Value Plays in Stars & Stripes Festival

Profile Picture: James Scully

July 9th, 2016

Five days after the Fourth of July, Belmont Park will feature the Stars & Stripes Festival with six graded stakes. A pair of premiere events for 3-year-old turf sophomores, the $1.25 million Belmont Derby and $1 million Belmont Oaks, highlight the fine program.

I’m looking at a few upset contenders:

Victory Ride (G3), Race 6: Coppa is the one to beat off a pair of convincing wire-to-wire wins but the California front-runner figures to catch serious pressure in a speed-laden field. The 6 ½-furlong race should set up perfectly for last-out maiden winner Malibu Stacy (#7, 10-1 m/l). Trained by George Weaver, the Tizway filly overcame a stumbling start with an eye-catching turn of foot last time, hitting her best stride in the latter stages as she won going away by open lengths at today’s distance, and it’s interesting to note her dam, who went on to capture three graded events and finish second in the La Brea (G1), didn’t break her maiden until July of her 3-year-old season. Malibu Stacy is a promising late bloomer as well who has the opportunity to carry her improving form forward with a strong showing from off the pace.

Belmont Derby (G1), Race 8: A contentious field of 13, including a trio of international raiders, will square off at 10 furlongs and I’ll recommend the up-and-coming Call Provision (#12, 10-1), who could be the least fancied of three betting interests from leading turf trainer Chad Brown. Out of a Dynaformer mare, the New York-bred Lemon Drop Kid gelding rallied smartly to defeat state-bred rivals first-time out in mid-April and jumped straight to stakes company with a neck third in the June 4 Pennine Ridge (G3), traveling wide off the far turn with another commendable late kick. Those races didn’t appear to take anything out of the chestnut – he’s worked three times in the 35-day interim – and Call Provision has plenty of room for further improvement. He adds Hall of Famer John Velazquez and should be rallying boldly in the final furlongs.

Suburban (G2), Race 9: Eagle (#4, 5-1) is listed as the co-fourth choice on the morning line and I expect him to be overlooked by the betting public. After missing most of his sophomore season, the 4yo has made slow and steady progress for trainer Neil Howard, racing six times already this year, and Eagle appears capable of putting it all together in this spot. The hard-trying Mineshaft colt registered three consecutive triple-digit BRIS Speed ratings before catching paceless fields in his last two, the Stephen Foster (G1) and Alysheba (G2), performing admirably to be second each time, and he shouldn’t be too far back before offering his best today. I’m not scared of the competition -- Mubtaahij hasn’t won in 15 months, Effinex is exiting a clunker and Shaman Ghost faces a class check – and will take a chance with Eagle.

Good luck!

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