Acorn Stakes – Race 4 at Belmont Park – Post Time 1:24 PM Eastern
Talk Veuve to Me doesn’t have Mia Mischief to hold her off in the stretch this time as happened last month in the Eight Belles Stakes, but this filly who is making ONLY the 4th start of her career and 2nd of the year following 7 months off has a lot of upside out of that race. She earned a 103 figure in her 3 year old debut then 107 in the Eight Belles and those numbers match up with the figures Monomoy Girl earned in the Rachel Alexandra and Ashland Stakes before a freakishly good 114 figure in the Kentucky Oaks. With Talk Veuve to Me likely to run even better in her 3rd start off the rest I think she can put in an effort good enough to beat Monomoy Girl, who I have a lot of respect for but don’t want to bet her to win as the odds on favorite instead of getting 9/2 which is the morning line on Talk Veuve to Me.
Monomoy Girl needs no talking up, because if not for the neck defeat in the Golden Rod Stakes last fall she’d be undefeated in seven starts. She MUST be considered a win contender for exactas and multi-race wagers at the least.
Spectator won the first two starts of her career last summer like a good thing in California including the G2 Sorrento Stakes then finished 3rd in the Del Mar Debutante. Given time off to mature and grow up she returned in March and won a sprint prep then stretched out to a mile and one-sixteenth around two turns and although no match for Midnight Bisou in the Santa Anita Oaks she was clearly second. She’s been working regularly and her comeback win earned her a 108 figure on part with the other two so opening at 8/1 I have no issue betting her to win in addition to Talk Veuve to Me.
Win Bets: Talk Veuve to Me to win at odds of 2 to 1 or more.
Make a second win bet, on Spectator, at odds of 4 to 1 or more.
Exacta Bets: Box Talk Veuve to Me, Monomoy Girl and Spectator
Manhattan Stakes – Race 10 at Belmont – Post Time 5:40 PM Eastern
After a few minutes of looking at the entrants in this race, I quickly came to the conclusion that with a few exceptions nearly every horse in the field can win. Even those that have a small probability to win can finish second. Because this is a “Chaos” race where nearly anything can happen, I starting to ask “Why Not?” regarding the contenders, starting with those at the highest odds, rather than “Why?” The result was finding two horses at high odds I could not make a strong case against.
Those two are Manitoulin and Fashion Business.
Manitoulin has won 5 of 15 turf races and nearly $400K. He won the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup in his last start as a four year old this past November, with Mike Smith in the saddle for the very first time. He was 1 for 11 before being gelded and 3 for 5 after being gelded last year. He returned to the races in May off a five and one-half month layoff, beaten three lengths while 6th of 9 in the Fort Marcy, won by Robert Bruce, with Spring Quality second. Smith did not ride in the comeback but gets back on and that is the key, as the comeback was just that, a comeback. Today is the big shot and trainer Toner wants the jockey that got the horse to run his absolute best, which he did because in the Turf Cup Manitoulin earned a 116 Equibase figures which is about as good as any horse in the field, most who open at much lower odds than 20/1 as he does.
Fashion Business opens at even higher odds, 30/1, and that makes a bit more sense as the gelding has never won a stakes. He did miss by a head last summer in the G3 La Jolla Stakes before a 5th place finish in the Del Mar Derby and 8 months off. Coming back last month at a mile, Fashion Business rallied fast from 8th to draw off with a career best 111 figure effort. Likely to improve a ton 2nd off the layoff, the gelding is a 4 year old son of world class sire Frankel and he does have a win at 10 furlongs, the 2nd start of his career, back in January 2017, so I think he is going to surprise a LOT of people with how well he runs.
Robert Bruce, One Go All Go, Hi Happy, #8 Sadler’s Joy, Channel Maker, Beach Patrol, #12 Multiplier & Spring Quality all have a shot to succeed and should be used on multiple race bets like the double, pick 3 and pick 4.
Win Bets: Win & Place bets on Manitoulin at 4 to 1 or more and on Fashion Business at 5 to 1 or more.
Exacta Bets: Manitoulin and Fashion Business over ALL
Then the opposite exacta as well, which is ALL over Manitoulin and Fashion Business.
Doubles: Manitoulin and Fashion Business in Race 10 with ALL in Race 11
Then also ALL in race 10 with Hofburg in Race 11
For a smaller amount, also play ALL in race 10 with Blended Citizen and Vino Rosso in Race 11.
