2018 Belmont Stakes Notes – Part II

Call to Mind, a 4-year-old owned and bred by Her Majesty, The Queen, took to the Belmont grass for the first time on Tuesday, galloping over the inner turf course in preparation for the Grade 2, $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational on Friday.

The homebred, who arrived at Belmont last Friday, stepped onto the course around 9 a.m. and turned in a strong gallop under exercise rider Simon Scott. Galloping ahead of him was Prince of Arran, who also will be competing in the two-mile Belmont Gold Cup.

“I thought [Call to Mind] looked great,” said Harry Eustace, assistant to trainer William Haggas. “We went [to the turf] just to check his leads, and in that respect we were very happy. He popped his lead going into the bend and popped it coming off the bend into the straight. From our perspective, he did everything we wanted him to. He’s fit and ready. I think he was a bit exuberant once he got into his stride coming down the stretch. Simon said he was quite keen to keep going. We’re just keeping a lid on that and saving it for race day.”

Call to Mind has won two of eight starts, including a 1 3/4-mile listed stakes last August at Goodwood. The Galileo colt enters the Belmont Gold Cup off a third in the Group 2, 1 3/4-mile Yorkshire Cup on May 18 at York.

Eustace said Call to Mind will gallop on the main track tomorrow and might jog the morning of the race.

“We have quite a late race, so he might jog the wrong way Friday morning,” Eustace explained. “We want to keep him in a routine and get him out of his stall for the morning.”

Call to Mind will be Elizabeth II’s first starter at Belmont since Dawn Glory, trained by Christophe Clement, finished third in a maiden special weight in October 2012.

Two-year-old champion filly Caledonia Road strong in G1 Acorn gallop

A nice early-morning, 1 ¼-mile gallop around Belmont Park has Caledonia Road just about set to take on Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Girl and five other 3-year-old fillies in the Grade 1, $700,000 Acorn on Saturday at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

Assistant trainer Heather Smullen was aboard for the gallop and said the 2017 2-year-old filly champion would school at the gate later Wednesday and perhaps on Thursday afternoon.

Caledonia Road, owned by Zoom and Fish Stable Inc., Charlie Spiring and Newtown Anner Stud, has displayed her talent around two turns, winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and starting 2018 with a win in a one-mile optional claimer on Apri; 29 at Belmont.

The Acorn is a one-turn mile, and Smullen said she’s not sure how the daughter of Quality Road will perform against the likes of Monomoy Girl, trained by Brad Cox, and Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante winner Moonshine Memories.

“Caledonia Road is doing really well, ” said Smullen, the assistant to Ralph Nicks, who is expected to arrive at Belmont Park later Wednesday. “The only thing is it’s a one-turn mile and we know she’s stronger around two turns.

“Brad’s filly [Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Girl] is nice. It’s a good group of horses. Moonshine Memories is no slouch. But our filly is doing well and it ought to set her up for Saratoga because we know she likes Saratoga and we know we have two-turn races. Ideally, the [Grade 1] Alabama is the goal, so we’ll go from there.”

Caledonia Road was purchased for $140,000 at the 2016 Keeneland Sale and won her first start, a seven-furlong race at Saratoga last September. A month later, she stepped up into Grade 1 company and finished second in the Grade 1 Frizette. Then came her 3 ¼-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup under Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith, who will be aboard her for the Acorn.

In four races, the filly has career earnings of $1,277,800.

Trainer Dale Romans excited to be part of history in Belmont Stakes

For the fourth time in his career, trainer Dale Romans brings a horse to Belmont Park with designs on spoiling a Triple Crown bid. Albaugh Family Stables’ Grade 1 winner Free Drop Billy will be a decided long shot against Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Justify in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, but Romans wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

“Wayne Lukas told me a long time ago when I was just getting started … he said he’s made millions of dollars running horses where people told him he didn’t belong, and if your horse is doing good don’t be afraid to give them a chance,” Romans said. “I’ve kind of stuck to that.”

Free Drop Billy, 16th in the May 5 Kentucky Derby last time out, will break from post-position 2 in a field of 10 as a 30-1 outsider in the program. The only horse inside him will be Justify, attempting to become the 13th horse to sweep the Triple Crown and just the second to do so without a loss.

