Belmont Park: Exotic plays for the Just a Game Stakes
A deep and accomplished field of 12 fillies and mares will go postward in Saturday’s sensational $500,000 Just a Game S. (G1) at Belmont Park. The one-mile turf test has attracted a deep and exciting cast in what appears to be one of the best betting opportunities on the otherworldly card.
Expert turf conditioners Chad Brown and Charlie Appleby will saddle half of the dozen for the affair, and in my opinion the training duo will have a major say in the outcome of the race. #8 Althiqa (8-1) has never missed the board in seven lifetime performances and will be an exotics key for me. The Godolphin homebred couldn’t reel in her stablemate when third in the Balanchine S. (G2) at Meydan most recently, but the gray daughter of Dark Angel will appreciate both the cutback in distance and the expected shape of this particular race.
Althiqa was impressive in her sharp Cape Verdi S. (G2) score two back in the desert, and I expect the versatile filly to deliver a big run on Saturday at a nice price under Mike Smith. An honest pace, which is expected, will aid the hard-trying British-bred.
Jockey Irad Ortiz often has the choice of the Chad Brown runners when it comes to the big races, and he will ride Juddmonte homebred #6 Pocket Square (5-1) on Saturday. By Night of Thunder, the chestnut left quite an impression on me in her stateside debut when crushing allowance foes at Keeneland.
Pocket Square boasts a stout pedigree and will move forward in her second start for this outfit, as so many imports do. The four-year-old showed early interest on a few occasions in Europe earlier in her career, which should give her pilot options early on in the big field. She is good on any type of ground and figures to be in a great spot as the impressive cast turns for home.
Other runners that I will include in my plays include Grade 3 vixen #1 Zofelle (8-1); #4 Regal Glory (8-1), who was fourth in this race in 2020; and Brown’s 2020 Sands Point S. (G2) queen #10 Tamahere (6-1).