Honeymoon Stakes – Race 8 at Santa Anita – Post Time 6:30 PM Eastern/ 3:30 Pacific
Animosity was entered in this race as well as the Grade 3 Wonder Again Stakes on Friday at Belmont, which ended up being won by an up and coming star in La Signare, whose name we should remember. It was a good decision on the part of owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and trainer Gallagher, as this field isn’t nearly as strong as the Wonder Again. A perfect 2-for-2 in her career, this daughter of Animal Kingdom won her debut sprinting on turf in March then stretched out to two turns on all-weather at Golden Gate to romp easily. She won the debut off the pace and led from finish on slow fractions in her 2nd start. She’s improving fast, is very talented, and can post the slight upset here opening at 6/1.
Animosity’s main competition will come in the form of Fatale Bere, winner of the Grade 3 Providencia Stakes when last seen two months ago. She had won the Surfer Girl Stakes in her U.S. debut last October then finished a creditable 5th of 14 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. After a really poor effort in the Jimmy Durante Stakes she took four and one-half months off and won the Providencia, no easy task. She put in a pair of strong half-mile workouts since the race so appears to be holding top form.
Ms Peintour, like Animosity, was a strong winner at the first allowance condition in her most recent race, earning a 95 Equibase figure on par with the 97 Animosity earned in her last win. Flattered when the runner-up improved to win her next start, Ms Peintour is the other horse in the field with a reasonable chance to win.
For second on some exacta tickets we should also use Miss Sienna, who makes her U.S. debut and may be on the lead early or just off the pace as that is how she ran her last two races, and Paved, a bit vulnerable as one of the morning line favorites off a non-threatening third place finish in the Providencia behind Fatale Bere with no excuse as the 7 to 5 favorite.
Win Bets: Animosity to win at odds of 5 to 2 or higher.
Exacta Bets: Animosity, Ms Peintour and Fatale Bere over Animosity, Ms Peintour, Fatale Bere, Miss Sienna and Paved
Belmont Stakes – Race 11 at Belmont Park – Post Time 6:46 PM Eastern
In the Kentucky Derby and when confronted by traffic and trouble he had never encountered previously, Hofburg ran creditably, rallying from 16th to seventh in spite of being bumped at the start, steadied in traffic off another horse’s heels, steadied again and forced to alter his path. Since then Hofburg has been training in the quiet surroundings at Saratoga and should improve off his Florida Derby effort and 107 figure, which compares to the 108 to 110 figures Justify has earned 108 to 110 figures in his last three races. Considering how many fewer horses Hofburg will have to deal with and considering as it will not take much improvement on the part of Hofburg to run well enough to win the Belmont, he’s my top choice. Additionally, any concerns about being able to successfully run the mile and one-half distance of the Belmont can quickly be put to rest looking at Hofburg’s pedigree and connections. Trainer Mott won the 2010 Belmont with Drosselmeyer while sons of his sire, Tapit – Tonalist (2014), Creator (2016) and Tapwrit (2017), won three of the last four editions of the race. Belmont Stakes winners in his pedigree do not stop there, as the sire of Hofburg’s dam Soothing Touch is Touch Gold, who won the race in 1997. With 10 fewer horses to deal with in the Belmont compared to the Derby and with likely improvement off his Florida Derby effort, Hofburg is my pick to win this year’s Belmont Stakes.
Vino Rosso finished ninth in the Derby, skipped the Preakness, and is another poised to improve on his effort prior to the Derby, in this case when winning the Wood Memorial with a career-best 106 figure. In the Derby, Vino Rosso broke last in the field of 20 at the start but ended up ninth, so with 10 fewer horses to pass in the Belmont he should run much better. Taking a few weeks off after the Derby, Vino Rosso returned to trainer Todd Pletcher’s home base in New York and put in a sparkling half-mile workout that was the best of 36 on the day to show he is in top form. In terms of pedigree, there is little doubt Vino Rosso can successfully run a mile and one-half. As a son of Curlin, whose son Palace Malice won the Belmont in 2013 (for Pletcher), and out of a mare whose sire is Tapit, Vino Rosso should have the stamina to contest the marathon distance without issue and therefore he is a strong candidate to run well enough to win.
Blended Citizen may not have the breeding for the 12 furlong Belmont trip others have but has a good number of factors in favor of running well. Since adding blinkers prior to the Jeff Ruby Steaks in March, Blended Citizen has won two of three races, including the Peter Pan Stakes four weeks ago with a career-best 110 figure that is as good as the best figure Justify has earned to date. Since shipping to Belmont Park a few weeks ago, Blended Citizen showed a strong liking for the surface with a half-mile workout that was the best of 35 on the day. Furthermore, in recent history horses coming back from running in the stakes race for three-year-olds at Belmont in the first 10 days of May have done well one month later. In 2010, that race was the Dwyer Stakes which was won by eventual Belmont winner Drosselmeyer (trained by Hofburg’s trainer Bill Mott). In 2014 that race was the Peter Pan Stakes, won by eventual Belmont winner Tonalist. In the Peter Pan, Blended Citizen showed he could race much closer to the early pace than previously thought as he was under two lengths from the leader from just after the start until a quarter mile to run. Although three lengths back with an eighth of a mile to go, Blended Citizen put in a strong late run to draw off late and that running style could serve him very well in the Belmont Stakes if he races in third or fourth in the early stages.