Nilsen's analysis

“There’s only limited chances to run in a race like this,” Romans said. “After the Derby we didn’t know what we were going to do with him, but he’s just trained so well and he’s had some good breezes since the Derby. He’s doing great and I just think he deserves a chance to run with the best. We’ll try him out one more time.”

Romans was seventh in the 2012 Belmont with Dullahan, who inherited the favorite’s role when Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another was scratched on the eve of the race with a career-ending injury. Two years later, Romans-trained Medal Count – sent off at 24-1 – was third to Tonalist but three-quarters of a length ahead of California Chrome, who dead-heated for fourth in his Triple Crown attempt.

Keen Ice was 17-1 in 2015 when he finished third behind American Pharoah, whose victory ended a 37-year Triple Crown drought. Keen Ice would go on to become the only horse to beat American Pharoah during his 3-year-old season in the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga Race Course.

“It’s fun and exciting to be a part of something that could be historic, like when we ran third the year Pharoah won,” Romans said. “Just being there and a racing fan, I was glad to be a participant and feel the electricity and energy from all the people and the fans that day. It makes the whole day a little bit more special.”

Free Drop Billy trained early Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs before boarding the same flight bringing Justify to New York. They were expected to arrive at Belmont Park in early afternoon.

‘Less stress and pressure’ with Blended Citizen’s outside post

Gary Hall, SayJay Racing and Brooke Hubbard’s Belmont Stakes starter Blended Citizen will navigate the 1 ½ miles of Belmont Park’s main track from the outside post 10 in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.5 million classic, and will be one of nine others looking to prevent Justify from becoming the 13th winner of the Triple Crown.

The colt galloped once around the main track early Wednesday morning, and will continue the same regimen until race day.

The Doug O’Neill-trained colt by Proud Citizen is the lone starter in the 150th Belmont Stakes who owns a start and a victory at Belmont after he won the May 12 Grade 3 Peter Pan by 1 ½ lengths.

The post-position draw was just another step closer to race day, and not a major concern for Team O’Neill according to assistant trainer Leandro Mora.

“Being outside helps, but it’s a long race so you have plenty of time,” Mora said. “It really doesn’t matter much. It’s not like the Kentucky Derby where everybody is fighting for position. We’re happy. First of all, it’s a 10-horse field, and he’s going to be the last one to load. Usually there’s less stress and pressure, and now Justify is on the inside, he got the number that nobody wanted to have. So, for us it’s good.”

Handicapping past performances PPsThe big brown Kentucky-bred was labeled a slow learner early on. After three starts on dirt where he was unplaced, he was tried on grass where he began to progress, but it wasn’t until he debuted with blinkers in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park that the colt turned the corner.

“Early on at Santa Anita my exercise rider was telling me that the horse was seeing a lot when he was training in the morning,” said Mora. “We decided to put blinkers on in training. We brought him to Golden Gate, and I mentioned it to Doug.  I put blinkers on him, but I forgot to enter [the race] with blinkers, so the paddock judge took them off, and we still finished third. In the very next race, we remembered to enter with blinkers, and that’s when he won the Jeff Ruby. He also had them in the Blue Grass, but that was a tough race. Now he’s getting more and more mature, but we want to keep them on.”

Riding a horse with Blended Citizen’s style takes a jockey who can judge the pace as well as knowing when to send a long-striding horse according to Mora. Kyle Frey, who has been aboard the colt for his last four races and will ride in his first Belmont Stakes on Saturday, fits his horse perfectly.

“He got along with the horse really well, and he even admitted he should have been a little better in the Blue Grass,” Mora said. “He got a little bit out of position, but that’s horse racing. This horse doesn’t have a good turn of foot, but he’s a grinder, so a rider knowing the horse, he knows when he has to start making the move.”

Source: NYRA

Trainer Graham Motion Loaded for Belmont Stakes Week

Belmont Park horse racingTrainer Graham Motion is looking to field an eclectic assortment of horses during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, from the up-and-coming 3-year-old Rugbyman, who is entered in the $150,000 Easy Goer on Belmont Stakes Day, to the stalwart Augustin Stable homebred Spring Quality, who at age 6 will be making his first Grade 1 appearance in the $1 million Woodford Reserve Manhattan at 1 ¼ miles on the turf.

