Belmont Notebook: Juveniles Week

Belmont Notebook: Juveniles Week
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by John Mucciolo
(Editor's Note: Content for this handicapping notebook is provided by Brisnet)

Saturday was the showcase for the juveniles at Belmont, and it was a test to see who could move on to the bigger riches offered in the respective October 30 Breeders' Cup events at Lone Star. First up were the fillies challenging the $500,000 Frizette S. (G1) going 1 1/16 miles over Big Sandy.

Post time favorite BALLETTO (UAE) (Timber Country) rated off lively early fractions of :23, :46 1/5 and 1:10 3/5, burst through a huge opening on the inside, and closed strongly to earn her initial graded tally, beneath Corey Nakatani for conditioner Tom Albertrani. The consistent two-year-old filly stopped the clock in 1:43 2/5, and although nothing has been made official, she appears to be right on track for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) later this month.

Ready's Gal (More Than Ready  ) entered this race undefeated from two starts, but could do no better than second on this day. The Todd Pletcher trainee raced wide throughout and endured a somewhat eventful stretch run, yet has plenty of room for improvement. The personal opinion is that this bay is a much more intriguing candidate to run big at Lone Star due to her trip and lightly raced status, although neither of the top pair look extraordinary.

Approximately 30 minutes later, eight colts lined up to contest the $500,000 Champagne S. (G1), led by the unbeaten Afleet Alex (Northern Afleet  ). In what turned out to be an outstanding race both in talent and excitement, PROUD ACCOLADE (Yes It's True  ) ranged up four wide turning for home, took the lead from a slightly tiring Sun King (Charismatic), and held the late-charging Afleet Alex at bay to remain unbeaten from three lifetime outings.

The Pletcher trainee spotted his rivals ground at each portion of the race, yet still stopped the clock in a swift 1:42 3/5, which included a final five-sixteenths in a superb :31 3/5. His rating ability and push-button acceleration should make him especially tough at Lone Star.

Take nothing away from Afleet Alex or the third place Sun King, as they both put in excellent efforts. The thinking here is that we may have seen the top three juveniles in the United States here, and all three should be respected in the forthcoming Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).

The following race matched eight going a mile on the sod in the $270,000 Kelso Breeders' Cup H. (G2) run over the Widener turf course. Although this race has not been the most important of preps for the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1), this year might be the exception. MR O' BRIEN (Ire) (Mukaddamah) bided his time until he found a hole, and once the five-year-old did, it was over. Trained by Robin Graham and piloted by Eibar Coa, Mr. O' Brien ran his final two quarter-mile fractions in :22 4/5 and :23 1/5, exactly the kind of acceleration needed to win a high caliber mile race.

Millennium Dragon (GB) (Mark Of Esteem [Ire]) is not headed to the Breeders' Cup according to his connections, but ran very well in here to gain place honors as a nearly 7-1 overlay.

Closing out the flurry of stakes action was the biggest prize of all, when five distaffers went postward in the $735,000 Beldame S. (G1). This race was the swan song for the exciting, Belmont-loving SIGHTSEEK (Distant View), and did she ever go out in style. Breaking alertly from the opening bell, the five-year-old mare secured the lead in this paceless affair and was allowed an opening half-mile in a pedestrian :48 2/5 under Javier Castellano.

From there it was cruise control for the Bobby Frankel trainee, registering fractions of 1:12 4/5 and 1:36 4/5, prior to stopping the teletimer in 1:49 3/5 to repeat as Beldame champ. For her career, Sightseek racked up 12 wins from 20 starts and banked more than $2.4 million in earnings. She was especially fond of the Empire State, Belmont in particular, where she was perfect from six attempts. She'll be truly missed.

Society Selection (Coronado's Quest) closed well from off the pace to gain second and earned a spot in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) for Allen Jerkens. Storm Flag Flying (Storm Cat), also Lone Star bound, was taken out of her element when close to the pace and settled for the show. Although the Jerkens charge is winless from three starts outside of New York, Society Selection has improved a great deal as this year has progressed and could earn a spot on the board in the Cup.

