09/13/2013 12:02PM

Belmont: DRF Plus handicapping report for September 14, 2013

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Race 1

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Race 2

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Race 3

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Race 4

Spot Play

FORCE MULTIPLIER (#4, 7-2) looks like a timely claim by Jacobson, who of course is strong off the claim (27%). This 3yo was freshened a couple months, came back for $25K in a grass sprint at SAR Aug. 2 only to get knocked around at the start to get away poorly. But that didn’t faze him as he kept to his task and on smartly for 2nd only to get impeded late, earning the win via a DQ. It’s first time vs. winners, yes, but this guy has always hinted at ability and may be putting it all together (only if stays on turf). -Michael Hammersly

 

Race 5

Spot Play

No idea if WHO’S Z DADDY (#4,15-1) can run, & in the end he might not turn out as good as some here, but lack of fast drills not negative from this reliable debut barn, & he’s going to be very much overlooked in this deep race. -Marcus Hersh

 

Race 6

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Race 7

 

 

Spot Play

MEDEA (#7, 4-1) been laid off since stateside debut where she took a ton of early money before running second to subsequent Mott repeater. Low profile barn does solid turf work.- Chuck Kuehhas

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Race 8

Analysis

Race 8 is the Grade 3 Noble Damsel and is an interesting race to handicap due to some questions surrounding the two ML favorites BETTER LUCKY (#3, 9-5) and HUNGRY ISLAND (#6, 2-1). Better Lucky became a Grade 1 & 2 winner once to switched over to turf last year, and enters here with the best last race showing, a 101 Beyer performance in the Grade 1 Just A Game which was run the Belmont Stakes undercard. In reviewing that race, I think it’s pretty easy to make the case that if you reverse the trips that both she and the winner Stephanie’s Kitten got in there, Better Lucky would now be a dual Grade 1 winner. To me she’s way the horse to beat in the Noble Damsel, but that’s not to say there are no questions surrounding her current status.

If you’re thinking about taking a short price on Better Lucky, you better stop and ask yourself where she has been since June 8th. According to her connections, there was nothing amiss after the Just A Game; they just didn’t think there was a suitable race for her at Saratoga, so they pointed to this race, and will use it as a stepping stone to the Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland next month. Okay, I guess. I’m still not thrilled with the three month layoff right after a high-level performance in a Grade 1 race, but do recognize that if Better Lucky runs as well Saturday as she did when we last saw her, she will be near unbeatable here. To me, assuming all is well, she is supposed to beat the Assateague’s and Naples Bay’s of the world, so I’m taking her on top and leaning on her in what looks like a very tough late Pick 4 sequence, but I’m treading lightly and will take backups.

I’ve had plenty of money riding on Hungry Island in the past, and she has been good to me, but I’ll admit that at this stage of the game I wonder whether or not she’s lost a step. Obviously her best race makes her a handful in here, and if you go back three races in her pp’s, she shows a race that suggests she is still every bit as good as she ever was. But I have a different take on not only that race, but all four of her 2013 starts and to me Hungry Island’s pp’s this year make it appear that she has been running better than she actually has. One way to look at her is that she was compromised by a speed-favoring turf course at Saratoga, and she was only a neck behind Stephanie’s Kitten in the Distaff Turf Mile; prior to that she won an allowance race, as she should have. The counter argument is: against the track or not in the Ballston Spa, she just didn’t do that much running, and for a horse who has always liked some “cut” in the ground, it’s difficult to excuse her efforts two-and-three back, especially the Distaff Turf Mile, where she was in receipt of a good trip and had the jump on the winner, who was returning from a layoff in there. As for the others, NAPLES BAY (#1, 6/1) is probably a cut below some of these, but may be catching the two favorites at the right time, and repeats the same pattern which led to a win in this race last year: A race at Belmont off the layoff, followed by the Penny Memorial at Parx, then a race at Monmouth. I thought she ran well last time without a very good trip, but it does feel like she’ll need a couple of horses not to show up.

ASSATEAGUE (#2, 6-1) is maybe the most dangerous horse for Better Lucky to have to face. Even knowing the result of the De La Rose last time I still don’t like her in that race, but she managed to pull off the upset, and do so by showing a new dimension and tracking off the pace. She got a perfect trip in there in a race that was fast early & slow late, but she got it done, and she projects as the main speed in this race. Assateague has proven in the past that she can get brave on an uncontested lead, so it’s up to the other riders in the Noble Damsel to keep her in their sights up the backstretch. PEACE PRESERVER (#5, 10-1) goes for Pletcher, and almost pulled off the upset in the Grade 3 Beaugay back on Derby day, and has run a couple of races that would make her competitive in here, though she does appear to be a horse who likes a bit of give in the ground (note that the turf is labeled “Good” at Belmont Park on Friday after some rain).

