- I’ve always found that Accuweather’s website is generally more optimistic than that of the Weather Channel. When there’s nothing but gloom and doom on weather.com, accuweather.com often offers a more optimistic view of the possibilities. Weather.com’s outlook for Friday is simply a raincloud with the notation:
ShowersNot much hope there. But Accuweather.com calls for a “couple of showers,” and then merely “a shower” for Friday night. That’s just three itsy-bitsy showers.
The good news is that both services call for not only a basically dry Saturday, but a windy one as well. Well, actually that could be good and bad news. While a nice breeze will certainly help dry out the track, with the temperature not expected to get past 70, by the time the Belmont goes off, it may start to feel more like Breeders’ Cup day.
Anyway, I’m going to go with the somewhat
You have to go against the grain somewhere in these bets in order to score, and I think you have to do so in the Acorn, and possibly the Woody Stephens. In my opinion, the last two legs are not nearly as wide open as they’re being portrayed. You know I love Sunriver in the Belmont, and I’ll be back with more on the race later.
I also like Pletcher in the Manhattan. His English Channel (Smart Strike) made steady progress as a three-year old last year, culminating in his head loss to Shakespeare in the Turf Classic Invitational. He was short against older horses in the Turf, but I just love the way he’s come back this year. He hasn’t missed a beat in his two races, both wins, and achieved a lifetime best Beyer of 108 in the Turf Classic (the non-invitational version). He’s won on soft turf, and could improve further in his third start of the year - and he may have to in order to hold off the expected late charge of Cacique.
Dreadnaught sprung back to life in the thrilling Dixie on Preakness day, and could grab a share. Good Reward hasn’t won since taking this race last year at 14-1. Relaxed Gesture was very disappointing in Dubai. He could take this on his best, but it’s hard to believe he can match strides here with the sharp top choice. I’m surprised that Grey Swallow is the 3-1 second choice in the morning line. He couldn’t have had an easier trip in his mile and a half win in the Jim Murray against an uninspiring field of four.
It looks like an obvious Too Much Bling/Songster play in the opening leg, the Woody Stephens. But still, I get a bit nervous at the thought of the two of them hooking up. And not only is Keyed Entry still in the race to perhaps contest the pace as well, he’s tied with Too Much Bling for the top selection in the Form’s consensus box! However, as discussed here in the comments section, neither Walter nor I like his chances at all.
Too Much Bling (Rubiano) should be favored on Saturday, but for one thing, his Bay Shore, in which he beat Songster by nine and earned a 113 Beyer, came on a sealed, sloppy track, and remember Accuweather.com; I’m expecting a fast track, and his fastest dry track number is 102. Also, Walter opined that seven furlongs is not his best distance, and a closer look at his three efforts at that distance shows that he’s run very fast early and not nearly as such in the latter stages. In the San Vincente, after going 21.6 and 22.2, he then came home in 25 and 13.60.
Songster (Songandaprayer) won’t have the pace his way as he did in his breakthrough romp in the Hirsch Jacobs on Preakness day (107 Beyer). He was able to lope to a half of nearly 46 seconds, which no doubt helped him come home in 11.80 and 12.04 in the six furlong race. That's just not going to happen on Saturday. Still, except for the Bay Shore, when he may have disliked the slop, he always comes home pretty strong; under 13 seconds in the last furlong each of his two fast track efforts at the distance. I think he’ll be a formidable foe for Baffert’s speedster.
Still, I'm a little queasy about this race. I wish I felt more secure about this, but I don't. I'd love to keep it to those two because I want to go deep in the Acorn. But I could definitely see using horses like Noonmark, who ran a terrific second to Sharp Humor in the Swale at this same distance; and Likely, whose Keeneland race may or may not have been a fluke, but who may be able to pick up the pieces if he bounces back from his subsequent loss at Churchil.
The Acorn, I think, is the race to spread and try to catch a price in the wacky, wide open three-year old filly division. Pletcher, who will play a key role in these last three legs, sends out morning line favorite Adieu. I think she’s vulnerable, not because I don’t think she’ll run well, but because I think there are some sharp, improving young fillies, any of whom can strike at a good price.
In fact, I’ll go almost ‘all’ in here, eliminating just Last Romance and She’s Excellent. Two of these are particularly interesting. Miraculous Miss (Mr. Greeley) is unbeaten in five tries on dry tracks. This half-sister to Tiger Heart has been running slower figs, but she looks like she could benefit from what could be a lively pace. And Hello Liberty (Forest Camp) tries a mile for the first time, but she’s never run a bad race and earned a lifetime best 97 Beyer in winning the G2 Nassau BC Handicap in her last.
So here it is. I close my eyes, say a prayer and go with Too Much Bling and Songster in the opener; then hope for a nice price in the Acorn; and coast home with English Channel and Sunriver in the Manhattan and Belmont.