Getting a chance to help the Racing Dudes team cover Saratoga’s meet was some of the most fun that I’ve ever had. Even though it was short-lived, the meet provided as much excitement as I could’ve hoped for. After an amazing two months, we get to make our way down I-87, through New York City and onto the Long Island Expressway before arriving at our next destination. Being from the New York area, Belmont Park has always held a special place in my heart. Getting the opportunity to watch Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify make history is something I’ll never forget. The fall card opens this Friday with the Christiecat Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf. There are also four maiden special weight (MSW) races to preview as we look to start the meet in a positive way.

Saratoga Meet Statistics (Final)

Races Top 4 Wins Top 4 Exactas Top 4 Trifectas Top 4 Supers
67 48 27 16 3

Belmont Meet Statistics

Races Top 4 Wins Top 4 Exactas Top 4 Trifectas Top 4 Supers
0 0 0 0 0
 
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Race 2: $62,000 MSW for New York-bred 2-year-old fillies going 6 furlongs on the outer turf

I prefer #1A Strongerthanuknow (5/2) over her coupled stablemate, #1 Silky Blue, but either should be the favorite even if only one runs. Strongerthanuknow ran a valiant third at Monmouth Park on August 4 but was placed second via DQ because the original winner bumped her hard in the stretch. She should be forwardly-placed in an effort to go gate to wire.

#10 My Sassy Sarah (7/2) looked fantastic in her debut over the Saratoga turf back on August 2. She was within a couple lengths of the leaders early and Manny Franco did a nice job getting her to the front, but she wasn’t able to hold off Light in the Sky, who stormed home from the back of the pack. It will be interesting to see if Franco decides to rate this filly or if he decides to put her on the front end.

#2 Good Credence (4/1) showed the best early speed out of every horse here that came out of the same August 2 race as My Sassy Sarah. Anthony Margotta, Jr., might have found something out about this filly after he made the switch from dirt to turf. After brushing the gate in her last race, she responded well by being just off the lead, and John Velazquez – one of the best on the NYRA circuit – returns.

I can’t figure out what to make of #5 Devils Rendezvous (12/1). Her debut over a sloppy dirt course was one to forget, and the next time out, she got off to a good start on the turf but faded as the race progressed. Gary Contessa will put her back on the turf, but in a drastic cutback. He has been known to do this successfully in the past (15%), so the move makes sense. This filly should be included on all multi-race tickets, as she can be a threat here.

Ricky’s Picks: 1/1A-10-2-5

Credit: NYRA

Race 4: $75,000 MSW for 2-year-olds going 6 furlongs on the inner turf

Wesley Ward brings #3 No Nay Maybe (7/2) back to the Belmont Park turf after showing a lot of positive signs in his debut. He lost his footing at the start and rushed up to meet the leaders, but his poor start affected his ability to win. He is a logical play and should consider heavy consideration as one of the main favorites.

Joel Rosario is aboard first-timer #9 Nettleton (3/1), who was purchased for $320,000 earlier in 2019. He has the requisite workouts that a debuting colt would want, including one over a turf course and a recent 3-furlong blowout, plus the times to back it up.

#10 Verrazano First (6/1) comes out of a Todd Pletcher barn that ended the Saratoga meet on the right foot. This colt ran 4 furlongs in an impressive :48.05 on Aug 30, and with Luis Saez known to be one of the most aggressive riders on the circuit, expect this colt to be on the lead early.

Bill Mott brings a son of American Pharoah out to the track in #8 Imperial Moment (9/2). His morning works are some of the best that I’ve seen this year from an unraced 2-year-old. His August 17 workout, 4 furlongs in :47.47, is extremely quick, but it’s worth noting that owner/breeder Juddmonte Farms only won one of 10 starts at the Belmont Park spring meet.

Ricky’s Picks: 3-9-10-8

Credit: NYRA

Race 6: $75,000 MSW for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and upward going 1 1/16 miles (8 1/2 furlongs) on the dirt

#2 Stand for the Flag (6/5) made her 2019 debut at Saratoga after nearly a year away and had looked like a filly with some rust who needed a race under her belt. Jason Servis has been stellar in 2019 (28% overall) and brings her back in just 3 1/2 weeks. On debut, she broke slowly but made up ground every step of the stretch, and she gets an extra 1 1/2 furlongs here, which should do her wonders.

Luis Saez will hop aboard #6 Cairo Cutie (4/1) as she makes her second start for Todd Pletcher. Before her race over the sloppy Belmont Park surface last time out, she showed speed at Oaklawn Park over fast tracks. The sloppy surface affected her ability to be on the lead, so assuming Saturday’s surface is to her liking, she should have no problem being on the front foot.

#3 My Happy Place (5/2) has been entered against a couple of tough fields. Two races back, she lost to La Chancla who, after she broke her maiden, won her first time in the allowance ranks. The second-place finisher, My Bronx Tail, came back to beat My Happy Place at Saratoga on August 14. This field figures to be a slightly softer spot for her in an effort to live up to her $575,000 price tag.

Chad Brown brings #4 Trial and Error (7/2) back to Belmont Park for her second start over this surface. She has three works in a row suggesting that she is ready to make it back to the track and made drastic improvements in her second start, controlling the early fractions but still managing to hold on for second. All signs are pointing up with this filly, and another positive step would see her in the winner’s circle in career start number three.

Ricky’s Picks: 2-6-3-4

Credit: NYRA

Race 8: $62,000 MSW for New-York-bred 2-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles (8 1/2 furlongs) on the outer turf

#9 Astoria Kitten (7/2) hit the gate in her debut, causing her to go three-wide into the first turn. This race’s distance over the Saratoga turf does not allow for a poor break, she took herself out of that race. Jose Lezcano is an upgrade over Kendrick Carmouche and has good rapport with Danny Gargin, winning at 26% with his horses in 2019. This is a perfect spot for this filly to break her maiden.

Barclay Tagg kept his 2-year-old filly in a race that came off the turf on July 24. #10 Adriatic Holiday (6/1) was forced to make her move in the seven-path at the top of the stretch before weakening in the stretch. She was made for the turf course and should enjoy the added distance.

#3 Lady Kaza (6/1)‘s dirt debut was not overly impressive, to say the least, but that field was impressive: the second-place finisher, Critical Value, won next time out. Her August 30 workout was her first on the turf and was enough to convince Chad Brown to try her on turf. This has been a positive move for Brown’s runners (26%, $2.13 ROI), and Lady Kaza should be moderately priced through post time.

The biggest question of this race is, how hard does Joe Bravo send #2 Mazal Eighteen (4/1) to the front? Irad Ortiz, Jr., let her run off early and she faded mightily, barely holding on for third. Unlike Saratoga, this course configuration isn’t quite two full turns, so the inside post shouldn’t affect her as greatly. If Joe can rate her up front and keep her first quarter in :24.4 or slower, then this field could be at Mazal Eighteen’s mercy.

Ricky’s Picks: 9-10-3-2

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Good luck to everyone playing and be sure to follow me on Twitter @RickyP_15 for more NYRA race previews as we kick off Belmont Park!

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