Motion also is pointing Lady Alexandra, who won the License Fee in her first start for him, to the Grade 3, $200,000 Intercontinental on opening day of the Festival, Thursday, June 7; European import Esquisse to the Grade 2, $600,000 New York presented by NYRA Bets on Friday and Serena’s Song winner Bernedto the Grade 1, $750,000 Ogden Phipps on Belmont Stakes Day.

Rugbyman, a gray son of Tapit bred and owned by Wertheimer Et Frere, finished a closing third in his debut on April 13 and followed that with a rousing 14-length maiden victory over older horses at a mile at Belmont Park.

“He was impressive enough in his maiden victory to consider a stake for his next start,” said the trainer. “A lot will depend on how be breezes on Friday.”

Spring Quality, a son of Quality Road out of the Deputy Minister mare Spring Star, made a single appearance at age 2, winning a seven-furlong maiden at Keeneland, then reappeared in the spring as a 4-year-old to take an optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs. Given more time off, he finally began racing on a consistent basis in 2017, notching his first graded stakes win in November in his second start on turf in the Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack.

In his first start this year, he was beaten less than a length by fellow Manhattan hopeful Robert Bruce in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy.

“He had little niggling issues that kept him away from the races, but knowing he had the ability, his owner [George Strawbridge] was very patient with him,” said Motion, noting Spring Quality has won five of 10 starts, with three seconds. “I always thought he could be a grass horse, but he was running so well on dirt I didn’t move him [until the second half of 2017].”

Nilsen's analysis

Spring Quality was entered in the Robellino at Penn National in August, which wound up coming off the turf and which he won by a neck. He followed that by finishing second in the Roanoke at Parx, and an encouraging fourth in the Grade 2 Knickerbocker at 1 1/8 miles at Belmont.

“Looking back, maybe I should have moved him [onto turf] earlier,” said Motion. “That being said, I’ve always had this race in mind for him, and the timing of the Fort Marcy was perfect.”

Lady Alexandra, who was purchased last year for $375,000 by the Heider Family Stables at the Horses of Racing Age Sale at Keeneland following an optional claiming victory at Belmont in June, made one subsequent start at Saratoga for trainer Tom Proctor, finishing eighth in the Coronation Cup. Sent to Motion over the winter, she trained forwardly and made her 4-year-old debut a winning one with a 3 ½-length score in the License Free going six furlongs.

“I was extremely impressed with her performance in that race,” Motion said.

Esquisse, who arrived in Motion’s barn in late fall of 2017, finished third, beaten 1 ¼ lengths in a one-mile allowance in April at Keeneland and second, one length back, in an optional claimer on May 18 at Belmont.

“Her races here have been very good,” said Motion of the British-bred daughter of Dansili. “Perhaps she’s showing more in the morning than in the afternoons. Her mother [the Rahy mare Legerate] ran 1 ½ miles, so perhaps the difference might be the extra quarter-mile.”

Berned, owned by Robert Masiello and West Point Thoroughbreds, would be making her third Grade 1 appearance in the 1 1/16-mile Ogden Phipps, having finished fourth in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga last summer and seventh in the Starlet at Laurel Race Course as a 2-year-old while under the care of Tom Albertrani.

The Bernardini filly is 1-0-1 this year, with a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Barbara Fricthie at Laurel and a sixth in the Grade 3 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct.

“This would be a big step up for her,” said Motion. “A lot will depend on who is running.”

Source: NYRA

Nilsen’s Belmont Stakes Full-Card Analysis 2018

Download Rich Nilsen’s Belmont analysis here

with Wagering Strategies & Spot Plays by Rich Nilsen

This is Rich Nilsen’s home track and the results have showed in recent years. Nilsen gave out $34.80 winner Creator as his top pick as well as the huge exacta with Destin that returned over $260 just two years ago.  He followed that up last year with top selection $12.60 Tapwrit last year and the exacta and trifecta!

Founder of AGameofSkill.com, Nilsen is the winner of 7 major handicapping tournaments and a 15-time qualifier to the multi million-dollar National Horseplayers Championship (NHC). He is well known as one of the best handicappers in the country.  There are a lot of pretenders out there.  Get affordable, expert advice for this year’s amazing Belmont Stakes card.

This sheet contains:

Top selections for all 13 races

Sophisticated Pace Scenario for all 13 races

Spot Plays (Best Bets) on the undercard w/ wagering strategies

In-depth Analysis of the Belmont Stakes.  Includes Exacta and Trifecta strategies.

