It's a big day for New York breds at Belmont on Saturday. There are eight stakes races over a variety of distances and surfaces. Although the two juvenile events look possibly weak renewals, many of the contenders in the other races wouldn't look out of place in graded events. In fact there is more than a spattering of top class form to go on.
As well as the stakes in The Big Apple, there's also a very competitive Grade 2 at Keeneland in the preview below.
PAUL'S ANALYSIS FROM Belmont Park and Keeneland
Saturday 22 October 2016
Belmont Park Race 3 (6.28pm)
The Iroquois - A Stake for New York bred fillies and mares - 3 year olds and upwards - 6 ½ Furlongs - Dirt
Although not a contender on two starts since a trainer change, Court Dancer (2) may be the key gal in here. In stake at Saratoga in August, she missed the break and Hot City Girl (1) got an easy lead. She went wire to wire and beat Quezon (3) almost two lengths. When the frontrunner had a pace partner in July, the stalker/closer came out best. Court Dancer has since shown bright speed when coming out on terms at Finger Lakes.
Belmont Park Race 4 (7.01pm)
The Hudson Handicap - A Stake for New York bred 3 year olds and upwards - 6 ½ Furlongs - Dirt
Weekend Hideaway (2) is difficult to get away from at a short price. He gets major class relief after a fine third in The Grade 1 Vosburgh here earlier this month. That race may have been a slightly substandard renewal with a key scratching and a couple of the favourites running poorly but it was still top form in the context of this event. He beat Ostrolenka (5) and Drama King (1) at Saratoga in August. Prior to that, he had finished just behind Ostrolenka but seemed to be on the worse part of the racetrack that day.
Weekend Hideaway is likely to sit behind Finger Lakes invader Breakin The Fever (3). That frontrunner won eight times at his home venue in 2015. He hasn't lost in four races there this year including a pair of stakes. He meets better competition here but lone speed is always a playable angle.
Weekend Hideaway (2)
Belmont Park Race 5 (7.34pm)
The Maid of the Mist - A Stake for New York bred 2 year old fillies - 1 Mile - Dirt
The turf bred Iron Mizz (1) started her career off on the grass but has run two nice races since being tried on dirt. She won a stake at Saratoga before running third in a better one here over seven furlongs. The extra furlong here should suit but she meets a host of last time maiden breakers, some of whom have ran as fast as her.
Bonita Bianca (9) was hung wide and still managed to outfinish a field here on her career debut last month. Bearing in mind she was 10/1 that day, she is more likely to improve off that run than regress. As is usual, her trainer Rudy Rodriguez hits form in autumn and winter in New York.
Bree's Got Heart (3) has been freshened up after her open length maiden win second time out at Saratoga. Mo Promise (4) has form on turf and in the slop. If she handles a dry track, she could be good enough.
Bonita Bianca (9)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Iron Mizz (1) and Bonita Bianca (9)
Belmont Park Race 6 (8.07pm)
The Mohawk - A Stake for New York bred 3 year olds and upwards - 1 1/16 Miles - Turf
King Kreesa (9), Kharafa (1) and Lubash (7) have been regular opponents in these races for a few years now. The last named seems to have lost a step at the age of nine but the other two are still players along with new faces this year Offering Plan (6) and Tapitation (8).
There has been little between the contending quartet off two similar events at Saratoga and here at Belmont. The first was won by King Kreesa who set slow fractions. In the latest, which was more of a test of stamina on good ground Kharafa won by less than a length from the late running pair of Offering Plan and Tapitation.
The pace here should at least be fair with Brother O'connell (5) and Macagone (2) probably joined by stretch out sprinter Latigo Trail (4). King Kreesa is effective as a stalker but he may go a length or two quicker than ideal in chase mode.
Offering Plan (6) gets a tepid vote with the if in doubt in a turf event, go for trainer Chad Brown.
Offering Plan (6)
Belmont Park Race 7 (8.40pm)
The Sleepy Hollow - A Stake for New York bred 2 year olds - 1 Mile - Dirt
Gold For The King (4) beat Macho Miah (6) and Eddie's Gift (1) easily in a similar event over six furlongs at Finger Lakes. He's an obvious player here but this looks a deeper stake. Pat On The Back (8) and Haul Anchor (2) dead heated for second over seven furlongs here. Both should handle the extra ground.
Tellmeafookystory (10) had finished behind a couple of these in maidens this summer. He was switched to Todd Pletcher and stepped up to a mile first time for him. The result was a tight maiden breaker but he earned a speed figure that makes him competitive. So was that of Runaway Lute (7) when he slammed a stakes field here in July. He ran too bad to be true in The Grade 1 Hopeful since. He's been freshened up Javier Castellano who was aboard in both victories is reunited with him.
Hamptons Holiday (3) looked much improved in blinkers first time, breaking his maiden. Barn mate Mission Command (5) has showed decent form and he now runs in the headgear. It will be no surprise if the shades work the oracle.
