Written by Daniel Benjamin
Race 1- Maiden Special Weight (Purse - $64,000)
Seven fillies will look for their first win going an endurance trying one and one-sixteenth miles on the dirt. This should be a fun race and while I believe there are two front runners -- #1 Sneer and #6 So Darn Hot -- the battle to fill out the rest of the betting ticket should be pretty interesting. Sneer is coming off the longest break of her young career after coming off coming up empty following an early bid and finishing sixth on a sloppy track on April 26 at Gulfstream. Into Mischief’s daughter is back at the current distance for the first time since her initial career start at Tampa Bay where she finished second. Red-hot jockey John Valazquez, who won 3 of his 4 rides at Belmont on June 14. So Darn Hot is also making her debut at Belmont following two straight 3rd place finishes at Gulfstream. So Darn Hot came between horses and closed strong to finish third at this distance the last time out on May 14. I expect #2 Sky Queen and #7 Lemon’s Medaglia to battle it out to fill out the bottom of the ticket. Sky Queen hasn’t raced in over three months but she showed tremendous improvement in her second start at Aqueduct. Lemon’s Medaglia is on the track for the first time since December though she was pretty consistent before this long break.
Picks: I like an exacta box of #1,#6. I also like a trifecta box of #1, #6, #2. Additionally, I throw a show bet on the #2.
Race 7 - Allowance Optional Claiming (Purse - $68,000)
This field of strong six $62,500 optional claiming runners will go one and one-sixteenth miles on the dirt. I fully expect that this will be an excellent meet but I like #1 Its All Relevant here. The 7-year-old gelding posted a career-best ESpeed of 109 as he coasted to a five-and-a-half length victory at this level going one mile and an eighth at Aqueduct back in March. Its All Relevant has been strong coming off this long off a break and has a 50% win percentage on the dirt as well as a 33% win percentage at Belmont. #2 Prioritize just missed at this level back in February as the 5-year-old gelding made up nearly four lengths down to stretch to finish within a neck of the eventual winner, Grumps Little Tots in February. Prioritize has finished in the top 2 in each of his last two starts and has one win in two attempts at this distance. #4 Proven Reserves is stepping up a little in competition after earning a victory going a mile against $50,000 claimers on a sloppy track. While Proven Reserves is racing for the first time at Belmont in over two years, he does have two third-place finishes against this level of competition in four tries.
Picks: I like a win bet on the #1. I also an exacta box of #1 #4, #3.
Race 9 - Critical Eye Stakes
Six fillies and mares will go one mile in this stakes race. This meet appears to be a two-horse race between #2 Ratajkowski and #5 More Mischief. I am going with More Mischief here as the lone filly in the field has already registered two victories this year, including her last outing in the Biogio’s Rose Stakes (Black type) on February 9. More Mischief, who has finished in the money in seven of nine events, has earned two of her four career victories in the mile races and has a 66.7% WPS rate in stakes races. Jockey Manuel Franco has a 15% win rate in stakes races. #2 Ratajkowski hasn’t raced in 2020 but was sensational during her first year on the track where she posted four wins and six top 3 finishes in seven outings. Jose Ortiz gets the ride on the speedy six-year-old mare who has a 50% success rate at the mile and a 75% (3-for-4) win rate at Belmont. I have #1 English Soul and #3 No Hayne No Game battling for third and fourth place though I can see the #6 The Great Johanna sneaking into the ticket as well. This is The Great Johanna’s first stakes race though she has reached the podium in 75% of her races.
Picks: With the two leaders expected to be heavy favorites, I am going with an exacta bet of #5, #2. I am also going with a trifecta box bet of #2, #5, #1, #3, and #6. Additionally, I will go with a show bet on the #6.