Key Horse Races & Free Expert Picks For July 4, 2020

Poker Stakes – Race 8 at Belmont – Post Time 5:13 PM Eastern

Dream Friend returned from seven months off five weeks ago and tired to third after leading from the start, at this mile turf trip at Belmont. That was nothing more than a PREP for this mile stakes race and I think the horse is going to run much better and turn the tables on Value Proposition, who won that day. Terranova is really good with horses second off the layoff in turf routes (5 for 14 in the past two years) and that’s why I sense the 6/3 race was to tighten Dream Friend up for this race. From the rail he could easily be the “Lone frontrunner” and take the field all the way and as such he offers tons of value opening at 8 to 1.

The mare Got Stormy does very well tackling males and she too makes her second start off a rest, while moving back to her best trip. She’s 8-for-15 at a mile and nearly all of the $1.5 million she’s banked has come at the trip. One before last she led late and came up a neck short in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile vs males and two before that against her own gender she won the G1 Matriarch Stakes powerfully. Those efforts earned 115 and 117 Equibase figures no horse can match as efforts representative of what she can do today and she’s anywhere near her 7/2 starting odds around post time she should be bet to win as well.

Valid Point, Seismic Wave and Value Proposition will be used on exacta tickets as well as in double and the pick 3 and pick 4. The pick 4 sequence ends with the Suburban Stakes (Race 11), which is on a different blog, but I’ve included the contenders here in the multi-race bets below.

Bets:
Win: Dream Friend and Got Stormy to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exactas: Dream Friend and Got Stormy over Dream Friend, Got Stormy, Valid Point, Seismic Wave and Value Proposition.

Optionally, play the reverse of that exacta, which is Dream Friend, Got Stormy, Valid Point, Seismic Wave and Value Proposition over Dream Friend and Got Stormy.

Pick 3:
Race 8: Dream Friend, Got Stormy, Valid Point, Seismic Wave and Value Proposition.
Race 9: Vekoma, Mr Freeze
Race 10: Instilled Regard, Rockemperor, Devamani, Spooky Channel
Optionally, in race 9 also use McKinzie, Code of Honor and Endorsed (I would use these on the pick 4 for sure because that wager has a $0.50 minimum)

For the Pick 4:
Race 11: Mr Buff, Moretti

Double:
Race 8: Dream Friend, Got Stormy, Valid Point, Seismic Wave and Value Proposition
Race 9: Vekoma, Mr Freeze

Race 8: Dream Friend, Got Stormy
Race 9: Vekoma, Mr Freeze, McKinzie, Code of Honor and Endorsed

Metropolitan Handicap – Race 9 at Belmont – Post Time 5:47 PM Eastern

Mr Freeze and Vekoma are my two top contenders to win this year’s Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap, but of the pair I will give Mr Freeze preference. The reason is he’s a true dirt miler. Last September, Mr Freeze won the Ack Ack Stakes for a then career-best 115 Equibase figure and he hasn’t really run a bad race since then. Stretching out to two-turns and a mile and one-eighth for the Fayette Stakes in October and the Clark Stakes in November, Mr Freeze finished respectably to the top horse in the handicap division in North America, Tom’s d’Etat, winner of the Stephen Foster Stakes last weekend. After another big effort when second in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational in January, Mr Freeze cut back to a one turn mile and won the Gulfstream Park Mile in impressive fashion, duplicating the 115 figure earned in the Ack Ack. Once again Mr Freeze stretched out to nine furlongs for the Oaklawn Handicap when last seen in May, finishing third of 13. Incidentally, the winner of that race (By My Standards) came back to run second to Tom’s d’Etat in the Foster. For this race, Mr Freeze is once again cutting back from a mile and one-eighth to a mile and if his last two efforts at a mile are any indication, he’s going to be very tough to beat. On another positive note, jockey Manny Franco rode Mr Freeze just once previously, when victorious in the Gulfstream Park Mile.

Vekoma, although running just twice in 2018, was a top two-year-old as he won the Nashua Stakes in November in only the second start of his career. Similarly, he won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes in his second start as a three year old, before disappointing badly when 13th in the Kentucky Derby. Given nearly 11 months to mature after that, Vekoma made a very sharp debut as a four year old in March with a stirring victory in the Sir Shackleton Stakes with a career-best 109 figure. Improving sensationally in his second start of the year, Vekoma put to shame a good field in the Carter Handicap last month at Belmont when drawing off to a seven and one-quarter length win. The 116 figure earned in that race is the second best last race figure in the field, just one point shy of the 117 McKinzie earned last month at the same seven furlong trip. However, what Vekoma has going for him which McKinzie does not is being a four year old, Vekoma is still physically maturing and can improve. A perfect four-for-four in one-turn races in his career and with a perfect two-for-two record at Belmont, Vekoma is another strong contender to win this year’s Metropolitan Handicap.

Code of Honor, like Vekoma, was a top three-year-old last year, winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes in March. After third place finishes in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby, placed second in the latter race after the disqualification of Maximum Security, Code of Honor proved himself once again when winning the Dwyer Stakes at this one-turn mile trip at Belmont last July. Stretching out to a mile and one-quarter, Code of Honor won the Travers Stakes before a career-best effort and 114 figure when coming up a nose short in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, then was moved up to first after bumped by the original winner. The long campaign apparently took its toll as he finished seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. However, after seven months off, Code of Honor came back strongly to win the Westchester Stakes last month over the track with a 113 figure effort that bears improvement in his second start off that long layoff.

