PAUL'S ANALYSIS FROM Belmont Park, Laurel Park and Woodbine
Saturday 23 September 2017
The pair of stakes at Belmont on Saturday are more about quality than quantity. The Noble Damsel (Grade 3) at 7.32pm sees a quartet of proven runners above this level and Chad Brown’s Off Limits. The former David Wachman trained mare may even go off favourite to win her first ever stake. That’s not the case with Sharp Azteca who is likely to be odds on to win The Grade 2 Kelso Handicap. He’s a class act and is likely to wire his five rivals, giving weight away in the process. His trainer Jorge Navarro is probably hoping his horse can do the talking after a controversial video of him and one of his owners became public recently. It has lead to the trainer’s horses being banned at certain racetracks.
There are two allowance events previewed below as well as the pair of stakes at Belmont. In addition a couple of races each from Woodbine (one stake) and Laurel are included.
Belmont Park Race 3 (7.32pm)
The Noble Damsel (Grade 3) – Fillies and Mares – 3 year olds and upwards – 1 Mile - Turf
It wouldn’t be stake on turf in New York without Chad Brown having a runner or three. The leading trainer in The Big Apple relies on Off Limits (5) here. The former David Wachman trained mare has looked much improved in her second year of racing Stateside. Only a neck defeat by the class dropping On Leave prevented her from winning a stake in July and being on a four timer today. A stakes victory will come sooner rather than later.
Off Limits does meet a trio of gals with Grade 1 form to their names, two of them are Grade 1 winners. Celestine (1) won at the highest level last year. She won her first two starts of 2017 before running below form in a Grade 1 over this course and distance in June. That was her first defeat in four tries on the turf at Belmont. Christophe Clement has freshened her up and she has a fine record first time back after a lay off. She has to avoid a speed duel with Sassy Little Lila (2) and Malibu Stacy (3). The first named was narrowly beaten in The Grade 1 Celestine ran poorly in here. Then she faded when taking on the boys in the Grade 1 won by subsequent Woodbine Mile winner World Approval.
A speed duel up front helps the chances of Off Limits and Time and Motion (4). She rounded out 2016 with a Grade 1 victory at Keeneland. She’s not won in three tries this term but hasn’t run that badly each time, particularly getting no pace to chase down. The daughter of Tapit has come good towards the end of the year both as a two and three year old. She gets a narrow vote in a tight event.
Time and Motion (4)
Belmont Park Race 6 (9.09pm)
Allowance (entry level) – 3 year olds and upwards – 6 Furlongs - Turf
For a sprint, there’s not a lot of early speed signed on here. That makes frontrunner Spectrolite (9) very dangerous. He’s much improved since trying turf and on a hat-trick after claiming and starter allowance victories. The first of those came over course and distance in July. Maybe Portando (12) can sit close enough to him and get first run on the closers. He won back to back starts in May and June, the second after trainer Linda Rice had claimed. She tried him over a mile for his hat-trick attempt. He didn’t run that badly considering he was bumped at the start and was well behind early on.
If the pace collapses there are a few who may take advantage. The lightly raced Somekindofmagician (4) finished a neck in front of Rate for Me (3) when they were second and fourth in a similar event at Saratoga last month. Trying to close from further back will be Runaway Posse (7), Whiskey Seven (2) and Lord of Love (8).
Reversed Exacta (2 Bets) Spectrolite (9) and Portando (12)
Woodbine Race 7 (9.22pm)
Allowance Optional Claiming - Fillies and Mares – 3 year olds and upwards – 6 ½ Furlongs - Tapeta
Bearsatlanticmist (4) is the form pick. She’s not run a bad one since high percentage trainer Norman McKnight claimed her in May. That includes a victory and two fine runs at today’s level. She’ll come from a few lengths off the pace and is vulnerable if anything can poach an advantage in the early or middle stages.
A few of these fillies are making the turf to synthetic move. Red Explosion (7) seemed to improve for the switch to the grass. Fresh Princess (8) and Tethra's Magic (2) both ran below form when behind Red Explosion last month. Prior to that on Tapeta, Fresh Princess won by four lengths and backed that up with a runner up in a stake. Tethra's Magic was a winner the last time she raced on synthetics in July. She worked swiftly over five furlongs last weekend.
Laurel Park Race 8 (9.40pm)
Allowance (split conditions) - Fillies and Mares – 3 year olds and upwards – 5 ½ Furlongs - Turf
After her upset victory at Saratoga last month Monavista Crossing (1) is without question to gal to beat. She managed to go all the way at The Spa on what was her belated four year old debut. Three weeks to recover may mean she avoids the dreaded bounce.
If Monavista Crossing runs to her Saratoga form, the rest are running form second. She could regress second time back and has a likely pace partner in the once raced Alexandra Rossi (9). She won by five lengths on debut at Penn National and now tries the turf. The surface is not an unknown for Southern Peach (3) and My Sistersledge (10). The first named has looked much improved since joining Dale Capuano. She outfinished a field to win a starter allowance event last month. My Sistersledge (10) looks to be out of form based on two starts in the summer but that may be misleading. She was parked behind a slow pace in a stake and her latest race was switched to the dirt. She has sprinted well in the past and it will be no surprise if she rebounds at a price.
