By Michael Patricks
Just one week until the sesquicentennial edition of the Belmont Stakes from Elmont, New York. All is seemingly quiet on the headlines front leading up to the race with the news of Audible’s defection last week at this time remaining the last-posted headline. For an entertaining and candid three-minute interview with D. Wayne Lukas talking Justify, Bravazo and more, click on this link–or cut and paste it into your web browser to enjoy.
Head on down to the Jockey Club at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds on Saturday, June 9th to watch and wager on the Belmont Stakes. Doors open at 9 a.m. and post time for the Belmont Stakes is scheduled for 3:37 p.m. Tables are on sale now–call 707-524-6340 for all the information and reserve your spot to witness history in the making. Tell your friends and make plans to join us as the handsome chestnut Justify strides ahead to a meeting with racing destiny.
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As accurately forecasted for those of you who read last week’s installment, Accelerate ($6.80) turned the tables on City of Light in the Gold Cup from Santa Anita. Accelerate broke sharp and stalked a solid tempo, then angled out for running room at the top of the lane and powered off to win in hand. It was a perfect ride by Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza and a solid training job by John Sadler. I like the two of them at a price in Friday’s nightcap with Mongolian Window at 12/1. I’ll try to keep the positive momentum flowing with a brief assessment of the Snow Chief at Santa Anita on Saturday as this weekend’s complimentary preview.
**Note** I will try to have the Belmont Stakes preview posted by 5 p.m. Pacific on Thursday so any of my readers can consider my thoughts before putting their own tickets together.
The Snow Chief (Cal-bred or sired 3 y/o’s)
1 & 1/8 Miles on Turf
Race 7- Post time: 3:30 PST
1-Take the One O One 5/2 ML- Seems to run the same race each time, regardless of race track, distance or surface. He’s got a ton of early gas and with the inside barrier you know he’ll be prominent early. Talamo is his exclusive tyro and knows him well, but nine furlongs over the turf course is a tricky read for young horses and he figures to have Huddle surrounding him in and out of the club house turn. The dam’s only other horse to compete was Eighty to Davis (By Gio Ponti: 1-for-4 lifetime, all races on Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields). Favorite might need to access the diamond lane in deep stretch to get there; expect him to be sent off in the 8/5 to 9/5 realm.
2-Hardboot 3/1 ML- Came home like a good thing, rallying into solid fractions and prevailing with a daylight victory in the Silky Sullivan in an effort that would make the race’s namesake quite proud. He had been coming off a trio of efforts in the races prior that would fall between dull and unremarkable. I think the question is whether he can move forward off the lifetime figure of 77, or if regression to the mean can be expected today. 10/1 victory last time…3/1 today. He’ll need others on the front end to do the heavy lifting for him and he hasn’t exactly lit it up on this turf course; proceed with caution.
3-Waya Ed 4/1 ML- Hats off to Way Up, as this is her twelfth foal to make it to the races. Waya Ed debuted for Steve Specht at Golden Gate Fields and did nothing wrong from two starts and gained valuable racing experience. Brian Koriner freshened him up for his first try on grass as he faced older horses in the process, running credibly to a third place finish on this turf course. This will be just his fourth start to date and he has a real license to improve in this spot given that he’s trained steadily for this, sporting five workouts of added foundation to get him poised. He’s a half-bro to Wavy Lass and Unusual Way (winner of the Campanile on turf at Golden Gate Fields). More eyes will be focused on the other Koriner entrant, so I’m siding with him to jump up and run a big one here; the pick.
4-Continental Divide 10/1 ML– The sheer fact he’s only 10/1 on the morning line in this race tells you this isn’t the strongest renewal of the Snow Chief. Facts: he’s 1-for-8 lifetime, the one win coming way back as a juvenile. He’s 0-for-2 on turf and hasn’t sniffed a top three placing in those starts. His career best Beyer was a 71 last time in a race where he simply ran with the group. Expect him to have a tough time once again lifting his legs when it counts; undivided outsider.
5-Hit the Seam 12/1 ML- Another who looks too slow on paper, but even though he’s a maiden, he somehow looks more intriguing than Continental Divide. Don’t get me wrong, he still has his hands full: winless, no route experience, yet another new rider etc. But if you throw enough stuff against the wall eventually something will stick–and in a race like this maybe he can stumble into a minor award and spruce up your verticals.
6-Psycho Dar 9/2 ML- Most likely named after another one of my first dates that went up in smoke for reasons I’ll never comprehend. He’s always been a presser/grinder that has had great difficulty in closing escrow in the lane. Hardboot ran by him with little difficulty last time, and I guess while he looks like he fits in this race on paper, I just don’t think his patented, grinding mid-70’s performance is going to do much in here. I agree with Jon White framing him at 9/2 on the line given his balance in comparison to the others, but WHY is he 9/2 in here? Not sure he wants the nine panels either; I’ll go my own way from him.
7-Huddle 4/1 ML- He’s run pretty well against big fields while having to be sent along from an inside slot the last two, and the transition outside horses while adding the extra furlong, should get him to relax a bit more early on. Normally, it’s a pretty big deal going from maidens into a stakes race (even if Cal-bred), but this is a good time to try the likes of these. The Blinkers really kept him engaged and allowed him to finish up the diploma earner in good order. He’ll have to do some serious dirty work to soften up Take the One O One and have enough left in the tank to out game him to the wire, but it’s not impossible. Demand a price and stick to it if you’re wanting to back him. I see him in more of the 6 or 7/1 range than 4/1 and that would be fair value; not an impossible mission, should you choose to accept it.