Anytime a horse is undefeated that is a reason to respect them as it shows not only physical talent but mental toughness and an alpha quality as well. Justify has demonstrated all that and then some in winning all five of his races to date and within a span of 13 weeks. After earning a career-best 110 figure in the Derby, Justify only slightly regressed with a 109 figure effort in the Preakness on a rain-soaked track but in that race he did show evidence of racing a lot in a short period of time as Bravazo was gaining with every stride in the final yards, the word “lasted” in the chart callers comment very apropos to the end of the race. Since the Preakness, Justify put in a very fast half-mile workout that was the best of 43 on the day so evidently he is still in top shape, but running the mile and one-half of the Belmont is a whole different matter compared to the Derby and to the Preakness. The good news for Justify’s chances of winning the Belmont and the Triple Crown is he may be able to dictate the tempo in the race as it is likely jockey Mike Smith will use the colt’s early speed to be in front at the start or at the least, in second shortly after the gate opens. Additionally, trainer Bob Baffert is a master at getting a horse to hold his form as a query from Stats Race Lens yields a remarkable record of 43 for 93 for Baffert in dirt route races over the last few years when his horse won its previous start. On the other hand, I can find little in Justify’s pedigree similar to the pedigree of either Hofburg or Vino Rosso in terms of siblings, sires or other relatives who have run well at the distance of the Belmont. Horses have won the Belmont in the past on raw talent alone and that may be the case with Justify, who I will be rooting for in my heart but betting against with my money.
Bravazo raced fairly close up when third in the early stages of the Preakness then dropped back to fifth on the turn, giving every indication he had nothing left to offer. Maybe it was the mud in his face or some other factor that caused him to lose interest or momentum, but with a sixteenth of a mile to go, Bravazo found new life and energy, surging in the final yards to miss by a half-length. As I had explained in my Preakness analysis, with 12 fewer horses in the Preakness compared to the Derby, I felt Bravazo would rebound to the form shown when winning the Risen Star Stakes in February with a career-best 110 figure and he nearly did, earning a 108 figure. Since the Preakness, four-time Belmont winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas put Bravazo through a mile workout in preparation for the race, knowing if nothing else he wanted the colt to have the stamina to contest the mile and one-half. Likely to be fairly close up to the early pacesetters in the Belmont, Bravazo should be putting in a strong late run just as others are feeling the effects of running a distance they have never run previously and that gives the colt a square shot at posting the upset win.
Tenfold, like Hofburg, has only run four times. His best effort came three weeks ago when rallying for third in the Preakness to earn a career-best 108 figure. As a son of Curlin, who not only sired 2013 Belmont winner Palace Malice but also 2017 Belmont runner-up Irish War Cry and 2016 Rags to Riches Invitational Stakes winner Theogony, and as a grandson of Tapit, there is little doubt Tenfold has the breeding to run well at the distance. There certainly is room to improve off his Preakness effort so on that count Tenfold must be considered a contender. On the other hand, with the exception of American Pharoah, recent Preakness runners who have run in the Belmont haven’t fared that well, most notably 2014 Preakness winner California Chrome (fourth) and 2013 winner Oxbow (second). It just could be coming back on three weeks rest is too much to ask a young horse, but then again Tenfold could have gas left in the tank as he only ran three times prior to the Preakness and if that is the case he could certainly be in the hunt in the final stages of the Belmont.
Win Bets: Hofburg to win at 3 to 1 or more.
For a smaller amount, Blended Citizen and Vino Rosso at 5 to 1 or more.
Just to complete the contenders and the minimum odds I would consider a win bet – Bravazo 7 to 1, Tenfold 9/1.
Justify is a win contender but his likely prohibitive odds make him a poor win bet.
The strategy for exactas is mostly “go big or go home” so the tickets will be constructed to exclude Justify in the win position. However, for ANY multi-race bets started in earlier races he must be used because pick 3, 4 and similar tickets demand a different strategy.
Exacta Bets: Box Hofburg, Vino Rosso, Blended Citizen, Bravazo and Tenfold.
Also play Hofburg, Vino Rosso and Blended Citizen over Justify, Hofburg, Vino Rosso, Blended Citizen, Bravazo and Tenfold.