack (6-1): Not for me. Burned tons of cash in his first two outs and to me it looks like they’re just guessing with him, as shown by his being fit with blinkers last time out and the move to grass this time.

#7 Heavenly Sun (30-1): Not for anyone. I hope everyone in my tournaments picks him hoping to catch a 70-1 shot.

#8 Old Friend (10-1): Not for me. Although he likely needed the last and Weaver is pretty solid on his second race back, he seemed to have the pace set up last time and didn’t capitalize. He’s not without a shot, but there are others in here that I’d rather take at bigger numbers.

#9 Woodford Pine (6-1): He looks identical to Sebonack to me. He’s run okay and you can never discount Chad Brown, but it looks like they’re guessing with him – blinkers in last and this time the move to the turf. Also, his third last time was in a four-horse field. I’ll play against.

#10 Memories of Peter (8-1): Absolutely has a chance – and a big one. His last race was an absolute merry-go-round with very little passing. He ran great to be fourth, and Ryerson teams with his money guy of late. I love him shortening up as the one-mile turf races seem to always have a lot more speed signed on the ones that are only a sixteenth of a mile longer. His only two turf routes are solid – no knocking him.

#11 Hirschbein (12-1): The pick. This one reeks of a “put over.” Bred well enough to handle the grass, has a turf work at Payson to possibly confirm if he’ll handle the going, and his trainer is far more than capable of winning at a distance first time out. The only possible knock that I see is the post, but I’m betting this one will have the speed to stalk and pounce.

#12 Overawe (5-1): Too quick for me. Don’t like the post and will have to be special to show his kind of speed and keep going. When was the last time you saw Chad Brown run two horses in a four-horse field – and run 2nd and 3rd, only beating a horse that eased? Will be a price that I don’t like and I have no issue with avoiding this one.

Summary: The only horses that I’ll consider in this race are Jax Heritage, Talladega, Space Oddity, Memories of Peter, and Hirschbein – and which one I play will all come down to my position in the tournament and the tote. Good luck to all!