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Homeracing

Irish shipper Alexios Komnenos among price horses of interest on Belmont Stakes undercard

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

June 8th, 2018

Remember Waltzing Matilda, the Irish raider who scored a 22-1 upset in the 2015 New York S. (G2) for Tommy Stack? It might be ambitious to argue that history can echo itself in different circumstances in Saturday’s Manhattan H. (G1), but #4 ALEXIOS KOMNENOS (20-1) is a fascinating dark horse for Tommy’s son-cum-successor, Fozzy Stack.

By Choisir, sire of multiple highweight Olympic Glory, Alexios Komnenos is bred on the same cross as another outstanding son of Choisir, Obviously, the multiple Grade 1-winning hero of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). Both are out of Montjeu mares, with Alexios Komnenos hailing from the distinguished Moyglare Stud family of Irresistible Jewel, Profound Beauty et al.

A 50-1 debut winner by three lengths at the Curragh, Alexios Komnenos nearly upset 2-5 favorite Churchill in the 2016 Tyros S. (G3) next out at Leopardstown. That’s the closest anyone got to Churchill during his seven-race winning spree for Aidan O’Brien.

Alexios Komnenos was then stricken by a suspensory infection that was feared career-ending. Amazingly, he not only returned to racing, but retained his ability. Straightaway off a nearly year-long layoff, he worked his way into contention in last summer’s Celebration S. at the Curragh before tiring in a close third.

Sharper in his second start back, Alexios Komnenos rolled to victory in the Desmond S. (G3) back at Leopardstown.

“He quickened up well,” Stack said in the postrace quotes. “It's amazing, with what he's been through, to even be here today. A big thanks goes to the staff at home and every vet in O'Byrne and Halleys. It's a wonder he's here at all. They gave him a 10 percent chance of racing again.”

The fairytale comeback suffered a reverse when Alexios Komnenos was only sixth of seven in the Boomerang S. (G2) behind Suedois, the next-out winner of the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland.

Shelved for the remainder of the year, Alexios Komnenos resumed in the May 19 Lockinge (G1), the key early-season mile contest that often serves as a pointer to the Queen Anne (G1) at Royal Ascot. He would have had to step up from his 2017 form to threaten, but it didn’t help that he was drawn in post 15 and found himself on the unfavorable side of the Newbury course. He trudged home ninth, well behind O’Brien’s world-class filly Rhododendron (the runner-up from a terrible post in last November’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf [G1]). Nor was he the only one to throw in a clunker in the Lockinge, for he split such high-profile rivals as Addeybb (eighth) and Limato (10th).

Now Alexios Komnenos tries 1 1/4 miles for the first time, but his deep female line offers encouragement. The addition of Lasix, Florent Geroux, and his proficiency around left-handed Leopardstown make him very intriguing at a massive price. Although he must arrive more in hope than confidence, Alexios Komnenos has the profile of a horse with more to give.

A summary in Stack’s recent stable tour on attheraces.com puts it best: “Unexposed colt that is considered of Group 1 potential.”

A few other potential value opportunities on the blockbuster card:

2ND Race, the Easy Goer: As one of many disappointed by Mask’s flop in the Pat Day Mile (G3), I hope we see him back to his best here against a couple of promising stakes firsters in Breaking the Rules and Rugbyman. Possibly overlooked in the shuffle is #8 HIGH NORTH (9-2), coming off a fading fourth behind Belmont S. (G1) contender Blended Citizen in the Peter Pan (G3). The Brad Cox trainee didn’t hit the board in three prior graded attempts either, all in Kentucky Derby (G1) points races, but broke through in the April 14 Northern Spur at Oaklawn Park. Dropping down from graded company, and cutting back slightly in trip, could be the right combination for the son of Midnight Lute and Grade 2 winner Spacy Tracy.

3RD Race, the Ogden Phipps (G1): While champion Abel Tasman has every right to improve from her comeback fourth in the La Troienne (G1), so is #7 UNCHAINED MELODY (12-1) entitled to turn the page on a subpar last of five in her Ruffian (G2) return. Around this time last year, the Smart Strike filly made it two-for-two at this track and trip in the Mother Goose (G2). A tilt at the Alabama (G1) went wrong as she was pulled up and vanned off, but reportedly came out OK. Not seen again for more than eight months until the May 6 Ruffian, Unchained Melody attended the pace before retreating. The addition of blinkers didn’t appear to make her over-aggressive, but trainer Brian Lynch must believe they were counterproductive because he removes them here. Lynch has a 21 percent strike rate in the “blinkers off” category, and if Unchained Melody recaptures her old form second off the bench, she’s a significant overlay – especially as the likely controlling speed. (American Gal opted for Friday’s Bed o’ Roses [G3] and ran last.)

5TH Race, Brooklyn Invitational (G2): The 1 1/2-mile prize has a chalky look between the admirable veteran Hoppertunity, defending champion War Story, and the streaking Hard Study, but #4 TAKE YOUR GUNS (6-1) has loads of upside for Chad Brown. But for an injury sustained when fourth in last year’s Peter Pan, he could well have lined up in the Belmont. The son of Blame, and half-brother to multiple graded winners Last Samurai and Tiger Moth, has roared back to action with two strong allowance victories from well off the pace. If the Brooklyn pace scenario isn’t as helpful, with Outplay looking like lone speed, Take Your Guns probably won’t drop as far back as he did in his fast-run allowances going shorter. The lightly raced four-year-old could be part of a big day for owner/breeder John D. Gunther, who also bred Triple Crown hopeful Justify and arguably his biggest threat, Vino Rosso.

***

My top three selections for the other stakes include some better-priced options in the mix, all available in the free Belmont Betting Guide. They’re pretty self-explanatory, except for Alexios Komnenos, who demanded a full briefing.

Good luck and enjoy Belmont Day!

Alexios Komnenos photo courtesy of Leopardstown Racecourse via Facebook

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