Monavista Crossing (1)
Woodbine Race 8 (9.53pm)
The Vice Regent – A state bred stake for 3 year olds – 1 Mile - Turf
Mr Havercamp (2) won his first two career starts by an aggregate of a dozen lengths. His connections thought he was worth shipping to Saratoga for a Grade 3 next time. He was far from discredited in fifth after having a troubled trip. He looks the one to beat now dropping in class.
King and His Court (6) comes out The Canadian Triple Crown races. In the latest, he was third beaten half a length in The Breeders’ Stakes. That was over a mile and a half. He has a stakes victory over an extended mile for the cut back in distance may not be the disadvantage it first seems. He may find the concession of 5lbs to Mr Havercamp a big ask.
It may be big odds bar two here. Dragon's Cry (9) could be third favourite at 8 or 10/1. He is stepping up two furlongs after a victory under allowance conditions. Prior to that, he couldn’t quite reel in Katalox (1) in a state bred stake.
Silent Jimmie (8) lost to Signature Data (3) in a maiden on Tapeta in July. He looked much improved when trying the turf for the first time a month later, graduating by three lengths
Mr Havercamp (2)
Belmont Park Race 8 (10.17pm)
Allowance Optional Claiming – 3 year olds and upwards – 1 ¼ Miles - Turf
Gauguin (3) started off his career in France and Germany. He has run two fine races since moving Stateside. The four year has been runner up both times. In the latest, he finished well clear of the third Memories of Peter (4) and fourth Rapt (8). The latter gave the form a boost when narrowly missing next time out at Saratoga.
Gauguin can’t afford to get too far behind as there’s little speed in this race. Price backers may want to take a look at his old rival Memories of Peter (4) as he may be on a soft lead. He did seem to have no excuses when outfinished by the winner and Gauguin in July.
Aquaphobia (10) is more than a travelling companion to Divining Rod who runs in The Grade 2 Kelso. The Maryland invader is reunited with Danny Centeno. He was aboard when he won in June and when third in a stake a month later.
Focus Group (2) found a slowly run race against him when not running to his maiden winning form last time. This will be another chance for the up and coming Nik Juarez to shine in the saddle and for Chad Brown. Azar (5) has back class. His new trainer has gelded him since a claim last month.
Laurel Park Race 10 (10.40pm)
Starter Allowance – 3 year olds and upwards – 5 ½ Furlongs - Turf
Take out his last run and Billy the Bull (7) is a mile the best here. The 14 times career winner was claimed off a fine effort in defeat in July. He faded badly on his first start for his current trainer last month. The barn switch is a big issue when you are considering him at a short price. His run last time could easily be down to taking on a much better field than here; being involved in a speed duel or the yielding ground or all three. He should dominate this field from the start. It will be no surprise if he rebounds here.
Non believers in Billy the Bull will give a long look to Amblin Man (8) and Bluegrass Ball (9). The first named won an entry level allowance event at Parx the last time he raced on turf. Bluegrass Ball is on a hat-trick after claiming victories at Penn National and Presque Isle Downs.
Puturseatbelton (1) is likely rebound getting back on the turf.
Billy the Bull (7)
Belmont Park Race 9 (10.45pm)
The Kelso Handicap (Grade 2) - 3 year olds and upwards – 1 Mile - Dirt
Sharp Azteca (5) has to give weight all round but he’ll be hard to reel in despite that. He slammed an overmatched field in a Grade 3 at Monmouth over an extended mile last time out in July. His form over one turn is at least as strong. He’s run with credit in Grade 1’s and had old rival Tommy Macho (2) back in third when winning a Grade 2 over a mile in February. The four year old has a pace advantage over his rivals and freshness has never been an issue in the past. What may be is the recent bad publicity his trainer has been getting. Whether that has affected how Jorge Navarro does his job remains to be seen.
Divining Rod (4) had 12 months away from the August of his three year old season. He improved at the end of last term rounding it off with a head defeat in The Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. His 2017 debut didn’t come until August. He may have made his second start back too quickly after seemingly an effortless return victory. As Drefong got an easy lead and ran to his best, he was never going to beat that runner in a Grade 1 at Saratoga. He was expected to beat the late running Tom's Ready (1) who ran to his best, a well held third. Tommy Macho (2) was a below par seventh in the same event.
The German trained Ross (3) lost The Grade 2 Godolphin Mile at Meydan by a neck in March. That was on a muddy track. On a dry one, he was well beaten on his US debut. Bird Song (6) has a Grade 2 victory to his name on a wet track. He has form on a dry surface too. Both his graded stakes victories have come when he can be the boss from the outset. If the rider of Sharp Azteca wants to send him, that’s simply not happening here.
Divining Rod (4)