Belmont Oaks Invitational – Race 7 at Belmont – Post Time 4:06 PM Eastern

Santa Barbara is a legitimate favorite coming off a tremendous effort beaten a neck in a head bob in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at the end of June. That being said, the two other European invaders, Cirona and Nazuna, open at 12/1 and 20/1 and based on the fact people like to bet U.S. based horses over obviously more classy Europeans much of the time, the potential for profit even in exactas, plus doubles and pick 3’s, from either of those two fillies running well, makes this a very playable race. No matter how good Aiden O’Brien (who trains Santa Barbara) is, the fact is his record with all North American Starters over the last five years is SIX for ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN. Santa Barbara is just one for four in her career but the neck loss just 13 days ago was a winning effort as she earned a very strong 117 Equibase figure. However (again), Cirona earned the same 117 figure in May when missing by the same narrow margin in the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary and even her 10th place effort next out in the French Oaks (with a 118 figure) gives her every chance to win here. Nazuna finished second in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes last September then a poor 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf but rebounded big time one month ago when second in the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes and trainer Varian won the 2018 E.P. Taylor Stakes with a shipper like this one so with John V riding her 20/1 odds are out of line. Even though the 113 figure earned is short compared to the other two, this being her second start of the year and off a seven month layoff means she can improve and has potential to upset or at least to fill out a decent exacta under the prohibitive favorite.

Handicapper Picks

Win bet: Small (perhaps $10) win bets on BOTH Cirona and on Nazuna at odds of 5 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. A Dutching tool lets you set the amount you want to bet or the amount you want to win, then based on the odds your bets are proportioned accordingly. Amwager has a great dutching tool available, among many other great features.

Exacta:

Box Cirona, Nazuna and Santa Barbara

Box Santa Barbara and Cirona

Box Santa Barbara and Nazuna

Santa Barbara over Cirona and Nazuna

The main plays will be in Doubles and the Pick 3

Doubles: (leaving off the favorite-favorite combinations for lack of value)

Race 7: Santa Barbara

Race 8: Bella Sofia, Ova Charged

Race 7: Santa Barbara

Race 8: Ova Charged

Race 7: ALL (just for a couple of dollars)

Race 8: Ova Charged

Race 7: Cirona, Nazuna

Race 8: Bella Sofia, Miss Brazil, Ova Charged, Australasia

Pick 3: (three plays, again trying to maximize value and ignore the combinations with the heavy favorites in races 7 and 9 with the favorites in race 8)

Race 7: Santa Barbara

Race 8: Bella Sofia, Ova Charged

Race 9: Bolshoi Ballet

Race 7: Santa Barbara

Race 8: Bella Sofia, Miss Brazil, Ova Charged, Australasia

Race 9: Du Jour, Hard Love, Tokyo Gold

Race 7: Cirona, Nazuna

Race 8: Bella Sofia, Miss Brazil, Ova Charged, Australasia

Race 9: Bolshoi Ballet, Du Jour, Hard Love, Tokyo Gold

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Victory Ride Stakes – Race 8 at Belmont – Post Time 4:38 PM Eastern

Ova Charged would be an absolute GIFT anywhere near her outrageously high 10/1 morning line odds given she won both her starts by a combined 17 lengths and in the second of the two earned a 105 Equibase Figure AS GOOD AS the 107 figure 2/1 starting favorite Australasia earned in the Jersey Girl Stakes last month. Ova Charged is by Louisiana Superstar Star Guitar, who has produced horses which have won OPEN stakes, most notable Minit to Stardom, who earned over a half-million including when winning the 2019 Honorable Miss Stakes at Saratoga and finishing second in the 2019 Gallant Bloom Stakes, for these connections (owner Brittlyn Stables and trainer Camejo). The fact Saez, who has never ridden, gets off stakes placed Bella Sofia to ride says a lot and the filly’s pace/speed figure combination of 90/105 tells me she doesn’t need the lead to win but if she gets the lead may not stop.

Australasia, Bella Sofia and Miss Brazil finished first, second and third, respectively, in the Jersey Girl, with Miss Brazil the 4 to 5 favorite that day, Bella Sofia at 3 to 1 and Australasia at 4 to 1. These three are inseparable in terms of probability here and there is no reason the latter two can’t turn the tables on the winner as that was a career best effort for all three. Of the three only Bella Sofia (4/1) has morning line odds which may warrant a win bet if they hold up, but I’m very confident Ova Charged is the horse to beat and even if she ends up second to one of the three the exacta will pay nicely.

Handicapper Picks

Win bet: Ova Charged at odds of 2/1 or higher.

