09/07/2012 2:04PM

Klein: St Liams Halo offers Hastings opportunity

Four-Footed Fotos
With his tactical speed and a class drop, St Liams Haro should be the horse to beat in the S.W. Randall Plate Handicap.

I have betting opinions on five stakes races on Sunday, including some of the stakes races at Hastings on the British Columbia Derby card.

Unfortunately, one of my betting opinions is that I won’t be betting on the Grade 3 British Columbia Derby itself. I see too many contenders and not enough betting value. There is also lots of early speed in the field, but I can’t find a contender I trust to take advantage of that pace scenario. There’s no reason to force a bet on the race, so I’ll save us all some money and pass. You’re welcome.

There are two other races on that card I do like.

The second race is the 1 1/8-mile, $50,000 S.W. Randall Plate Handicap. St Liams Halo was stuck on the outside last time in a 10-horse field at Emerald in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile. He raced four wide around the first turn, then rallied from seventh into contention in third, despite being three wide on the far turn. He finished fourth that day, but still earned a better Beyer Speed Figure than his opponents did in their recent races. He has more tactical speed than he showed in that race so a better trip is likely on Sunday for that reason and because he has fewer opponents to deal with in this five-horse field. Factor in the class drop, and he’ll be the horse to beat. I’ll bet St Liams Halo to win, and I’ll key him on top in the exacta. The horses I like for second are Jump Up and Kissme, who finished two positions and 1 1/2 lengths behind St Liams Halo in the Longacres Mile, and Crew Leader, who is sharp with wins against softer company at Hastings in his last two races.

The other race I want to play at Hastings is the fifth, the 1 1/8-mile, $100,000 British Columbia Oaks. I see four solid contenders in the seven-horse field, but some of them will be bet harder than the others.

Evelyn’s Dancer has won three straight races at Hastings, and she was pounded down to steadily decreasing low odds in each of them. The concern is that her Beyer Figures declined in each of her last two wins, and she will probably have to turn that trend around to win this race. Another small price would not be worth accepting.

Champagneandcaviar won her last two races at Emerald. The catch is that those were uncharacteristically strong races for her. If you look past them, none of her performances in her previous nine starts would make her a factor in this race. The other concern is that she enjoyed a dream trip last time in the Washington Oaks. She skimmed the rail throughout in that race and won by only a head.

Madeira Park was a comfortable 8 1/4-length winner last time at Northlands. A similar effort would give her a chance to win this race, but her form at Hastings hasn’t been as strong while finishing second and third behind some of the same opponents she will be facing in this field.

My selection in this race might not be the most likely winner, but she’s a serious contender, and if she runs as well as she did last time, she can beat this group. Our Eleanor defeated Evelyn’s Dancer four races ago, in a 6 1/2-furlong sprint, then finished third and second behind her in two subsequent route races. She ran her best route race last time at Emerald in the Washington Oaks. She was in the three path around the first turn, then gained ground four wide on the far turn, and was still gaining late while finishing third, only three-quarters of a length behind Champagneandcaviar, who saved ground all the way. I’ll bet Our Eleanor to win, and I’ll also key her on top in the exacta over Champagneandcaviar and Evelyn’s Dancer. I’ll also box Our Eleanor in the exacta with Madeira Park.

Two other stakes races appeal to me.

The one-mile Meadow Star is the second race at Belmont. It shapes up as a match race on paper, but that doesn’t guarantee it will play out that way. Dreaming of Julia was no secret as the 2-5 favorite at Saratoga in her debut, and she ran to expectations when she led throughout and scored by 10 1/2 lengths. She’ll be well backed in this race, but she will almost certainly have to work harder than she did last time.

Fully Living is the primary threat. She was last of six early behind a 22.22- and 45.85-second pace two races ago, then made a mild gain to finish fourth going six furlongs in the Grade 3 Schuylerville. She ran a better race last time when she was only 2 1/2 lengths behind a much faster 21.77- and 44.93-second pace, angled out to the four path, then made a slight late gain, and finished third in the 6 1/2-furlong, Grade 2 Adirondack.

I’ll give the call to Fully Living on a win bet based on her improvement. I’ll also key her on top in the exacta over Dreaming of Julia, Over the Counter, and Amethyst. I included the last two to cover the possibility that Dreaming of Julia might regress after her big win. If that happens, I will have a good chance to collect an overlaid exacta price.

The other stakes race is the 6 1/2-furlong, $50,000 Jim Kostoff, the 10th race at Fairplex. Mile High Magic will be very hard to beat if he handles the sharp turns at that track. I’ll use him on top in the exacta over Got Even, who occasionally runs well enough to get a part in a field like this, and Explain, who should be flying late.