07/01/2011 4:07PM

Exactas the way to go in Belmont's Sunday stakes


Three graded stakes races will be offered at Belmont on Sunday, and all of them seem playable with contenders worth keying on top in the exotics. Two of the races feature promising young 2-year-olds, while the other is a sprint for fillies and mares who have been so consistent that they, as a group, have won 35 of 85 career starts, an impressive 41 percent.

The action begins in the fourth race with 2-year-olds in the Grade 2, $150,000 Futurity at six furlongs. Getupwiththesun finished second on a sloppy track at Pimlico in his debut, but he took a big step forward when he dominated maiden specials there by 8 1/4 lengths on a fast track in his second start. His 52.31-second final time in that race is the fastest 4 1/2-furlong time showing among the past performances of any of the six entrants in the field, and he was awarded a strong 86 Beyer Speed Figure for that effort. He has trained impressively at Laurel since that victory with a half-mile in 46.20, and three furlongs in 33.40.

The three debut winners in the field all deserve consideration in the exotics. Team Six won by five lengths at Monmouth, Large Kaufy won by 4 3/4 lengths at Calder, and Tarpy's Goal graduated by 2 3/4 lengths at Churchill. They look fairly similar on paper, but after watching their races I'll give an edge to Tarpy's Goal, who raced a little greenly while drawing clear down the stretch, and appeared to have more gas left in the tank at the end of his race than the other first-out winners did. Threeanddonedan is hard to gauge as he loved the sloppy track in his debut, then either ran his true race, or disliked Woodbine's Polytrack when he finished a non-threatening fourth in the Victoria stakes. I'll see if I can beat him.

I'll play an exacta using Getupwiththesun over Tarpy's Goal for two-thirds of my bet, with one-third on a reverse exacta using Tarpy's Goal over Getupwiththesun, with the idea that Getupwiththesun might possibly regress after the big win, and/or Tarpy's Goal might improve with experience and run a big race.

Four races later, a field of seven 2-year-old fillies are scheduled to compete in the Grade 2, $150,000 Matron at six furlongs. Defy Gravity finished third in her debut at Pimlico, then ran a huge race there when she returned 23 days later. She was ridden confidently under a hold in second early, while the leader was allowed to grab a three-length advantage between calls. Letting a rival get away from you like that isn't usually a good idea in a 4 1/2-furlong race, but it wasn't a problem for Defy Gravity. She assumed command without being asked for much, then drew off to win by six lengths. She was fourth-fastest of 46 when she breezed a half-mile in 48.60 at Laurel since that race, so another big effort would not be a surprise as she tackles winners.

Two rivals loom as the main threats. Say a Novena finished fourth in her debut at Monmouth, then improved significantly there in her next start. She broke sharply, drew off to a three-length lead, and won by three lengths in a track record 50.93 for 4 1/2 furlongs. That win margin was boosted by the fact that the second-place finisher lugged out down the stretch. Say a Novena's 77 Beyer from that race is good, but with the track variant factored in, Defy Gravity was rated higher at 82 for her win in 52.77 at Pimlico.

Born Bullish debuted at Belmont. She broke sixth in that seven-horse field, moved into contention, took the lead on the turn with no urging, then increased her advantage to nine lengths at the finish of that 5 1/2-furlong race. Her 69 Beyer is the lowest of the three contenders, but she impressed me enough visually to make me give her the call as my second horse in a cold exacta beneath Defy Gravity.

Hilda's Passion won the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie, the Grade 2 Inside Information, the Grade 2 Vagrancy, and finished second in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff in her last four races. That form will make her hard to deny at low odds in the ninth race, the Grade 3, $150,000 Bed o' Roses at seven furlongs.

Curlina finished second behind her as a 29-1 longshot last time in the Vagrancy, but that was an uncharacteristically strong performance. I'll pass on her, and use two others in the exacta. Christine Daae was a comfortable four-length winner in a second-level $62,500 optional claiming race when she returned from an 8 1/2-month layoff, and can improve in the second race of her form cycle. Tamarind Hall, who has been improving steadily, might be the betting value. I'll use both of them beneath Hilda's Passion in the exacta.