Friday, July 4, 2014

Belmont Derby Horse-by-Horse Analysis

--Brian DiDonato

#1 Toast of New York (3-1) - Enters this as the buzz horse off a decisive 2 1/2-length win in the G2 UAE Derby in March (video), but I’m very much against him here. For starters, I’m not sure he beat much at Meydan. He’s also completely unproven on turf, with all three of his wins having come on synthetic surfaces. The bay certainly doesn’t have Bobby’s Kitten speed, but he’s rail drawn and tactical--there’s a good chance he could get taken out of his game having to chase a type of speed he's never seen before. Potentially being fresh off the break won't help matters. At a short price, he can beat me.

#2 Sheldon (30-1) - Trainer Jimmy Toner is red hot, but can’t imagine this recent maiden winner making much of an impact on the steep class hike.

#3 Bobby’s Kitten (6-1) - Clearly this aforementioned speedster has serious ability, but I just can’t envision him seeing out 10 panels—especially against a field of this caliber. He rated effectively last time in the Penn Mile (video), but he was tugging pretty hard, and two more furlongs just can’t possibly be better for him.

#4 Adelaide (7-2) - This is the type of European I look for--he seems like a major stand-out. The bay is lightly raced with plenty of upside, and is already a convincing Group 3 winner over heavy ground going this distance in the G3 Gallinule S. (video). He had a less-than-perfect trip last time in Royal Ascot's G2 King Edward VII S. (video), but did well enough to be second going an additional quarter mile. According to DRF Formulator, trainer Aidan O'Brien is nine-for-35 (26%) with a $3.21 ROI in North America over the past five years with horses running on Lasix--hard to argue with that stat.

#5 Flamboyant (15-1) - Thought his winning Stateside debut in Santa Anita's La Puente S. (video) was visually impressive (and looks even better after the runner-up took his next two), but didn't like how he let Gala Award battle back in the Pennine Ridge. Not sold on him at this distance, but wouldn't be shocked if he won or ran well.

#6 Dance With Fate (10-1) - Definitely appears better on turf or synthetic. His GI Blue Grass S. win was nice (video), even if he got a solid pace set-up. Has some distance questions to answer, but he was running on pretty well in the GI Kentucky Derby. Definitely one of the better U.S.-based chances.

#7 Gailo Chop (5-1) - One of the harder reads in the race for me. He beat a horse in the G3 Prix la Force (video) who came back to beat Adelaide, but he did get a perfect drafting trip to do it. Then he seemed to get away with an easy lead last out in the Prix Noailles (video). He may run into a similar problem like that of Toast of New York--he's not as fast as Bobby's Kitten, but the race won't be run slow up front like he's accustomed to and he might get dragged into running too fast early. I also don't like that he's not getting Lasix. Play against at 5-1, but could see reevaluating if he gets lost on the tote.

#8 Pornichet (10-1) - I'm a big fan of the "other Euro" angle, and this is the horse who fits the bill. He wasn't beaten much when third in the G1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains (video) and, most interestingly, is now trained by legendary Australian conditioner Gai Waterhouse after a private purchase. Distance is, again, the big question, but previous conditioner Nicolas Clement was already considering the bay for this event, and Waterhouse purchased him as a G1 Melbourne Cup prospect, so the consensus among some very capable horsepeople seems to be that he'll handle the trip just fine.

#9 Mr Speaker (15-1) - Was on the verge of tossing this runner when I remembered my new rule to give every Shug McGaughey horse going 10 furlongs or more an extra look--according to Formulator, he's a gaudy 34% with a $3.29 ROI in that category over the past five seasons. Mr Speaker's form was very good before the Pennine Ridge, in which he pretty much stopped after finding himself on the lead. I'm just going to toss his last and give him another shot at a much bigger price than what he would have been had he run to his 95-100 odds last time.

#10 Global View (12-1) - Closed very quickly to win the GII American Turf S. two back (video), but that race came against a much weaker field. Was no match for Bobby's Kitten last time in the Penn Mile, and while as a Galileo he should appreciate the trip, there's no way he'll appreciate it more than the other Galileo (Adelaide).

#11 Gala Award (10-1) - Was a deserving winner of the Pennine Ridge (video), and he also beat Mr Speaker (who rallied from very far back) earlier this year in the GIII Palm Beach S. The 11 post is by no means a death sentence at 10 panels, but it does put him in an awkward position tactically. Can see him getting a wide trip out in no man's land, and not sure he's good enough to overcome such a disadvantage. Figures to take money as well considering his connections.

Play: Win on #4 Adelaide at 3-1+. Exacta key box 4 w/ #6 Dance With Fate, #8 Pornichet and #9 Mr Speaker. Will use those four in pick threes and doubles (and an imaginary all-stakes pick four). 

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