The name of the game is value. And sometimes we have a tendency to force our way into finding it when perhaps it isn’t there. That said, there are three horses running at Belmont on Saturday that warrant at least a second look and maybe an inclusion in your wagers.
Race 8- The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic
There is not one horse in this field that I would talk anyone out of betting, especially with the condition of the turf course unknown with more than 24 hours until post time. I think it’s a wide open event, and none of them would surprise me. Although Highland Sky might be a minor surprise were he to turn the tables on a few of these. But this looks like a crap shoot. My opinion here is that by and large, the American male turf division is just not that strong. Take nothing away from what Robert Bruce has done since coming to America. But my gut tells me when America’s best grass horses take on even the B-Team from Europe, American horses are at a decided disadvantage. And it feels like it’s been that way for a while now. So even though 5-Teodoro won’t see his name on any list of elite Euros, he is a Group 3 winner over there. That in and of itself doesn’t make him likely to beat this bunch. But he gets first Lasix and may prefer firmer going should he find that at Belmont on Saturday. It’s also worth noting he has carried 12lbs more than Saturday’s 126lbs to victory at this exact distance. And Ryan Moore picks up the call. There are some things to like here. And the price may be right.
Race 9- The Pilgrim
This is another spot where you can go so many different directions. The one I am most interested in is 4-Vineyard Sound for Michael Dilger. Vineyard Sound made his debut at Saratoga in an off-the-turf event at 7F, and put up an honest 68 Beyer Speed Figure in the process after taking the early lead and failing to hold off the odds-on favorite and finishing 2nd. But what struck me as I was watching the replay was that it didn’t appear to me that Vineyard Sound was moving all that well over the dirt. He just looked a tad uncomfortable. I admit that I don’t have a trained horseman’s eye, but I can spot a fluid, happy mover when I see one. And he wasn’t one. But he still ran 2nd after leading early and put up a debut Beyer that is the second-fastest debut Beyer of any horse in this race (if you care about such things). What is more, trainer Michael Digler has another horses in here just to the inside with Dashing Dan, who already sports a grass win on the resume. And, if Tomlinsons are your thing, Vineyard Sound has the second-highest turf Tomlinson in the field. What does all this mean? Eh, maybe nothing. But at the 12-1 morning line, he’s worth a look and maybe an inclusion in your plays.
Race 10- The Jockey Club Gold Cup
I don’t really see Diversify losing here. This is his exact game: 10 furlongs at Belmont. But before you try to pick your horse for a cold exacta underneath Diversify, don’t be so quick to dismiss 5-Uno Mas Modelo. I know, I know. He’s a closing sprinter. I get it. But if you buy into the “second time blinkers” angle, you’ll want to note that since Uno Mas Modelo’s second time with the hood, he’s been a different animal. And if you aren’t quite convinced that Patch, or Mendelssohn, or Thunder Snow, or any of the others can put up a fight, I’ve seen worse than Uno Mas Modelo hang on late for a piece when stretching out.