Finally, it’s possible that LAUGH OUT LOUD (#4, 5-1) will wake up in her third start for Chad Brown, but she hasn’t had much to offer over here so far, and is running out of time to start showing her solid European form.

 

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Race 9

Analysis

Race 9 This year’s running of the Grade 1 Garden City for 3yo turf fillies could hardly have come up a better race, even as it is led by a pair of recent Grade 1 winners for two of the top trainers in the game. The first thing to keep in mind when it comes to these 9-furlong races on the inner turf at Belmont is that early position heading into and through that first turn is at a premium. Considering that the two ML favorites EMOLLIENT (#1, 3-1) and DISCREET MARQ (#2, 7-2) have drawn perfectly on the inside and both have positional speed, I would say they may have something of an advantage in that they may be controlling the way the race will be run in the early stages. I have no knocks on either of them, and while I do prefer Emollient in this spot, I do not dismiss Discreet Marq’s chances at all, especially since she displayed a new-found rating ability last time at Del Mar. Emollient is clearly a horse who does not care for dirt – at least fast dirt – at this stage of the game, and the way she has started to deliver on her early promise on both turf and synthetic recently makes me think she is the horse to beat. Taking in her Grade 1 win in California last out (I do doubt that she was facing a true Grade 1 caliber field that day, by the way), to me she ran a very good race, and likely better than it even looks on paper; here’s how I saw it, via the Notes feature in Formulator:

in good tracking spot early but taken 3wide b/s and rolled up to press leaders, wound up contesting it 3-wide thru 2T/upstr, finally wrested control & was always holding runnerup

Emollient projects for a good trip in this race, has no distance limitations to worry about, and is a major threat to post back-to-back Grade 1 wins. With that said, playing this race won’t be as simple as taking to two favorites and moving on. To me there are a couple of different horses to consider, at what may be very good prices. Before we get to them, I’ll mention that ALTERITE (#4, 4-1) is a dangerous import for Chad Brown. She is a nose and a neck away from being a multiple Group 1 winner in France, and it does appear that she has arrived stateside in need of Lasix, which she gets on Saturday. To me, the two most interesting prices in the race are WITH SUGAR ON TOP (#3, 12-1) and SUMMER OF FUN (#6, 8-1). With Sugar on Top received a great ride from Irad Ortiz to win an allowance race at Saratoga last out, and she was due a trip like that after catching a few tough scenarios in a row, which really dirtied up her form. I think she has shown enough ability to compete in a race like this, she has enough positional speed to land a good trip from her inside post, and despite winning at 11/1 last time, will be a playable price once again.

Summer of Fun feels like a very dangerous horse based on her current form and would be hard to resist at her ML odds. She was a promising 2yo, who all things considered could very well have won the BC Juvenile Filly Turf with a better trip, and has clearly picked up her game as a 3yo. Summer of Fun was a convincing winner of her last race up at Saratoga, and that effort figures to have her primed for a step up in class here. For wagering purposes, I’m going to try to get With Sugar on Top into the mix, both on top and underneath, and use her with Emollient, Discreet Marq, Summer of Fun and a little Alterite. Those horses will also be a part of my Pick -4 play, though I’ll be leaning on Emollient, With Sugar on Top and Summer of Fun.

 

Spot Play

ALTERITE (#4, 4-1) we’ve seen this before, Martin Schwartz French bred/raced filly ships to U.S. and takes a graded stakes; been facing top flight talent in France and gets Lasix for U.S. debut.- Chuck Kuehhas

 

Vulnerable Favorite

EMOLLIENT (#1, 3-1) defeated pretty weak G1 field, as no one in race had topped 85 Beyer into the race (though one has subsequently run a 90) and the runnerup only finished third in subsequent G1. She now has cross country round trip under her belt and is somewhat inconsistent anyway.- Chuck Kuehhas

 

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Race 10

Live Longshot

FOOLISH TIGER (#7, 15-1) hasn’t gotten positive race flow in a while but that should change today, as there does seem to be enough speed to set up a closer; dangerous late at a big price. –Kenny Peck

 

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