How I’m betting Late Pick 4 on Belmont’s Stars and Stripes Racing Festival

Profile Picture: James Scully

July 8th, 2017

Today’s $1.2 million Belmont Derby (G1) is ripe for an up-and-coming turf sophomore. I’m not keen on stakes veterans Oscar Performance, Good Samaritan, Ticonderoga and Big Score – they’ve taken turns beating each other with little separating the pack -- and none of the three European invaders appear strong.

I’m confident we haven’t seen the best from #6 Arklow and #7 Yoshida, a pair of recent maiden winners who stepped up to easily beat stakes rivals in the last outing, and they are the only horses I need in my Late Pick 4 wagers.

Arklow and Yoshida broke their maidens on the same day at Keeneland, impressively winning 1 1/8-mile turf races that were split into divisions, and both registered a 101 BRIS Late Pace Rating posting stakes victories.

Arklow jumped straight to the American Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs and rolled to a one-length decision over a field that included Oscar Performance, Good Samaritan and Big Score. And it’s no surprise to see him take to sod given his dam, the Empire Maker mare Unbridled Empire, counts Grade 1 turf hero Fourty Niner’s Son as a half-brother. Arklow has posted six works in the two-month interim for Brad Cox, including a pair of drills on Belmont’s turf, and Mike Smith will be in to guide the extremely promising son of Arch.

After leading wire-to-wire in a four-length maiden tally, Yoshida completely switched tactics in the James W. Murphy on the Preakness undercard, rallying from more than 20 lengths off the pace to score going away in eye-catching fashion. A Japanese-bred son of Heart’s Cry and out of the Grade 1-winning mare Hilda’s Passion, Yoshida is eligible to keep improving for Bill Mott and John Velazquez will pick up the mount aboard the 7-2 second choice on the morning line.

I will play Arklow, who is listed at 8-1, to win and box him in the exacta with Yoshida. And I’m keying the duo in the $400,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4.

The sequence kicks off with Race 7, the Belmont Sprint Championship (G2), and the main plays are #7 Unified and #2 Mind Your Biscuits. The former probably regressed a little off a huge win when finishing second last time and should be poised for a top performance on the front end for Jimmy Jerkens. The latter can be along in time if the speed falters.

I will save on a back-up ticket with the rest of the Belmont Sprint field.

In the Belmont Oaks (G1), #12 Sistercharlie will be a deserving favorite following a troubled runner-up effort in the French Oaks (G1) and the classy filly looks very imposing. However, new trainer Chad Brown is winless over the past five years with international shippers who have raced in recent months and Sistercharlie must overcome the far outside post in a 12-horse field as the probable single on many multi-race tickets.

The late-running #2 Beau Recall, who brings improving form into the race for Simon Callaghan, will be included on the back-up and I am using eight runners on the main ticket.

Little suspense surrounds the Suburban (G2), with #6 Shaman Ghost the class of the field following wins in the Santa Anita H. (G1) and Pimlico Special (G3), and he generated a whopping 114 BRIS Speed Rating in the latter. #2 Matt King Coal, the apparent lone speed among six runners, has the best chance at an upset, registering a 107 BRIS Speed and 108 Late Pace numbers for a convincing wire-to-wire triumph over stakes foes last out.

50-cent Late Pick 4 Tickets (races 7-10)

Ticket 1: 2,7 with 1,2,4,5,7,8,10,12  with 2,6 with 6,7 ($32)

Ticket 2: 1,3,4,5,6 with 2,12 with 2,6 with 6,7 ($20)

Total budget: $52

Good luck!