The Jury: Bets and fades for Belmont Stakes Day June 11
This week the TwinSpires jury naturally focuses exclusively on the happenings on Belmont Stakes Day in New York. Here are thoughts on Saturday's action from James Scully, Kellie Reilly, and Vance Hanson.
What is your best bet?
James Scully: An impressive winner of the Wood Memorial (G2) two back, #6 Mo Donegal (5-2) will rebound in the Belmont following a tough trip in the Kentucky Derby (G1). I thought the track changed late in the day at Churchill Downs — the Kentucky Derby was only the second dirt race in a four-plus hour window leading up to it — and the inside was the place to be by post time. The outside was more tiring and deep, and Irad Ortiz Jr. gave up a favorable inside spot midway on the far turn to angle Mo Donegal about 15-paths wide for the stretch run. His fifth-place performance is better than it looks on paper, and Mo Donegal will confirm himself as a major contender for division honors in the Belmont.
Kellie Reilly: #4 Casa Creed (9-2) is a decent price in his title defense in Saturday's Jaipur (G1) at Belmont Park. Although winless since his signature win here a year ago, the Bill Mott trainee has competed well in spots that didn't always suit him. Notably, Casa Creed raised his profile with a couple of fine efforts on the international stage. He missed narrowly in the 1351 Turf Sprint (G3) on Saudi Cup Day to Japan's high-class Songline, who just captured the Yasuda Kinen (G1) over males. Last time out on Dubai World Cup night, Casa Creed was a close fifth in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) to A Case of You, Happy Romance, Man of Promise, and Naval Crown, all four earmarked for Royal Ascot.
Vance Hanson: #4 Adhamo is worth a bet back in the Manhattan (G1) at a morning line price of 4-1 or thereabouts. The French Group 3 winner ran a terrific second in his U.S. debut, the Feb. 19 Fair Grounds (G3), when falling behind a rival that was lone speed and narrowly missed reeling in that foe by a head. His follow-up run in the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1) wasn't so fine, but trainer Chad Brown reported the four-year-old didn't handle Churchill's new turf course at all, a complaint common among some horsemen that have had horses compete over the new strip since it opened. The distance and conditions on Saturday will presumably suit the Irish-bred more.
Kentucky Derby 5th place finisher Mo Donegal skipped the Preakness S. and will go to the post Saturday in the 154th running of the #BelmontStakes.— TwinSpires Racing 🏇 (@TwinSpires) June 9, 2022
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Who is the horse to fade?
JS: #1 Lone Rock has taken advantage of easy trips on soft paces, romping by 11 lengths in last year's Brooklyn (G2), but the 2-1 morning line favorite does not appear well-drawn at the rail with speed to his outside. An earner of more than $3.1 million, the seven-year-old faces deeper competition as well, and Lone Rock appears vulnerable at short odds, in my estimation.
KR: Unless #1 We the People (2-1) finds himself blissfully alone in a sea of slop, I'm inclined to doubt that his Peter Pan (G3) romp is applicable to the Belmont (G1). That's not to ignore his tactical advantage as the controlling speed, but he'll have to fend off much better opponents in striking range over three extra furlongs. Chief among them are the Todd Pletcher duo of #6 Mo Donegal (5-2) and the filly #3 Nest (8-1), both likely to find the Belmont conditions playing to their strengths, unlike their recent losses at Churchill Downs. Even if my longstanding faith in them is misplaced, the point stands that this is a more challenging spot than the Peter Pan, and We the People is a short price based on a new career top that smacks of an outlier.
VH: Nearly every morning line favorite in Saturday's graded stakes lineup at Belmont has plenty to recommend it. That includes reigning champion older mare #1 Letruska (6-5) in her title defense of the Ogden Phipps (G1), in which she appears on paper to potentially be the lone speed. While circumstances might very well work to her advantage again, it's still hard to take her at close to even-money, given the quality of her competition. Opposing horsemen perhaps will adjust their tactics to ensure she doesn't get away from them.
It’s @jose93_ortiz with another G1 win on the @BelmontStakes undercard in his brother’s stead as #Letruska wires the Ogden Phipps in a tour de force.— TwinSpires Racing 🏇 (@TwinSpires) June 5, 2021
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What else is worth noting?
JS: #11 Chasing Artie lost all chance when missing the break in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2), stumbling out of the gate, but he will be part of the pace in the Jaipur. There is very little speed entered in the 13-horse field, and the four-year-old gelding rates a look in his third start off the layoff for Saffie Joseph. Chasing Artie won both turf sprint stakes appearances before heading to the sidelines last July, and he netted career-best Brisnet numbers when returning this spring with a good allowance score at Gulfstream Park. Draw a line through that last effort, and Chasing Artie is listed at an attractive 15-1.
KS: In a competitive renewal of the Manhattan, it's easy to overlook #3 Tokyo Gold (30-1). But the French shipper's relatively light weight (118 pounds) and proficiency over this course and 1 1/4-mile distance point to him as a longshot for the exotics. The Teruya Yoshida homebred turned in one of his top career efforts here last summer, rallying for second to Aidan O'Brien's Bolshoi Ballet in the Belmont Derby (G1). As discussed in the Belmont Derby international scouting report, Tokyo Gold doesn't handle heavy going, so draw a line through his flop in the Nov. 7 Premio Roma (G2). He's raced just once since, getting up for third in the April 21 Prix Jacques Laffitte at an about 1 1/8-mile trip well short of his best. A few alumni of that Longchamp event have run well in ensuing starts, including the fifth-placer, Group 2 veteran Wally, who went on to finish second in the May 29 Prix d'Ispahan (G1).
VH: Not only do we have the horses competing in the third classic and Jack Christopher in the Woody Stephens (G1), but another budding three-year-old star might emerge earlier in the day in an entry-level allowance that will go off just before noon. The aptly-named #1A Bright Future (2-1), a son of Curlin, will be making his second lifetime start in Belmont's second race over a mile. The Todd Pletcher trainee was a convincing winner on debut March 19 over a one-turn mile at Gulfstream, scoring by 4 3/4-lengths. He earned a 100 Brisnet Speed rating, and the late-developer could be a colt to reckon with in graded company over the summer if he wins with authority on Saturday.