I was at my local pub last night going over the cards at Belmont, Monmouth, and Churchill Downs while everyone around me was talking about today's U.S. World Cup match. Such is the life of the horseplayer, always buried in his racing form oblivious to the outside world. Truthfully, I've been following the World Cup quite closely but there is a time to watch a match and a time to try to find some winners. Last night was a time to find some winners.
I've got to give the racing secretary at Belmont Park some major kudos as he or she certainly knows how to put together a difficult sequence in either the Pick 6 or the Pick 4. Two maiden turf events (one a sprint), the Grade 1 Mother Goose, and a statebred N1X Allowance race back on the lawn. A hard sequence but the harder the sequence, the greater the chances of a big payout should someone cash a ticket. I'll take a tough sequence over an easy one any day of the week as the last thing I need is to hit Pick 4s that pay $35.00.
Leg 1 - Race 7: $25K Maiden Claiming, 3up, 1 mile (Turf)
The Pick 4 starts innocently enough with a nice little $25k maiden race at a mile on the lawn. This is a race that I really wanted to try and find a price but I ultimately ended up heading in the direction of the chalk with my selections.
1-Sweat Shop (3/1) is coming in off of a long, long layoff (November 2008), but when we last saw him he was clearly a horse that would stand out against this field. It's doubtful that he's going to be that good again, or at least right off the bench, but he appears to have enough natural talent that I'd feel uncomfortable not covering to him in the sequence.
Sweat Shop is coupled with High Prize.
4-Mystic Fever (4/1) had a bunch of problems in his last race but I'm willing to throw that one out since it was taken off the turf and run over a muddy and sealed track. Two races back he went a mile on the turf at the Big A and ran a very good race against $50k maidens. He's receiving a big price cut today and the class relief could be the factor that puts him over the top. The late changes also note that Mystic Fever will be running as "First Time Gelded". Poor guy.
With what looks to be a moderate pace scenario in this race, 9-Kijo (5/1) might have an advantage if he's able to find the early speed he's displayed in his last two efforts.
Leg 2 - Race 8: $16 Maiden Claiming, 3up, Fillies and Mares, 6 furlongs (Turf)
Does anybody have any great ideas about this race? I looked at this one for what seemed like an eternity without anything really grabbing my attention. I am currently leaning toward 4-Officer Flirt (5/2) and 5-Hear Her Roar (3/1). Of the two, I like Hear Her Roar the most due to her solid performance two races back when she finished in between two next-out winners at the $25k level. That stretch-out race on May 27th is a toss for me as I don't think this filly really wants a mile and a sixteenth at this point in her career. My main concern is that she might not get enough pace to make that big closing move.
Once I got by Officer Flirt and Hear Her Roar I ran out of good ideas really fast. If I was to add one more filly it would be 7-Mystical Code (5/1), another dropper that has shown signs of life in a couple of her previous races.
Leg 3 - Race 9: Grade 1 Mother Goose, 3yo, Fillies, 1 1/16 miles
Despite that low morning line odds, I don't believe that 3-Devil May Care (6/5) is a lock for the Mother Goose. If she runs back to her Bonnie Miss form she will obviously be very tough to beat, but if she shows the form from any of the other five races of her career she could easily be beaten by one of today's rivals. She's included on my ticket given the chance she'll run big again but she won't be a single.
2-Ailalea (3/1) might represent the best value in the field when you consider that Devil May Care will probably get pounded pretty hard at the windows. If you look at this filly's last few races and you separate the one-turn events from the two-turn events you get a completely different animal. When Ailelea has gone two-turns (G1-Kentucky Oaks, G2-Fair Grounds Oaks), she's run well but generally not been in the mix at the wire. When she's gone one-turn, especially one-turn miles, this filly has done very well. In fact, she's won all three of her one-turn mile races in her career. She'll have to get another 1/16 of a mile today but the race configuration appears to set-up for her quite well.
Leg 4 - Race 10: N1X Allowance (NY), 3up, 1 1/16 miles (Turf)
It's tough to get away from the 1-Seattle Mission (5/2) when you compare his accomplishments to that of the rest of this field. He began his career by winning a Maiden Special Weight race on the lawn at Saratoga in a field that included eventual Belmont winner Drosselmeyer. He then takes a bunch of time off, probably due to an injury, and resurfaces in the state-bred ranks at Belmont Park in late May. He ran strong in that first race off the bench and if he's able to duplicate that last race here today he'll probably be the winner.
11-Adam Rides Again (7/2) has shown enough talent in his three starts to warrant inclusion on any ticket. Plus, Pletcher is only hitting at 33% at Belmont this meet. Normally I'd just single the #1 and leave it at that, but ignoring the Pletcher horse is just something I can't bring myself to do in this spot.
5-Monastir (8/1) is a horse that I'm going to find a spot for on my ticket for the simple fact that he's shown some of the best form of his career in his last two races and he might just be able to pick up the pieces should things start to fall apart in deep stretch.