Saturday, June 30, 2012
A Grade 2 Double Play at Belmont
SARATOGA SPRINGS, June 30, 2012—How apropos that the Road to the Travers and racing’s second season begins at Belmont Park this afternoon with the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes, and tomorrow is July 1. As conventional wisdom says, timing is everything.
But before getting to the Dwyer, there is first the matter of the 9th race, the New York Stakes, a prelude to a Grade 2 Double into the Dwyer. The New York will be run at 10 furlongs on Belmont’s inner turf course; the Dwyer is a mile and a sixteenth over Big Sandy.
A cursory look at the past performances indicates that both events are two-horse races. But as you look a little more closely, so much for cursory looks. First the most probable winners:
Making her third start off a layoff looking to complete a sweep of the Sheepshead Bay and New York Stakes is Aruna. Her class lines speak for themselves; she’s a multiple graded turf winner and a Grade 1 heroine on Keeneland’s synthetic Polytrack oval.
In taking the Sheepshead Bay, it was as much a credit to Ramon Dominguez’s ability as the mare’s, Dominguez pulling the string at mid-far turn, at once swallowing the pacesetter and blowing the race wide open.
As much credit goes to Graham Motion, who’s profitable lifetime with his repeaters, at the graded level and in third-off-the-layup scenarios. Yet, she might not be the public’s choice; that distinction likely will go to a 4-year-old making her U.S. debut.
It will be Banimpire’s first start for Chad Brown and the first since owner Martin Schwartz shelled out $3.1 million to call her his own based on her sophomore form.
Brown’s been taking his time with her, putting her through her paces at Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track. Brown’s profitable with his new acquisitions and learned from Bobby Frankel how to get horses ready, especially turf horses, off long layoffs.
But there will be challengers to the favorites. Hit It Rich (5-1) is coming off a Pace Low in which she earned a lifetime best performance figure, showing incremental improvement for Shug McGaughey; as honest as they come.
Mystical Star (4-1) is likely to be overbet. In her last race, she beat the gate—illegally—dropped a million lengths out of it, then put in a huge rally that got her within 1¾ lengths of Aruna in a remarkable performance.
Fourth finisher Principal Role (8-1), beaten 2¼ lengths, had virtually no chance given the race shape but still finished well and is very likely to go forward in her third start off the layoff for Bill Mott. She should be a generous price.
The trick will be to get alive into the Dwyer that figures to be a match between trainer Michael Matz’s Teeth of the Dog (5-2) and Rick Dutrow’s Zetterholm (3-1).
After finishing fifth in the Preakness, Teeth of the Dog came back to win the Easy Goer overnight stakes on the Belmont undercard, his first start over the surface and at today’s trip. It was a lifetime best effort but not one likely to have taxed his reserves.
When last seen, Zetterholm was a good, late-run fourth in the Preakness and has worked purposefully coming up to this G2 test. He’s 2-for-2 lifetime at an analogous distance and 1-for-1 at a one-turn route.
But his strength is the fact that with three wins from six career runs, he’s the winningest member of the field and in that career, his performance figures never have taken a backward step; a perfect developmental pattern.
While significantly slower on performance figures, Morgan’s Guerrilla (4-1) deserves a look-in here. His tactical speed likely will serve him well in this relatively paceless group and the presence of Dominguez obviously helps his upset chances.
And even Fast Falcon (10-1) shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. His last effort, second to Teeth of the Dog, was his best ever when measured against the speed of the track; he gets five pounds from the favorite, is working sharply, and picks up Rosie Napravnik.
If the Late Pick 4 is your play, you probably could use all of the above. If it’s the Double, a 2x2 is the most probable result, and if interested in an upset, Zetterholm seems the one most likely to succeed.