10/24/2012 2:49PM

Belmont: Arsenal dangerous if you're willing to toss her last race


ELMONT, N.Y. – Given how well she performed at double-digit odds in Saratoga, Arsenal appeared a viable longshot when she ran in an optional claiming race at Belmont on Sept. 23.

Then the starting gates opened. Horses on either side of Arsenal banged into her, leaving the 5-year-old mare much farther back than she prefers to run. She finished eighth, beaten 16 3/4 lengths.

Handicappers who draw a line through that last race could again find Arsenal a value play when she runs in the $75,000 co-feature scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on Friday’s 10-race card at Belmont Park.

Though a three-time winner – twice in lower-level claiming heats at Tampa – Arsenal is running under the first-level allowance condition in this spot. Seven of the 12 horses entered for the turf are in for the optional $35,000 claiming tag. The race is restricted to 10 runners.

As the chart footnote of her last race correctly notes, Arsenal was “ping-ponged” at the break and was 21 lengths back after the first call. She got within 6 1/2 lengths in midstretch, but faded in the final furlong.

“She’s usually a good gate horse. She normally breaks pretty close to the lead,” said Roy Lerman, who owns and trains Arsenal. “She was smashed from the inside and the outside and he had to take a hold of her.”

“He” is jockey Cornelio Velasquez, who will ride the mare back on Friday.

Lerman said that Arsenal came out of that race well physically and mentally and he likes the way she has been training at Saratoga this fall.

“She just seems very, very forward in the last couple of weeks here at Saratoga,” Lerman said. “Hopefully, it’ll carry over. If she shows up, she’s going to be right there.”

Arsenal will be trying 1 1/8 miles for the first time and Lerman is hopeful she can go that far.

“The family on the bottom side says yes, the top side says no,” he said. “Right after her second start in Saratoga, I’d have said the extra distance would help her.”

In that race, going 1 1/16 miles, Arsenal made a late run to be finish second by a neck to Cosmic Energy in an optional claimer at Saratoga. That was the second of three straight wins for Cosmic Energy.

Ultimate Class is in for the $35,000 after winning for $20,000 at Saratoga on Aug. 3 and then for $30,000 on Sept 14 at Belmont. The last race was for trainer Steve Asmussen, who claimed her out of the $20,000 claimer. Ultimate Class finished last in her lone start 1 1/8 miles, but that came in the Grade 2 Sands Point in 2010.

Here’s d’Bride, Dance With Gio, Donttangowithmango, and Town Flirt are others who look to have a chance in this spot.