Even though we turned the page to a new month, that does not mean the racing has slowed down whatsoever here at Belmont Park. We are two days away from one of my favorite days of the year, the Stars and Stripes Festival, that includes the Runhappy Met Mile (G1).

Thursday’s Early Pick 5 is quite competitive for being a mid-week sequence and contains several logical choices.

Best of luck!

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Race 1: Maiden Special Weight for New York-bred fillies and mares 3-year-olds and upward going 1 mile (8 furlongs) on the dirt

#1 Sharp Starr should enjoy the one-turn mile after going shorter in her 3 prior starts; her best effort was going 7 furlongs. She should fare better in her second start off of the layoff after running eighth at this level on June 12. #2 La Kara Mia didn’t do much running in her debut while turf sprinting, though she did pass a few tiring horses late. Linda Rice’s runners tend to make drastic improvements after their debuts, winning second out at a 26% clip.

Race 2: $25k Claiming for New York-bred 3-year-olds and upward going 1 mile (8 furlongs) on the outer turf

#2 Control Group makes his turf debut for new trainer Rudy Rodriguez. The front-runner gets one of the more aggressive riders and the surface switch should be of little concern based on his breeding. All 3 of #8 Catch a Cab‘s wins have come on this outer turf course. He drops down to face state-bred competition for his second start of the year.

Race 3: Maiden Special Weight for New York-bred 3-year-olds and upward going 1 1/16 miles (8 1/2 furlongs) on the dirt

#7 Jade’s Dream vastly improved in her first try over fast dirt last time out. Expect her to be aggressive in a spot lacking speed. The other runners I will be using are #1 Blackjack Davey, #2 River Nile, #3 Microsecond, and #4 Wakanda Forever.

Race 4: $25k Claiming for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and upward going 6 furlongs on the dirt

#2 Let’s Maga looked like a completely different runner in her most recent start. For a runner with superb gate speed, look for Luis Saez, to put her on the lead and try to win her second straight start. #5 Flashpackinbarbie faced drops down for a tag as she tries to regain her winning debut form. She is unraced since last July, but the talent that she flashed last year makes her dangerous. #6 Wicked Title gets blinkers for trainer Chad Summers, whose runners win at 33% when adding the hood. She drops to her lowest level yet in search of her second career victory.

Race 5: $10k Claiming for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and upward going 7 furlongs on the dirt

#5 Cotton Candy Cutie is one of the few runners in this field who has shown speed, which sets her up well in this spot. #6 Stay Fond won by open lengths 2 starts back at the $8k claiming level. A similar performance would mean another victory, and it is worth noting that her connections show confidence by waiving her price tag off the layoff. #9 Tequila Sunday won last time out at the wire with Irad Ortiz, Jr., aboard. The nation’s top jockey will need to keep her closer than she normally likes if he wants to run them down in similar fashion.

THE TICKET

50¢ PICK 5 (Races 1-5) 1,2 / 2,8 / 1,2,3,4,7 / 2,5,6 / 5,6,9 – $90