Friday’s card at Belmont Park is not one to look past, as the Bertram F. Bongard Stakes is back for the 39th time. Last year, Frosted Ice won the 7-furlong main track sprint by more than 6 lengths against fellow state-bred juvenile fillies. We have two maiden special weight (MSW) races to preview, including one of my most confident picks of the meet.
Belmont Meet Statistics (9/6 through 9/18):
|Races||Top 4 Wins||Top 4 Exactas||Top 4 Trifectas||Top 4 Supers|
Race 6: $75,000 MSW for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and upward going 6 1/2 furlongs on the dirt
Kiaran McLaughlin sends out #7 Bell Court (2/1) to make her debut here after training magnificently in the mornings at Saratoga. Her 4-furlong time of :47.33 on September 6 was one of the quickest from any horse across the country. She has seen more and more distance each work, too. If she runs anything like she has in the mornings, watch out.
#3 Comic (4/1) was no match for her field back on August 14, but that field included My Bronx Tail, Katama Moonlight, and Stand for the Flag, who won her next time out. Comic keeps Jose Oritz, who will look to sit off of the pace and pass the front-runners in the stretch.
Chad Brown has two entries in this race, but I only like #1 Royal Flag (3/1). Like Bell Court, she makes her debut as a 3-year-old in this spot. As a half-sister to Catalina Cruiser and being by Candy Ride, she has the pedigree to fit this race very well. The combination of Brown and Irad Ortiz, Jr., is one of the best on the NYRA circuit (28%), and Brown wins at 20% or higher with the distance/surface, with first-time starters, and in maiden special weight events.
Shug McGaughey brings #4 Charreada (9/2) back to the dirt after making three turf starts this year. Her two prior dirt appearances were also her first starts, coming at Churchill Downs in 2018. She ran a :47.10 4-furlong morning work at Saratoga on August 18. At 4 years old, time is running out for her to break her maiden status.
Ricky’s Picks: 7-3-1-4
Race 8: $62,000 MSW for New York-bred 2-year-olds going 6 furlongs on the Widener turf
#8 Stanhope (5/1) ran against the toughest field of any of these runners, losing to Cleon Jones in his debut back on July 28. Cleon Jones finished second in the Funny Cide Stakes and is running earlier today in the Bongard Stakes. Stanhope does make the switch from dirt to turf, but Shug McGaughey has won at 27% when his horses make that move. Stanhope is my strongest opinion so far this meet.
Joel Rosario gets the call for Mike Maker’s #12 Dante’s Fire (9/2), who makes his return to the track after a promising debut at Saratoga. He lost out to Freewheeler, who won by open lengths, but Dante’s Fire closed the best in that race and certainly outran his odds of 43/1. Rosario matches up well with horses coming from off the pace, and the extra 1/2-furlong here should help.
#3 Noble Emotion (4/1) makes his second start for Jonathan Thomas while cutting back from his 1 1/16-mile debut. He broke out of the gate very well and established a nice pace right off the leaders in that one, but once Mo Ready took over, so was the race. The second-place finisher, Maxwell Esquire, won his next start while improving his speed figure, and Thomas is 48% with second-start maidens on the turf.
Joe Sharp kept #10 Smite (10/1) on the dirt in his last race after it was taken off of the turf. He entered that race as the heavy favorite, but it was clear that the slop is not his preferred surface. He gets back onto the turf, where he lost his debut on August 1 lost to an impressive field that included Frosted Rose, who competed in the Skidmore Stakes later on in the meet. Smite is a must-add on all tickets at double-digit odds if he stays there.
Ricky’s Picks: 8-12-3-10