Mission Command (5)
Belmont Park Race 8 (9.13pm)
The Empire Distaff Handicap - A Stake for New York bred fillies and mares - 3 year olds and upwards - 1 1/16 Miles - Dirt
Jules N Rome (5) won a similar stake running first time for Rudy Rodriguez at Saratoga in August. She was a length and a half clear of the pacesetting Isabelle (3) with Jc's Shooting Star (7) and Literata (9) in fourth and fifth. The last named mare franked the form by winning next time. Jules N Rome won't be inconvenienced by cutting back to one turn but she does meet a trio talented rivals.
Bar Of Gold (1) has been placed in a couple of graded events since winning a stake for New York breds over a mile here. She is a player here along with defending champion Wonder Gal (2). She bounced like a rubber ball second time back after a career best following a near seven month absence. She worked well last week and may be worth chancing.
The three year olds are well represented here. The best of them appears to be Super Surprise (8). She's much improved and on a four timer. At Saratoga in August she won stake by four lengths. She had next time out winner Highway Star (6) back in third and Mecke's Madalyn (4) in fourth. She's only had half a dozen starts and there may be better to come.
Wonder Gal (2)
Belmont Park Race 9 (9.46pm)
The Ticonderoga - A Stake for New York bred fillies and mares - 3 year olds and upwards - 1 1/16 Miles - Turf
Trainer Chad Brown is not nearly as dominant in state bred turf stakes as he is open ones on this circuit but he still wins his share. His Fourstar Crook (12) will be a short price here despite a tricky, wide draw. She broke her maiden just over a year ago and is now on a seven timer. She's beaten most of these in back to back stakes. At Saratoga, Flipcup (2) and The Tea Cups (11) filled the places in a race that it paid to sit off the pace. Here last month, she had too much toe for The Tea Cups and Selenite (1) with Flipcup getting caught in traffic. That two length victory was her best effort to date.
Neck Of The Moon (5), a barn mate of Fourstar Crook has some fine back form but is hard to win with. Invading Humor (6) won this race last year but is winless so far this term. She ran better behind the favourite last time and may get clear of pace rival Old Harbor (10).
Fourstar Crook (12)
Belmont Park Race 10 (10.19pm)
The Empire Classic Handicap - A Stake for New York bred 3 year olds and upwards - 1 1/8 Miles - Dirt
Empire Dreams (9) won this race in 2015 getting the better of Royal Posse (6) by under a length. He didn't make his comeback until last month. He may improve off that but he's hardly a great preparation for this deep stake. Old rival Royal Posse has had another fine year. He won back to back stake at Saratoga and comes into this in by far the better form.
Royal Posse couldn't reel in Wake Up In Malibu (1) in his last race here in July. The five year old ran brilliantly that day as he did when wiring an allowance field earlier this month. He can stalk and win but his best efforts have come when he's on his lonesome on the front. He's probably quicker early than talented three year old Hit It Once More (5). He won back to back stakes for New York breds before being overmatched in The Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby.
Governor Malibu (2) may go off as favourite here. The dual Grade 2 runner up made a rare appearance against state breds here at the end of September. He slammed an overmatched field including Clifton Pleasure (8) by seven lengths. Take out the run when Arrogate freaked in The Grade 1 Travers and he's improved steadily all through his three year old season.
Royal Posse (6)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Wake Up In Malibu (1) and Royal Posse (6)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Governor Malibu (2) and Royal Posse (6)
Keeneland Race 9 (10.30pm)
The Lexus Raven Run (Grade 2) - 3 year old fillies - 7 Furlongs - Dirt
Lucy N Ethel (4) is unbeaten in four career races. She made it a hat-trick in a Grade 3 at Gulfstream back in January. Lack of a recent outing didn't stop her as he defied a lay off to win Saratoga's Grade 2 Prioress with a personal best last month. She won by half a length with barn mates Takrees (11) and Coniah (9) a further three back. The last named filly did the form no harm by winning next time. Lucy N Ethel tries seven furlongs for the first time. That would ordinarily not be a problem but she is likely to have company if she adopts her usual frontrunning role.
Curlin's Approval (8) has only lost once in four career starts. She was stepped up to stakes company at Gulfstream in August and won, running a speed figure that makes her a player here. She's continued to work well in Florida and her trainer has had plenty of success with his shippers in graded events. She along with Lucy N Ethel and Lightstream (12) are likely to head the market. She lost her unbeaten record when placed in The Grade 1 Mother Goose and followed that up with a close up second in The Grade 1 Test. She excels over seven furlongs. In April, she won a Grade 3 over today's course and distance. With the prospect of pace to chase down, she looks a big player here.
California invader Bellamentary (6) is cut back to a distance she was won both her starts at. She is interesting at a price. So too is Sophia's Song (10) who may go off at decent odds for a Todd Pletcher trained runner. She ran second at Saratoga in a swiftly run allowance event to a next time out winner. She ran third in The Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks behind Covey Trace (1) but ran way below her best. Maybe she didn't handle the bullring track. She is working well and over today's surface. At her best, she's a contender with a stalking trip.
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Sophia's Song (10) and Lightstream (12)