HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, July 1, 2022 – With apologies to the rest of America, it will be a Happy Holiday July 4th weekend for horseplayers throughout the country.
All tracks will endeavor to place their best hooves forward, but especially in New York, Kentucky, and South Florida. Racing in those precincts is listed high on out handicapping and wagering docket.
We begin in New York where both Life Is Good and Speaker’s Corner will effort to get their mojo back as the effort from each were, on balance, disappointing.
The question of Life Is Good’s ability to stay 10 furlongs still lingers after his fourth-place finish in the Dubai World Cup. Those who say it was the trip has a point. Then so does those who argue that it was the Meydan surface.
I’ve known Todd Pletcher since he was an assistant to Wayne Lukas and I never heard him to go out of his way to make excuses, a credible witness.
So, when he says that the surface that night was especially loose that night and that Life Is Good did not handle it. As I watched the race, and subsequent replays, it did appear to cup out from under horse’s hooves.
At the same point, he shortened stride inside the final furlong, so there was that, too.
However, I don’t know what to say about Speaker’s Corner, soundly defeated by Flightline, ranked #1 in America. No disgrace that; no one’s gotten close to doing that.
Junior Alvarado took it to Flightline on the backside of the Met Mile, put him in close quarters, twice. But still appearing handy when Flightline came alongside in a 45-second half-mile, he offered no resistance whatsoever approaching headstretch.
In fact, he began to wobble when Happy Saver came with his late run and could not hold him safe. He didn’t look like the same horse that won the G1 Carter with complete authority.
Speaker’s Corner has won twice going a mile, so it wasn’t the distance. He ran like a horse that regressed off a lifetime top effort.
The questions are multi-faceted. Which of the two efforts are more forgivable? Life Is Good is making his first start since March and the road to Saratoga is getting closer by the day.
Saturday’s Grade 2 John A Nerud looms as a prep event, and Life Is Good (1-2) draws the pole, not an enviable spot. And this could be a test for everyone’s benefit, including new rider Flavien Prat.
Conversely, Speaker’s Corner (6-5) is nearly three months removed from his huge Carter score, he draws outside in a small field, gets a switch to gate whiz Jose Ortiz, and his loss in his fourth go at 7 furlongs would be a first.
The other Saturday feature at Belmont Park is the Grade 3 Dwyer, which marks the return of the young, talented Charge It (4-5), who since the Derby has had surgery to correct a breathing issue.
But he, too, will be under the gun going a mile, also from the rail slip. So, what to do with the Florida Derby runnerup, who has future designs on either the Jersey Shore or upstate New York.
The only conceivable contender, before Friday’s check of performance figures, is Nobokov (6-5), a recent Belmont maiden breaker at 1-1/16 miles.
Pressed throughout a moderately quick pace, he was ridden out, never threatened, and won handily with reserves. Considering the quality of the favorite, this spot is ambitious.
But nothing has been ambitious for the Peter Brant-Chad Brown express at this meeting. Flavien Prat inherits the mount and post 6 is preferable to the rail. Still…
G2 JOHN A NERUD Race 4
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Life Is Good
WIN-VALUE PLAY: Speaker’s Corner to win at 2-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Exacta Box Life Is Good and Speaker’s Corner
G3 DWYER Race 8
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Charge It
WIN-VALUE PLAY: NA
EXOTICA: Exacta Box Charge It and Nobokov, extra ticket with Charge It first
G3 SMILE SPRINT Race 7
The Skinny: A look at the figures, trips and company lines, this six horse race comes down the the proven vs. the late developing…
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Drain the Clock (6-5)
WIN-BET VALUE: Willie Boi (5-2) to win at 3-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Exacta Box ‘Clock’ with Willy Boi.
G2 PRINCESS ROONEY Race 10
The Skinny: Due principally to field size, the Rooney virtually the same handicapping dynamics as the Smile apply, the defending Eclipse champion in his race, Ce Ce (4-5), who absolutely shines at this trip, turning with good spacing and works, vs invading New York trip specialist, Glass Ceiling (7-2).
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Ce Ce
WIN-VALUE PLAY: Glass Ceiling to win at 3-1 or greater.
EXOTICA: Exacta Box Ce Ce and ‘Glass’. Exacta and Trifecta Wheel both fillies first second and third, adding Make Mischief (6-1) second and third.
G2 FLEUR DE LIS Race 8
The Skinny: A field of only five but it is contentious in that three of this quintet have a legitimate right to win this. Super Quick (2-1) simply freaked at Pimlico, a never-in-doubt display which she won by nearly 15 lengths: last eighth in 12.91 after making all the pace.
We’re forgiving Pauline’s Pearl’s (5-2) last run. Never great from the gate, she raced wide and flat throughout after upsetting Shedaresthedevil (9-5) in a Grade 1. She had recency in her corner. Today, the ‘Devil’ should turn that table around.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Shedaresthedevil
VALUE-WIN PLAY: Super Quick to win at 2-1 or greater.
EXOTICA: Exacta and Trifecta part wheels: Shedaresthedevil and Super Quick first and second with each other, adding Pauline’s Pearl second and third.
KELLY’S LANDING Race 9
The Skinny: Class should tell in this spot. There are several very sharp and fast sprinters in here but none of them exit three consecutive Grade 1s as Aloha West (2-1) does here.
Following a good third to Jackie’s Warrior, he was no match for Flightline or Speaker’s Corner in the Met Mile—no disgrace that. Bango (5-2) comes from a career best taking the Aristides, and it will be a question of he can duplicate the effort. Well, Greg Foley excels in LAY-3 scenarios and Tyler rides back.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Aloha West (2-1)
VALUE-WIN BET: Aloha West at 2-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Exacta Box Aloha West and Bango. Trifecta Key Aloha West over Bango, Awesome Jerry (8-1) and Kneedeepinsnow (8-1)
G2 STEPHEN FOSTER Race 10
The Skinny: The race of the day in terms of history and prestige that have drawn seven horses of which a good case can be made for five of them. Bettors will have a choice of two from Brad Cox, G2 winner and G1 placed Mandaloun (2-1) and Caddo River (10-1). The former may hold a class edge but the latter comes off a very sharp score over the track. The rail, Santana, and drops 7 pounds off the recent win.
G1 winner Americanrevolution (7-2) appeared in need of four-year-old debut, racing wide throughout, challenged strongly from between horses in midstretch but tired as if not wound tightly. That was a listed event; this is Grade 2—added together equals improvement.
Olympiad (5-2) needs no introduction in that he’s been a revolution at 4 and Proxy (9-2) rates honorable mention as a dependably competitive sort who fires his best shot but might not be up to these, even with Joel in the boot.
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Americanrevolution
VALUE-WIN BET: Caddo Rider to win at 5-1 or greater.
EXOTICA: Exacta Box Americanrevolution and Caddo River. Exacta, Trifecta and Superfecta Wheel Americanrevolution and Caddo River first with each other second, third and fourth, adding Olympiad second through fourth, additionally with Proxy and Mandaloun third and fourth.
Exotic bets are suggested at minimums available with straight wagers in $2 units, or multiples thereof
this is a live column that will be updated throughout the weekend