It's Kentucky Derby Day next Saturday. That is a massive day at venues all over North America. As a result, tracks are keeping their stakes powder dry, hosting their better events when they get bigger crowds and higher mutual turnover. That means this weekend's Stateside Preview is the pick of the action from Belmont Park, which opened its gates for the first time in 2016 this weekend.
There are some nice events previewed including a cracking stake. The Elusive Quality, a seven furlong turf event sees the reappearance of Green Mask. He was a close up third at last year's Breeders' Cup and has racked up some air miles running in Group 1's in Dubai and Hong Kong. This is his seasonal reappearance and he meets some talented rivals. Last year's winner Mosler is one in what should be a good betting event.
PAUL'S ANALYSIS FROM Belmont Park races 3 to 8
Saturday 30 April 2016
Belmont Park Race 3 (7.32pm)
Claiming $40,000 - Fillies and Mares - 3 year olds and upwards - Non winners of 2 races lifetime - 7 Furlongs - Turf
Sweet Corinna (9) improved second time back and returning to claiming company. She ran a half a length second here earlier this month. That was over an extended mile where she was outfinished. She looks the type who is well worth a try over seven furlongs. Doukas (5) finished under two lengths behind Sweet Corinna last time. She too has shown plenty of pace routing and the same move is likely to suit her too.
Undertherain (3) looks the one to catch here. Her rider went too fast building up a seven length lead in a starter event at Gulfstream on her return. She is of interest cutting back in distance and dropping in class. The slight worry is she can be headstrong and has failed to last over this trip in the past. A lot may depend on if she gets pace pressure or relaxes on the lead.
Tent City (4) is The X Factor here. She won her only start at Monmouth in September. Her trainer has a fine record with comebackers and she's realistically spotted back in claiming company.
Barn mates Hatta's Appeal (6) and Aussie Prayer (6) have contending form but lack a race this year. Both have been working well.
Sweet Corinna (9)
Combination Exacta (6 bets): Undertherain (3), Doukas (5) and Sweet Corinna (9)
Belmont Park Race 4 (8.04pm)
Maiden Special Weight - New York bred fillies and mares - 3 year olds and upwards -6 ½ Furlongs - Dirt
Super Allison (5) looks the gal to beat here. She's looked much improved since she returned this year. That may have coincided with her running in blinkers. She may have gone very close in both events but for breaking badly. Her trainer now leaves the headgear off. Two fast workouts from the gate lately suggest her starting issues may have been cured. Low percentage but capable jockey Jacqueline Davis now takes the ride so she may be a better price than she might have been.
The pacey True Charm (9) who ran second showing improved form earlier this month has claims. Maybe a bigger danger is newcomer Cheering For Al (2). She was prepared in Florida and her trainer Rudy Rodriguez has been money-in-the-bank with firsters for some time now. Fellow Diamonds Please (8) has a fine pedigree and a market move for her would be interesting.
Lady In Shades (1) shaped well a couple of times last year and her trainer can bring them back fit. Picco Uno (6) shaped well on her debut in March.
Super Allison (5)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Cheering For Al (2) and Super Allison (5)
Belmont Park Race 5 (8.36pm)
Allowance (entry level) - New York bred 3 year olds and upwards - 6 Furlongs - Turf
Wicked Freud (6) is just about the pick on form here. He ran second at this level last October and then was outfinished over a mile a month later. He may be vulnerable first time back in 2016 and there are a couple of race fit rivals who are worth a look.
Gran The Man (2) had looked a bridesmaid until winning a claimer at Gulfstream in March. That was his first start since being claimed by Jason Service. That was over five furlongs. His stamina has been tested in the past when he's tried this distance but may be a better horse now. He's likely to be sent for the lead along with Bajan Summer (3) who gets back on the surface he's won both his races on.
Unlike his two main rivals, Black Tide (7) has no fitness or distance worries. He shaped well at this level on dirt second time back last month. He's just as good on turf. He ran a fine second in a similar event at Saratoga in August after he won a starter over course and distance.
Black Tide (7)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Gran The Man (2) and Black Tide (7)
Belmont Park Race 6 (9.09pm)
Maiden Claiming $50,000 - 3 year olds and upwards - 6 Furlongs - Dirt
Despite making his second start well over a year after his debut, there's likely to be a short priced favourite here. Vandalize (1) was a fine third in a maiden special weight at Gulfstream on debut in February 2015. That was over a one turn mile. Todd Pletcher now runs for sale for $50,000 and shortens up to six furlongs. The good news is his trainer's fine record with long term returnees and a fine work tab in Florida.
Vandalize will be a short price and doesn't have to win this race. The types worth a look are a trio who run first time for sale and some interesting debutants. Porch Pounder (2), Heliodoro (11) and Tricky Citizen (4) are in the former category. The first named has been showing speed. Heliodoro is back at the track he ran a personal best at and has worked well lately. Tricky Citizen has looked a work in progress and runs first time as gelding.
Policy Portfolio (5), Cornedbeefncabbage (9) and Do Share (6) are newcomers who could be dangerous. The latter has been prepared on the farm and the booking of Irad Ortiz Jr. catches the eye.
Belmont Park Race 7 (9.41pm)
Allowance (entry level) - 3 year olds and upwards - 1 1/16 Miles - Dirt
It will be interesting to see what price Rally Cry (4) goes off at. The three year old faded in The Grade 3 Gotham last time. He does drop in class here but that is somewhat negated by facing his elders for the first time. Slight preference is for Bellamy Way (2). He was a well held second behind a wire to wire winner last time at Aqueduct over a one turn mile. Waymond Boyd (7) was almost two lengths back in third, just ahead of Sea Raven(6). Bellamy Way may be at his very best over two turns but he has a victory at Belmont and has run well over one turn before.
Depending in how Rally Cry is ridden, Groupthink (1) may make the lead here. He's a talented New York bred at his best. He has a chance at a price along with Saratoga Wildcat (3). He's looked much improved since a claim by Rudy Rodriguez.
Bellamy Way (2)
Belmont Park Race 8 (10.13pm)
The Elusive Quality - A stake for 4 year olds and upwards - 7 Furlongs - Turf
Last year's two length winner Mosler (1) is back to defend his title. That was his career best effort but it did come off a two month freshening and now he has a lay off from September to defy. A Lot (3) has had a run this year. He's only tried seven furlongs once and that resulted in a stakes victory here last May. He has joined trainer Chad Brown since his comeback. He looks a really interesting proposition here.
The class horse of this event is Green Mask (5). He ran a close third at The Breeders' Cup before having a troubled preparation before a run in a Group 1 in Hong Kong. He's not won a race since taking a stake over course and distance in 2014. Wes Ward has him working well at Keeneland for his return.
Aztec Brave (12) has the class to contend here. The slight worry is whether he wants two turns these days. That may also be the case with talented New York bred King Kreesa (2). He makes his 2016 return here. In similar circumstances in last year's event, he finished three plus lengths in arrears of Mosler (1).
Bye Bye Bernie (4) is the only runner in this event who's had a race in the last couple of months. That was when a staying on fifth to Royal Ascot Group 1 winner Undrafted at Keeneland.
A Lot (3)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): A Lot (3) and Bye Bye Bernie (4)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): A Lot (3) and Green Mask (5)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): A Lot (3) and Aztec Brave (12)