Weekend Overview: Although the Belmont Stakes is being run in NY this weekend and the undercard supporting it is fantastic that is far from the only action on tap. Lava Man makes his return in the Charles Whittingham and actually has a decent shot at becoming the top ranked Turf horse in the nation. Current leader On the Acorn decided to by pass the race because of the weights and that could be a costly move. Lava Man will be making his third start of the year on Turf which qualifies him for the Turf division. Sky Conqueror also has an outside chance of taking the top spot if Lava Man loses and he manages to win the Manhatten. Christmas Kid will try to narrow the gap between herself and #1 3yo Rags to Riches but Rags also stands on the brink. If she or Curlin win the Belmont they would become the top ranked horse in North America. That is a superb feat for a 3yo filly even if she would only hold it until Invasor returns in the Suburban. We can't forget Hard Spun either, he would not be #1 overall with a win in the Belmont but he would assume control of the division. Also at Woodbine on Sunday we have the Woodbine Oaks, that should be a very good contest.
Woody Stephens Breeders Cup Stakes
This looks like the best race on the card in terms of playable options. It looks pretty wide open although it is lower quality than is customary for this race. If there is a Lost in The Fog or Too Much Bling in this race they have not revealed themselves yet. Perhaps the horse with the most untapped potential is Deadly Dealer. He owns the best sprinting figures and he's never even been in a sprint stakes race yet. He looks like the speed of the speed and I don't think Stormello and Tueflesberg will be able to match him early. They both have speed going longer but will likely find sprinters too quick. I don't think either of them have a good shot. The horse with the best shot to keep Deadly Dealer honest is Street Magician although I suspect his connections will want to see him track closely but not press. Street Magician ran huge in the Hirsch on Preakness day and another step forward would make him the horse to beat. He is working bullets lately and certainly rates a chance. My only real worry with him is that we've yet to see him make a really nice move forward figure wise. It makes you wonder if he has it in him. Still if Deadly Dealer does not put in a lifetime best Street Magician is the best of the rest. I also like Sports Town. I think he is a classy little guy and is one of the best closers. What I really like about him as opposed to a horse like Hobbitontherocks is that he gets home first when he runs his race. He's a winner who doesn't have any problem putting horses away. Races like the Birdstone stakes could use a horse with his qualities. I do not like Bill Place at all despite his stellar career record. He looked washed out in his last race and his morning drills have become dull as well. Despite the fact that he is one of the only graded sprint stakes winners I won't use him. I think he is headed the wrong way.
What you will often get in age restricted divisions is a bunch of horses who are at the same level, and that makes the division appear strong or even. However that does not suggest that the division is at a high level and when certain special horses come along they make a mockery of the rest of the division. That is what Rags to Riches is doing and that is what Dream Rush should do to this field. They are the only two "special" fillies in the division. In fact I think they are both so superior to their restricted competition that it will take outside forces or extreme bad luck to see them beaten. Dream Rush is a single, I suspect that none of the fillies in this race could ever beat her unless she encounters extremely poor luck. The distance is a slight concern only because she has never run it before but everything about her suggests that a one turn mile is within her scope. There will be mild pressure from Princess Janie early on but Dream Rush does not need the lead she merely ends up on lead because she is so much better than the rest. It is a shame for fillies like Christmas Kid, Cotton Blossom and Boca Grande because I think they are all quite even and if Violette's filly was not in here it would be an interesting contest.
This will be an excellent race to watch, English Channel is favored but beatable. He is coming off his worst lifetime effort into a race where the distance has seen him not produce his best in a while. He was 4th in this race last year and was simply passed in the lane when he had every chance. I think you might see the same scenario develop here. In Sky Conqueror and Better Talk Now you have two closers who look like they're sitting on top efforts. We know a top effort from BTN is definitely good enough I also firmly believe that Sky Conqueror can handle this class of horse. Last year he really broke one to the scene and this year he looks even a shade better. Better Talk Now is second up off the layoff and had plenty of time to bounce back to his best following the Woodford Reserve. Although he has never won at this distance I think it is a bit of an anomaly, he is definitely good enough. I'm going to oppose the sucker horse Cosmonaut in here so maybe it means its finally time for him to win. He is always close and you feel like eventually he will get one of these but I'm going to let him beat me here. I honestly think that at their best the top 3 are in a different class. Shakis is interesting but I don't like him coming back quickly second off the plane. That is asking for a regression and although he got a nice figure in his last he was all out to beat horses that would be long odds in here.
Better Talk Now
I feel somewhat obliged to offer analysis of this contest although I must admit I will not be making an official selection that will count towards the handicapping tally in this space. That is because I think the Belmont will be an excellent race to watch and a poor race to bet. Curlin stands out based on his last performance and the brilliance he has shown. However he does have a one on, one off Beyer pattern and that would suggest that he could regress. He has also had a tough campaign to this point and its possible that it will all take its toll in the final furlong. At the same time he has every right to crush this field and so I do not feel right about opposing him. Rags To Riches is a contender I feel good about opposing. I don't think she is fast enough to win this race although I will be cheering for her as I watch from the sideline. It would be great for racing if she won but I'm a realist and I don't see it unless she really steps up. Hard Spun is the main danger and now that he looks like he will control the pace he is very dangerous and likely the only horse I would use against Curlin. Also I suppose it is worth remembering that this is the Belmont and the results can be odd and the payouts are often large. Stayers who look anonymous beforehand have a tendency to outperform. That makes Imawildandcrazyguy worth including. Tiago fits the same bill but there wont be any value in him. I respect Slew's Tizzy only because he is in the form of his life but I have a hard time envisioning him even beating Hard Spun. CP West in my opinion is a terrible play. He looks a total non stayer, in my mind he is the favorite to finish last.