Get all 13 races on the Belmont card.  Download now for only $15.97 to any device.

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CREATOR lost his best chance when he broke from an inside post in the field of 20 and encountered a rough trip in the Kentucky Derby.  Prior to that he was ultra impressive, sweeping by the field in the G1 Arkansas Derby.  If you want to see an incredible maiden win, just go back and what this colt’s Feb. 27 score at Oaklawn, and you’ll again see the type of late kick this guy possesses.  Trainer Steve Asmussen has the son of Tapit working well for this rebound race, including a blowout 4f drill over the Belmont training track. Bred to run all day, Creator will drop back under new rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. and come rolling late at a big price. 

Testimonial from the 2017 Sheet:

“Hey Rich.. Thanks for putting me on Tapwrit !! I liked him and Gormley and Irish War Cry.

I think  #9 meantime had enough speed to compromise Irish War Cry. Have feeling that if he wasn’t in the race, Irish War Cry might have been loose on the lead ,and had enough to win.  I had Tapwrit straight & the exacta.  Tapwrit & Gormley both had “dream trips”, But Gormley didnt want to go that far… Hey !! let’s give some love to Disco Partner for his new North  American record for 6 panels. I had him straight  and also knocked down the exacta of 2-4 for $42.00… Hope you had a good day & made some cash !!
Thanks Again, 
Wayne M.

2017 Belmont Stakes Field is Wide Open

The 149th running of the Belmont Stakes this Saturday won’t include the Kentucky Derby (Always Dreaming) or Preakness (Cloud Computing) winners but could attract its largest field since a record 15 broke from the starting gate in 1983.

Source: Belmont Stakes field is deep

Cloud Computing, surprise Preakness champion, is uncertain for Belmont Stakes

With Preakness champion Cloud Computing uncertain to start in the Belmont Stakes, the thoroughbred racing world faces the strong possibility of a second straight year with three different winners of the three Triple Crown races. Trainer Chad Brown said Cloud Computing came out of his upset victory in good order.

But even in the immediate afterglow… [Read more…]

Recap of the Belmont Stakes Card (2016)

track announcer with binoculars

Ed Meyer is the track announcer at Belterra

 by Ed Meyer, special for AGameofSkill.com visitors

The Triple Crown trail officially ended with the running of the 148th Belmont Stakes. Many watched these runners since their two-year-old seasons and you may find yourself getting a little sentimental about this chapter of their racing career ending.  Before you start putting away your notes and stats, we may have just started the real handicapping. We have late summer racing and, of course, the road to the Breeders’ Cup.   So start up your notes and watch-lists again as the best is yet to come.  Some of these runners will have serious Breeders Cup implications.

The (G-1) Acorn Stakes – One mile on the dirt

There was a solid group of six who went to post and the big chalk was the incredible Cathryn Sophia. All of these gals glimmer in their own right, but here is one you’ll want to keep on your watch list for future racing.

Go Maggie Go  has done very little wrong and comes to the races from the Dale Romans bran. This daughter of Ghostzapper had her worst finish in her brief career (4th) and I’m looking forward to her races down the road. She has two 1 1/8 races (9 furlongs) under her belt and looks to be finding herself with every race. She responded well to the rider’s commands and looks like this race is just a stepping stone for bigger things to come.

The (G-1) Ogden Phipps Stakes – 1 1/16 on the dirt

Seven fillies and mares took to the track led by Curalina who was the public favorite this day.

Sheer Drama doesn’t have to take her track with her. She is consistent and shows tactical ability at all distances. She lunged at the start this day and was wide before trying to uncork a bid.   This race is a “toss out” and handicapper’s beware. This daughter of Burning Roma is going to blossom into a real monster with a little racing luck.

The (G-1) Just a Game Stakes – One mile on the turf

A field of thirteen fillies and mares assembled and with a field this size you may have to go back and watch the replay three or four more times to get the correct read. Here are a couple of gals who will should be on the radar screen for handicappers down the line.

Faufiler – California jock Drayden Van Dyke was aboard for Graham Motion, and both rider and trainer are well versed on the greensward. This daughter of Galileo is a stone cold closer. As long as there’s a solid pace she’ll come rolling from the clouds. In time I think we’ll see her a few strides closer to the pace setters, and that will make double dangerous to pick off runners late in the lane. She mainly has traveled a flat mile, but her breeding suggests she may enjoy added ground. After shipping across the pond from France, she appears to be getting better with every start.

