Friday, July 8, 2016

Handicapper's Corner: Belmont Derby (G1)

Is this O’Brien’s Time &  Place for a G1 Belmont Derby Win?

Originally this race was named the Jamaica Handicap and named for the Jamaica Queens neighborhood of New York City and also paying homage to Jamaica Racetrack, the Jamaica was a dirt race until the early 1990s and earned a Grade One prefix in 2009.  In 2014 the race moved to the summer to its new position, anchoring the Belmont Park Stars and Stripes Festival.  In its turf days, Belmont Park stakes namesake Pennine Ridge (1994), Breeders' Cup Mile winner Artie Schiller (2004), and two Secretariat winners - Showing Up (2006) and Take The Points (2009) are among notable winners of the Jamaica, which was at Belmont Park but was typically contested in the fall. 

In 2014, this race got a name change to the Belmont Derby Invitational and a new position in the summer.  The 2014 Belmont Derby got a purse increase to seven figures and saw Mr. Speaker hold off Adelaide's re-rally; the runner-up would annex the G1 Secretariat and the G1-AUS Cox Plate in his sophomore season. This year’s race has a $1,250,000 purse.

NBC will provide live coverage from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm, ET.  The Belmont Derby, Belmont Oaks and Suburban are slated to be broadcast live. This preview only covers the Belmont Derby.  As with all races at Belmont, Saratoga, and Aqueduct, the audio is available for free on the NYRA website, and they offer video of the races for users who have created an account on the NYRA site.

Selections are given "turf only". At publish time the rail is set in the zero position.  All races discussed are scheduled for Saturday July 9.

Belmont Park -- Race 8 -- G1 Belmont Derby Invitational-- One and one-quarter miles on Inner Turf -- post time 4:38 PM ET
If Aidan O’Brien brought over a cardboard cutout of a horse on the plane to America, it would be respected and bet down to low odds. 

The first Grade One on the grass for sophomores sees him bring over two, and we side with DEAUVILLE and the riding services of Jamie Spencer.  Perhaps twelve furlongs in the Epsom Derby was too far, and he did mount a bit of a closing rally on soft ground.  Cutting back to ten furlongs should help him, as he was second going ten and a half panels two back at York in England.  First time Lasix is in play as well.  While he’s in post thirteen, Belmont’s course is wide enough that position isn’t as important as say – a mile and a sixteenth race at Gulfstream. 

DEAUVILLE has fine breeding for the distance and two back tracked a slower pace.  In the case this race turns to a clutch-and-grab turf race given a course playing like a pasteboard, at least DEAUVILLE showed he can rally under tepid fractions.  So if they slow it all down – he won’t be taken out of his element.  His breeding is better than LONG ISLAND SOUND, the primary “A” entry from Aidan O’ Brien.  

LONG ISLAND SOUND exits a Group Three at Royal Ascot, and we’ve seen through Miss Temple City that a G3 in England or Ireland or France translates to about a G1 in the states.  So LONG ISLAND SOUND does fit on that parameter.  Third in the G3 Tercentary last out at Royal Ascot, he chased a next out winner going ten panels over soft ground.  He does get a jock downgrade here, namely since Ryan Moore rode this sophomore last time. (Anything after Ryan Moore is a downgrade.)  Also a recipient of first-time Lasix, he’s made all his career starts at three, and the winner of that Ascot race won next out.  While his post is more favorable, the breeding is less than favorable compared to DEAUVILLE. 

Third spot is between two Americans – CAMELOT KITTEN and HIGHLAND SKY.  This space gives the edge to the kitten as here as his pedigree – in a race where ten furlongs is an unknown to these Americans – is better.  How bettors let him off at 19-1 on Derby Day is a mystery, but he did fine wining the G3 Pennine Ridge – this race’s local prep – closing off moderate fractions.  That’s a big plus point given the tendencies of summer time NYRA turf racing.  The humans behind this runner are hard to find fault against as well.                                                                                                

#13 DEAUVILLE (4/1)

Longshot: HIGHLAND SKY could get some steam and be the fourth choice in here.  But #5 SURGICAL STRIKE (15/1) should be every bit of his morning line quote.  He may get scoffed out for beating G3 types at Arlington as the 17-10 favorite in the G3 Arlington Classic, but he looked the goods and showed he can handle a wet course that day.  A dry course is no issue – he graduated over one last fall and hit the podium behind CAMELOT KITTEN two back on firm ground.  SURGICAL STRIKE has a very nice ten-furlong grass pedigree, by Red Giant (set world record at ten panels) out of a Smart Strike mare.  SURGICAL STRIKE gets the riding services of Jose Ortiz – the circuit’s leading rider.  We look to the Ben Colebrook trainee in this space, especially if he keeps the blinkers on as he did over Memorial Day weekend.

Handigambling, $100:
$1.50 Trifecta box of 4, 5, 6, 7, 13 ($90)
$1 Exacta box of 4, 5, 6, 7, 13 ($20)
$5 Win, #13 ($5)
$5 Show, #5 ($5)

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