Scully's Plays on Belmont Stakes Day Program
American Pharoah’s Triple Crown bid is the center of attention and the Belmont Stakes undercard serves as a perfect appetizer for Thoroughbred racing fans. The outstanding program features nine stakes races, many with deep and talented fields, and I’m looking forward to playing.
Here are four races I’ll spotlight:
Manhattan (10th race): Expecting a contested pace, with Twilight Eclipse, War Dancer and perhaps General A Rod mixing it up on the front end, and the 1 ¼-mile turf affair should set up nicely for my top choice, Biz the Nurse.
A Group 1 winner and Italian champion (highweight), Biz the Nurse offered an eye-catching move past rivals to easily capture his U.S. debut, a March 7 allowance at Gulfstream. He came back in the April 18 Elkhorn at Keeneland, a race with a walking pace that was stolen on the front end, and Biz the Nurse left himself too much to do at the tail of the field, nearly erasing a 10-length deficit in the stretch as he flew home to be a close fourth.
The Manhattan sets up much better for his formidable closing kick (103 BRIS Late Pace number last time) and I think the five-year-old has a chance to be one of America’s premiere turf horses this season for Tom Albertrani. Biz the Nurse looks set for a breakthrough performance.
Met Mile (9th race): Perhaps foolish to be bullish in such a competitive heat, but I’ll tab Honor Code for his first Grade 1 victory.
Been a fan of the well-bred colt since he opened his racing career with an amazing performance sprinting at Saratoga, erasing a 22-length deficit to win by 4 ½ lengths, and it was easy to label him as a serious Kentucky Derby prospect at the time. Turns out, the A.P. Indy colt is a one-turn closer.
Honor Code brought the goods when opening 2015 in the March 7 Gulfstream Park H. at a one-turn mile, rallying past Private Zone, Wicked Strong and others to earn the prize, but he came back in the two-turn Alysheba at Churchill Downs and didn’t show his best. Trainer Shug McGaughey needed the race to set his charge up for the main target this year, the prestigious Met Mile, and the race will set up nicely with a hot and contested pace up front.
I’m expecting to see Honor Code shine in the long Belmont stretch run.
Acorn (7th race): Love quality speed cutting back in trip and the Grade 1-winning Condo Commando, the second choice in the Kentucky Oaks, looks capable of dominating on the front end. Several rivals like to race up close, but none are super-quick and Condo Commando’s recent E1 Pace ratings (110 and 109) lay over the field.
Condo Commando sprints clear in the opening stages and never comes back to the pack.
Just a Game (8th race): Favorites look vulnerable in my estimation, with Coffee Clique more than comfortable settling for a minor award and Ball Dancing preferring longer/two-turn distances, and both are spotting weight under a 123-pound impost.
Discreet Marq and Tepin appear capable of canceling each other out, with a solid pace expected up front, and the race should set up like the March 28 Honey Fox at Gulfstream, which was captured by the late-running Lady Lara.
One for one on Belmont’s turf, Lady Lara has won three of her last five starts and the confirmed closer handles any kind of ground. The Bill Mott-trained filly was never comfortable behind a glacial pace last time, but circumstances favor her today.
Should be a great day of racing!