Recepta has a late punch that could knock down the champ at any oval. John Velasquez was in the irons this day, and she did very little wrong except come up a bit short nearing the wire. She’s well traveled and merits respect anywhere she’ll run. Her best efforts may range from one mile to 1 1/8 on the turf.  Things look very bright for the future.

The (G-1) Metropolitan Handicap – One mile on the dirt

Just like a well-aged wine I think Frosted will only improve with time. The time figures from every publication are off the charts and he dismissed the “Dubai-Jinx” after getting beat at Meydan and putting on one of the best shows of his career. His late summer-fall campaign will be one to behold if all goes well, and right about when the Breeders’ Cup frenzy is at a fever pitch this will be one of the runners we’ll all be talking about.

The  (G-1) Manhattan Stakes – 1 1/4 on the inner turf

Nine runners went to post and the public made Flintshire from the Chad Brown barn the public choice at the windows.

Flintshire (GB) – This world traveler from the Chad Brown barn had the services of one of the best turf riders in the game with Javier Castellano.  His passport is stamped in Hong Kong, France, Dubai, and the United States. He missed by a 1/4 length in the 2014 edition of the Breeders’ Cup Turf, and this son of Dansili looked like he has yet to find his best gear.  One thing is for certain, every time he takes to the track he will be one of the tough guys to contend with, and if this race is any indication I can’t wait until we see him back on the weeds.

The (G-1) Belmont Stakes – 1 1/2 – The Test of Champions

As the media missed an opportunity to see Nyquist return for some payback from his Preakness loss, and the rumors swirled around Kent Desormeaux for personal problems. The fans we’re treated to a full field of thirteen runners and, in the end,  one incredible finish for the Triple Crown.

Destin – This son of Giant’s Causeway has the look of maturing colt at the right time. Add in some well deserved rest and a plan for the later part of the year and we’ll have one tough cookie going to post.  Take nothing away from the fast closing effort of the winner Creator who received a well timed ride from the ultra-talented Irad Ortiz Jr.  Looking ahead, I see a runner with tactical ability who will be feared as a front end presence or stalking just off the hot pace. He should probably find his best races in 1 1/16 – 1 1/8 events. His tactical style fits like a glove and this kind of ability plays well on any oval. By the time Breeders’ Cup is in full view, he’ll be one of the major players on everyone’s tickets.

2016 Belmont Stakes Analysis

with Wagering Strategies by Rich Nilsen

Get the complete analysis of the 2016 Belmont Stakes with Nilsen’s longshot top selection.  Nilsen gives out a Win wager on his top, longshot horse and has mapped out Exacta and Superfecta partwheel tickets for the big race, keying around his top two choices in the race.  This is a great betting race with 12 runners entered to face overbet favorite Exaggerator, who is currently 4/5 in the early wagering and is unlikely to drift up.

Nilsen gave out the winner of the Preakness in his last Triple Crown analysis.

Founder of AGameofSkill.com, Nilsen is the winner of 5 major handicapping tournament and a 12-time qualifier to the million-dollar National Handicapping Championship (NHC).

Download now for only $9.97 to any device.
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Bad boy Lani commanding respect in Belmont Stakes

 ELMONT, N.Y. — Somewhere between the whirlwind atmosphere that surrounded him in Kentucky, his brief jaunt to Baltimore and subsequent return to New York, Lani appears to have lost the memo that he is supposed to be the crazy one. The gray son of Tapit who has made himself at home on the Belmont Park oval… [Read more…]

Exaggerator 9-5 favorite for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes

Belmont Stakes 2016 ELMONT, N.Y. — Being the focus of widespread attention isn’t something that sits too comfortably with trainer Keith Desormeaux. It has nothing to do with the veteran horseman being ungrateful and everything to do with the fact he just doesn’t want to miss any intangibles his charges communicate. “My intensity is in watching those horses train,… [Read more…]

Belmont Stakes Success

Belmont Stakes 2016 It is often found all in the family

The morning after he watched his colt ruin any chance of Belmont Park playing host to a Triple Crown coronation for another season, trainer Keith Desormeaux and his confidence were as buoyant as the indefatigable son of Curlin pulling him around the shedrow. He was less than 24 hours removed from watching his younger brother, Kent,… [Read more…]