I was actually around for most of the holiday - to some of us - weekend, and was ready and willing to post some picks for Belmont. And I tried, I really did. But I honestly couldn't come up with anything I liked enough amongst the 29 races offered. Didn't look in depth at all of them....didn't consider 2YO maiden races, fun to bet off the tote and paddock at the track but not as much trying to figure out beforehand, nor others that I just didn't care for upon first glance. Not that the races were bad; some of them, including the two stakes on Saturday, were too hard, others uninspiring, and just couldn't find any particular horse to get me excited.
Of course, it was probably mostly just me. Seems just a very short time ago that I had an opinion on nearly every race. That was Saratoga though, and everything seems a lot clearer there. For me, there's a natural ebb and flow when it comes to horseplaying and the patience and concentration it requires. Peaks in July and August and come the last couple of weeks of Belmont, when it's often cold and empty there, I'm often burned out. Don't always get it back together for Breeders' Cup. Let's see (as Trevor Denman might say), there have been 29 Breeders' Cups....and though I've watched at least significants portion of them all, whether live or on tape, probably have had minimal or no wagering on half. Helps this year that there's no presidential election; and though there are no Caleb Posse's over whom I'm drooling over 2+ weeks out, still plenty of time to fall in love with someone.
So, having my said that you can take the following handicapping selections for Keeneland on Wednesday for what they are worth!
In the 8th - and assuming it goes on the grass - Special Guest (10-1) is a lightly-raced four-year old filly who has shown nice progression since returning from a 371 day layoff, and switching to the barn of trainer Neil Howard. After a third in the slop, she graduated, on dirt, at Ellis Park before switching to turf and winning in her first try against winners. That was a professional performance; a nice ground-saving trip behind the leaders to be sure, but I liked the way she surged through an opening in the stretch, and gamely held off a nice-looking filly in Bremusa (who she apparently bumped late, at least according to the chart comment). Then, in her last, and with a new rider, she found herself on the lead in a very slow-paced race. Don't think that's her game. Faded to 5th - less than three lengths behind repeat winner Poetic Kid - but still earned a career-best TimeformUS speed figure of 89 that puts Special Guest (#9) in the mix here in a race that Pace Projector indicates will have a lively pace to potentially set up her closing kick.
Victor Lebron, on board for each of her two career wins, returns to the saddle, and stretching out to nine furlongs should only be helpful for this daughter of Smart Strike out of a half-sister to BC Distaff winner Unbridled Elaine. Plenty of room for improvement in only her 8th career start, and looks attractive at her morning line. Tabreed (3-1) cuts back to nine furlongs; effort two back at Saratoga makes her tough here; one to beat.
In the 9th, Golden Galaxy (7-5) has ten wins in 16 career starts, but makes her debut on a synthetic track of any variety. Well, I don't have to explain to you guys why this horse is a must bet-against; the kind that can beat me if she can. I like three horses starting on the inside who all have good records on synth, and which I'll use for the second half of the double. Neverrguwithritchie (12-1) makes her first synth start of the year after winning two of her four 2013 starts, one each on dirt and turf. She's six for 12 lifetime on the artificial surfaces. With wins, earning competitive TFUS figures, from six furlongs to one turn miles to two turn routes, she should handle this seven furlong test. One negative is a poor try in her only start at Keeneland (three years ago), but willing to overlook for that morning line price. Point to the Wild (7-2) also returns to synth, on which she's won three of her four sprint starts. She also has a disappointing effort in her only try over this track, but that came against better in a race in which she earned a figure that puts her right there against these. Pace Projector puts her sitting second behind the favorite in a race projected to favor early speed. All four lifetime wins by Devout Diva (9-2) have come on the Arlington Poly; I do fear that seven furlongs may be a bit beyond her best abilities, though she did graduate at that distance. And for those looking to spread for a Pick Whatever wager, Emmy Who (10-1) is a little scary based on good figs earned in three career synth tries at Turfway Park. Best of luck and have a great day.
- Casino opponents may not have money to mount an ad campaign. But they threw together some dough to get a slot machine to smash to smithereens up in Albany. Might have made for more effective visuals though if they used some lighter fluid and a match.