Exacta: Because I expect to make a win bet on Ova Charged the play is the “exacta as a place bet play” as follows:

Bella Sofia, Miss Brazil and Australasia over Ova Charged

Doubles: If you played the pick 3s starting in race 7 it’s highly likely you’re still live to many horses in the next race. If not:

Race 8: Bella Sofia, Miss Brazil, Ova Charged, Australasia

Race 9: Du Jour, Hard Love, Tokyo Gold

Race 8: Bella Sofia, Ova Charged

Race 9: Bolshoi Ballet

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Belmont Derby Invitational – Race 9 at Belmont Park – Post Time 5:12 PM Eastern

Bolshoi Ballet opens as the 7 to 5 favorite. I’m not sold on him having a 40% probability to win in this field. I can’t toss him completely so as noted in doubles and pick 3’s started earlier I am using him but only with decent odds horses, not favorites. The same goes for this race, in which I think Tokyo Gold (who opens at 15/1) has as much probability to win, with Hard Love and Du Jour not too far afield in terms of probability.

Tokyo Gold had a fairly good two year old campaign when winning the second and third starts of his career last summer, the latter of the two in a listed stakes. Finishing off his two year old season, Tokyo Gold was beaten more than 20 lengths in a group three race but that was run on heavy ground which he did not care for one bit. Returning for his sophomore season in March, Tokyo Gold finished second in a listed stakes before a fourth of nine finish in the Prix Noailles Stakes. His “light bulb” moment came in the Italian Derby on May 23 when, after racing in the back of the pack for most of the race, Tokyo Gold took to the middle of the track and accelerated strongly to win by four lengths, eased up at the finish. The acceleration shown when given his cue in the Italian Derby showed Tokyo Gold had come of age and the pattern of improving Equibase Speed Figures this year (97, 105 then 107) suggests Tokyo Gold is the one to beat in this year’s Belmont Derby Invitational, particularly as he is shortening up in distance from one mile and three-eighths to one mile and one-quarter and gets John Velazquez to ride.

Bolshoi Ballet was sent to post as the fairly heavy favorite in the Epsom Derby last month on the strength of his six length win one month earlier in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial but checked in seventh. The reason for the poor effort was revealed as soon as the colt returned to be unsaddled as it was discovered he had sustained a cut to his hind leg in the early portions of the race. Prior to the Derby Trial, Bolshoi Ballet won the Ballysax Stakes rather easily in his three year old debut and following six months off. Earning a 106 figure in the Ballysax before a new career-best 113 figure in the Derby Trial, it wouldn’t be a leap to assume the colt would have improved again in the Epsom Derby if not for the injury and so if he returns to the form shown in those two earlier wins, both at the mile and one-quarter distance of the Belmont Derby, Bolshoi Ballet could provide us with a thrilling battle with Tokyo Gold in this race.

Hard Love is an improving colt who has potential to post the minor upset if he continues his pattern of improvement he began in April after returning from five months off. After winning his career debut last fall, Hard Love improved to a 102 figure effort when second in the Central Park Stakes then following the layoff won the Woodhaven Stakes in April with a 99 figure. Flattered when the runner-up won his next start, Hard Love entered an allowance race over this turf course to prepare for the Belmont Derby and although not a stakes race it must be noted he was only one of two horses in the 12 horse field which were three year olds, the rest being older horses. Improving markedly to a 105 figure winning that race, if Hard Love can take a similar step forward by six points into the 111 range he could run as well as either Bolshoi Ballet and Tokyo Gold and as such may have a legitimate shot to win this year’s Belmont Derby Invitational.

Another improving colt is Du Jour, who has won three races in a row. The pattern of improvement from 84 to 99 to 103 in terms of his Equibase Speed Figures shows a horse which is getting physically and mentally stronger as the season goes on. Du Jour earned his most recent win in the American Turf Stakes on Kentucky Derby day and prevailed nicely in a field of 14. Now in the hands of Hall-of-Fame trainer Bill Mott and retaining the services of jockey Flavien Prat, who has been in the saddle for all three of the colt’s wins, Du Jour has to be a horse we consider when wagering on this race.

Handicapper Picks

Win bets: Tokyo Gold at 3 to 1 or more.

Exactas:

Box Tokyo Gold and Bolshoi Ballet

Box Tokyo Gold and Du Jour

Box Tokyo Gold and Hard Love

Box Du Jour and Bolshoi Ballet

Box Du Jour and Hard Love

(There’s ZERO value in any exacta tickets using both Bolshoi Ballet and Hard Love)