Endorsed led into the stretch in the Westchester but had no answer for Code of Honor in the late stages. The 112 figure was a career-best and he certainly could be a factor once more. McKinzie earned a 117 figure winning the Triple Bend Stakes last month in California and earned back-to-back 121 figures in two-turn races, winning the Whitney Stakes last summer at Saratoga then second in the Awesome Again Stakes. He finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to end his 2019 campaign. McKinzie, along with Hog Creek Hustle has mostly a deep closing style when he runs into a very hot pace as evidenced by his eighth to second place effort in last year’s Metropolitan Handicap. Hog Creek Hustle earned a career best 106 figure when coming up a nose short in the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes last summer but has not come close to running that kind of race since. With only one “early” pace type in this race, Warrior’s Charge (with a career-best 104 figure), I think the late charges of both McKinzie and Hog Creek Hustle may be a bit muted. Network Effect earned a career-best 111 figure winning the restricted Big Drama Stakes in May but was no match for Vekoma in the Carter and is another who may be held to a minor award.

Bets:
Win Bets: Vekoma and Mr Freeze at odds of 5 to 2 or more.

When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exactas:
Vekoma and Mr Freeze over Vekoma, Mr Freeze, McKinzie, Code of Honor and Endorsed
Vekoma, Mr Freeze, McKinzie, Code of Honor and Endorsed over Vekoma and Mr Freeze

Pick 3:
Race 9: Vekoma, Mr Freeze, McKinzie, Code of Honor and Endorsed
Race 10: Instilled Regard, Rockemperor, Devamani, Spooky Channel
Race 11: Mr Buff, Moretti

Doubles:
Race 9: Vekoma, Mr Freeze, McKinzie, Code of Honor and Endorsed
Race 10: Instilled Regard, Rockemperor, Devamani, Spooky Channel

Manhattan Stakes – Race 10 at Belmont – Post Time 6:20 PM Eastern

Chad Brown has a quartet, or half the field, in this year’s Manhattan, and one of those (Instilled Regard) is going to go favored as his 2 to 1 morning line suggests. Still, ANY of Brown’s quartet can win, and one of them, even though bet down from a 5/1 morning line, is actually the one to beat. That is Rockemperor, who did everything but win the nearly identical Charles Whittingham Stakes at the end of May in California. He ran into a buzzsaw in United, who would just not let him by. Rockemperor was disqualified from second as Ortiz, as is his want, didn’t think it was a big deal to drift into another horse, but with a jockey change to John Velazquez today and a repeat of that last effort with a field high 120 Equibase figure, Rockemperor should get his first North American win in his fifth start since importing from Europe.

Devamani is another Brown charts and he too lost a heartbreaker last out. In the Fort Marcy run one month ago over the track, Rosario got cheeky and kept the horse inside too late. When he got clear he was gobbling up the ground and came up a neck short of beating Instilled Regard. There’s no doubt in my mind Rosario won’t make the same mistake this time and at the least will turn the tables on Instilled Regard because since moving to the Brown barn, this gelding has run the two best races of his career. He’s also a winner at 10 furlongs on turf, a feat only Rockemperor and Sadler’s Joy can claim as well, but Sadler’s Joy hasn’t run a good race but once in his last 15 starts.

Spooky Channel CAN NOT be ignored here, opening at 15/1. Victorious at 36 to 1 for our benefit in the McKnight Stakes in January, he rebounded off two poor efforts to post the 8/1 upset last time out at the end of May. Leparoux was up for both. This gelding is bred to run all day and has won at distances ranging from a mile to a mile and seven-eighths. With eight wins in 15 starts he may be ignored compared to others as he ships in from Kentucky and that may be a mistake we can capitalize on.

Instilled Regard, the 2/1 starting favorite, rounds out the contenders for any and all wagers we make involving this race. Certainly he can win, but the profit from him doing so is much less than any of the other three. His best effort came when third in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Turf in January when he got within a length of the lead at the top of the stretch before being out finished, but his last race was very good when holding off Devamani by a neck on the wire at nine furlongs on the grass. Making his second start off a short rest, the same or better could be forthcoming.

Bets:
Win: Rockemperor and Devamani at 2 to 1 or more.
For a smaller amount, there’s no doubt in my mind Spooky Channel can be bet to win at 4 to 1 or more.

When making multiple win bets, use a “Dutching” tool to do the work of allocating your wagering dollars for the best edge. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exactas:
Rockemperor and Devamani over Rockemperor, Devamani, Instilled Regard and Spooky Channel
Rockemperor, Devamani, Instilled Regard and Spooky Channel over Rockemperor and Devamani

Trifectas:
Rockemperor and Devamani over Rockemperor, Devamani, Instilled Regard and Spooky Channel over Rockemperor, Devamani, Instilled Regard and Spooky Channel.

Rockemperor and Devamani over Rockemperor, Devamani, Instilled Regard and Spooky Channel over ALL.