Here are stakes picks for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes Day card, an annual cornucopia of wagering opportunities. Reflects early scratches.
Race 2 | Easy Goer Stakes | 1 1/16 miles
2. Breaking the Rules
4. Dark Vader
Comment: Mask has room to improve in second start off the layoff, particularly if the off going at Churchill Downs factored into his lackluster performance there. Breaking the Rules is improving and appears well placed.
Race 3 |Grade I Ogden Phipps Stakes | 1 1/16 miles
1. Abel Tasman
2. Pacific Wind
3. Ivy Bell
4. Unbridled Mo
Comment: This is where 2017 Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman wakes up after being nowhere in the Grade I LaTroienne at Churchill Downs last month in her 2018 debut. She’s worked well since. Pacific Wind takes a step up in class and looks to be the main threat if Abel Tasman isn’t the Abel Tasman.
Race 4 |Grade I Acorn Stakes | 1 mile
1. Monomoy Girl
2. Caledonia Road
3. Talk Veuve to Me
4. Moonshine Memories
Comment: This year’s Oaks winner looks to be in great shape coming into the Acorn and would surprise if she didn’t run her best. Caledonia Road, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner last year, is the main upset threat but this is a steep climb for her second start of the year. She can do it, but Monomoy Girl might be at the best of her form while Caledonia Road might still be getting there.
Race 5 |Grade II Brooklyn Invitational Stakes | 1 1/2 miles
1. Hard Study
2. War Story
4. Take Your Guns
Comment: Hard Study has won at a longer distance and seems well suited here. War Story won this a year ago and would be no surprise.
Race 6 | Grade III Jaipur Stakes | 6 furlongs turf
1. Disco Partner
2. Blind Ambition
3. Stormy Liberal
4. Conquest Tsunami
Comment: Taking a stand against the Dubai entrants in the top spots. Disco Partner had a tough trip in his 2018 debut and still finished third. Gets more distance and should improve in second start of the year. Blind Ambition takes a step up, but can benefit from the one furlong cutback in distance.
Race 7 | Grade II Woody Stephens Stakes | 7 furlongs
2. Madison’s Luna
3. Beautiful Shot
4. World of Trouble
Comment: Engage comes from the red-hot Chad Brown barn and looks to be improving coming into his third start of the year. Madison’s Luna had a rough trip in last and may not have liked the slop at Churchill. Beautiful Shot missed by three parts of a length in last to the horse that would have been one of the top choices had he not scratched (Kanthaka). World of Trouble will appreciate the cut in distance, but will bet against on the suspicion that the Tampa crowd this winter wasn’t the level he’ll see today.
Race 8 | Grade I Just a Game Stakes | 1 mile turf
1. Off Limits
2. A Raving Beauty
3. Proctor’s Ledge
4. On Leave
Comment: Off Limits was flattered by Sistercharlie’s big run to be second yesterday in an oddly run New York Stakes. A Raving Beauty has a lot to like — top trainer, second off a layoff, second in North America.
Race 9 | Grade I Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap | 1 mile
1. Limousine Liberal
2. Bolt d’Oro
3. Bee Jersey
4. Mind Your Biscuits
Comment: Taking a stand against Mind Your Biscuits as a Dubai shipper; he was successful in his U.S. return last year but that was a few weeks later. Limousine Liberal would be a surprise if he’s really 10-1; a consistent in-the-money finisher who has a real chance at (possibly) a price. Bolt d’Oro almost was the pick but this is a steep step for a 3 year old against older.
Race 10 | Grade I Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes | 1 1/4 miles turf
1. Beach Patrol
2. Robert Bruce
3. Hi Happy
4. One Go All Go
Comment: Beach Patrol ran respectably in this last year and her second-place finish in the Old Forester Turf Classic at Churchill in his 2018 debut shows he’s ready for this. Robert Bruce takes a big step up but can factor for all the same reasons mentioned above for A Raving Beauty (Race 8).
Race 11 | Grade I Belmont Stakes | 1 1/2 miles