Analysis of the five major stakes at Belmont

Analysis of the five major stakes at Belmont

July 10, 2018 3:00 AM
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As the Belmont spring meet races to its conclusion this coming Sunday and as the historic Saratoga racing is set to begin in 10 days, here are some observations about the five stakes Belmont put on this past Saturday and some related handicapping thoughts that could help readers do two things:

1. Spot serious contenders at square prices in claiming races through Belmont’s final six days.

2. Utilize several specific handicapping ideas for Saratoga that were derived from those Belmont stakes.

With respect to the first point, players should realize claiming races that will be run at Belmont during its final week will not match the quality of most claiming races at Saratoga.

In my experience, this has meant horses dropping slightly in claiming class during the final week at Belmont often find themselves in a commanding position to win or improve sharply. In other words, the class droppers in those Belmont claiming races tend to win or finish second in more races than usual and the payoffs tend to be generous.

As for point two, here is an analysis of those five major stakes run at Belmont and how the results can define Saratoga winners.

• In the $300K, Grade-3 Dwyer for 3-year-olds at 1-mile, Firenze Fire rallied late to score and earn a lifetime best 107 Beyer Speed Figure. Please note, this Jason Servis trained colt won a Saratoga sprint last year and later won the prestigious Champagne Mile at Belmont. This strongly suggests he will take a lot of beating in any one-turn Saratoga stakes, including such races against older horses.

• In the $350K, Grade-2 Belmont Sprint Championship at 7 furlongs for 3-year-olds and up, the winner Limousine Liberal earned a respectable 99 Beyer, but was unplaced in both of his previous Saratoga races! This clearly adds to likelihood the 3-year-old Firenze Fire (mentioned above) will deserve the pre-race edge if and when they meet at the Spa this year.

• In the $1 million, Grade-1 Belmont Oaks Invitational for 3-year-old fillies at 1-1/4 miles on the turf, Athena was able to win this – in her first start in America – after shipping in from Ireland. She earned a 97 Beyer while out-dueling multiple Grade-3 winner Thewayiam, who was stretching out in distance here. Given that Athena had more experience at this distance while scoring only her second victory in 11 career starts, I believe Thewayiam – a multiple Graded stakes winner on the grass – will deserve my preference in any rematch at a similar or shorter turf distance.

• In the $700K, Grade-2 Suburban for 4-year-olds and up at 1-1/4 miles on the main track, the meteoric Diversify outraced a good field of experienced older horses to score handily with a career best 110 Beyer. While Diversify had previously won several stakes, including the G-1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at this 10 furlong distance last fall, his second biggest victory and second highest previous Beyer was earned in his only Saratoga start last summer. Quite clearly, this 6-year-old veteran will be ready to challenge any field of quality at his favorite distance at a track he loves.

• In the $1.2 million, Grade-1 Belmont Derby for 3-year-olds at 1-1/4 miles on the turf, the three time Graded stakes winner Catholic Boy raced on the pace, lost the lead briefly and came back to defeat Analyze It, just as Catholic Boy had done in their previous meeting at 1-1/8 miles last month. With both colts earning moderate 99 Beyer Figures, the edge in another re-match probably should remain with Catholic Boy given his win at Saratoga last summer.

Yet, I actually believe there is considerable room for improvement for trainer Aidan O’Brien’s Hunting Horn, who finished third in his first American outing after winning at this distance three weeks ago in England. If he gets three weeks or more of rest and acclimation, I will look for Hunting Horn to be quite formidable at reasonable odds.

Beyond the above results and how they may have pointed out logical winners of important Saratoga Stakes, it should also be noted several Saratoga winners annually ship in from Delaware Park. With that, the 3-year-old filly Red Ruby deserves special mention.

On Saturday, she won the $300K, Grade-3 Delaware Oaks at 1-1/16 miles with a solid 104 Beyer and now should be watched when her successful, but relatively unknown trainer Kellyn Gorder decides to ship her to the best race meeting in America.

And here’s one other handicapping hint for players to utilize at Saratoga: Horses with previous solid form at this track’s annual summer season tend to run well even if they recently have seemed off form. The key ingredient here is said horses must come from winning barns with good workouts over the surface.

Next Week, we’ll look closely at Del Mar’s high class summer meet.