"CHALK" WATCH

A total of 57 races were contested over the past six racing days, and favorites continue to perform well. With 23 top betting selections crossing the wire first (40 percent), and 12 second choices winning (21 percent), longshot players were once again up against it at Belmont.

Thursday and Saturday were especially "chalky," when an astounding 14 of the 19 winners were favored (73 percent).

CURRENT LEADERS

John Velazquez has clearly planted himself atop the New York jockey colony, and is likely riding as well as anyone on the planet. He leads the current Belmont meet with 44 wins, a 29 percent win rate, and $2,972,117 in monies earned. Futilely chasing him are Cornelio Velasquez (28 wins), Edgar Prado (26), Castellano (26) and Richard Migliore (21).

On the trainers' front, Pletcher and Richard Dutrow are deadlocked in with 13 wins apiece. While Pletcher has gotten to that point by sending out 63 starters, Dutrow has compiled his from just 37 (35 percent wins). Bruce Levine has been steadily hot throughout the meet and has now had 11 first-place finishers (35 percent).

HORSES TO WATCH

Wednesday (10/6)

3rd -- SHAKE THE DICE (Boundary) looked real good in this race, pouncing in the stretch to win going away by 1 1/2 lengths. The gelding finished fast and earned a 100 BRIS Speed figure for his trouble. Expect the six-year-old in allowance company next time.

8th -- MOGADOR (Danzig) had no pace to run at but closed admirably in his stakes debut. Clement has been conservative with this one, but the four-year-old can close with the best of them when he has something to run at.

Thursday (10/7)

9th -- KFAR DANIEL (Fr) (Spinning World) waited for the right time and blew by his competitors to break his maiden for Frankel. This two-year-old was much the best in here and could be a real good one.

Friday (10/8)

4th -- It's hard to get excited about a 2-5 shot winning by eight lengths, but you can when that horse is SALUTE (Unbridled). The two-year-old filly was produced from Personal Ensign (Private Account) and is a half-sister to some fine runners. The final time for the mile was an average 1:38 1/5, but marked an improvement from her debut.

Saturday (10/9)

2nd -- SURVIVALIST (Danzig) was one of many Shug McGauhey runners looking good this weekend, but this one may possess the most upside. Exiting a live heat on Travers Day when unplaced, the colt got into the bit early and waltzed home a facile 8 1/2-length winner beneath Migliore. The dark bay had been sharp in the mornings, and transformed that ability on the big stage like a good horse should. We may all be hearing much more about the colt for the next year or so, remember where you heard his name first.

4th -- HECKLE (Hennessy) made his turf debut in here, and likely found his new home for Pletcher. The terribly fast colt was quick early and quick late, and was especially impressive when spurting away from a good group turning for home.

7th -- SILVER TRAIN (Old Trieste) ran into the wrong group at the wrong time but should rebound and win some races. He shouldn't find many like the top three finishers he faced here in the future.

Sunday (10/10)

8th -- ANDOVER LADY (Kris S.) was wide throughout and closed gamely to miss by just a nose and pair of necks. A more sensible trip for the four-year-old could find her in the winner's circle in her next venture.

Monday (10/11)

4th -- DADDY JOE (Unbridled's Song) digressed from an excellent debut but will be very tough to upend in her next try. The expensive two-year-old in training purchase didn't appear to be very comfortable on the inside part of the track.

A LOOK AHEAD

Thursday's card looks quite competitive, especially with three contentious maiden races carded, the 4TH, 6TH and 9TH races.

In Race 4, #4 Smuggler (Unbridled) is out of champion Inside Information and has been working well for Shug McGauhey. A positive sign is that of John Velazquez riding first time out.

Race 6 will have two-year-old fillies on the lawn, never an easy task for handicappers. A pair of first time starters, #3 Sugar Plum and #8 Oodles of Noodles, are well bred for the grass and merit attention first out.

Race 9 is a six furlong sprint on the main track that drew 14 entrants. #13 Karakorum Splendor drew very wide in here, but ran into a good one last out and could improve for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.

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