The pandemic forced me out of my comfort zone and expanded my knowledge of many tracks, including Oaklawn Park, Gulfstream Park, and Churchill Downs. With that being said, I’m happy to return to the NYRA circuit and my home track, Belmont Park. The meet has been slightly condensed, but as a result, there will now be at least one stakes race every day.

Wednesday is Opening Day, and with it comes the Beaugay Stakes (G3) featuring multiple graded stakes winners Rushing Fall and Got Stormy. I’ve finished my first Early Pick 5 ticket of the meet and can’t wait for horse racing to return to New York!

Best of luck!

( Content Continues Below Ad )

Race 1: $20k Maiden Claiming for 3-year-olds and upward going 6 1/2 furlongs on the dirt

#4 Star of the West makes his first start for owner/trainer Rudy Rodriguez after being claimed last summer. He adds blinkers, a positive move for Rodriguez runners, who have won 37% in the last 365 days with first time blinkers. #8 State of Mine has shown early speed out of the gate in the past and could be tough to catch if Manny Franco can get him alone on the front end. #9 Dodged a Bullet finished second (beaten 3/4 of a length) in the same race on February 1 as State of Mine (who finished fourth, beaten 6 1/2 lengths). #10 Kilmarknock drops back down for a tag after he was wrapped up and protected last time out against maiden special weight company. Top jockey Joel Rosario picks up the mount for the first time, adding to the horse’s intrigue.

Race 2: $50k Starter Allowance for 3-year-olds and upward going 1 mile (8 furlongs) on the outer turf course

#1 Mandate just missed at the same level last time out while running six-wide into the stretch. He drew the rail once again, which should allow him to save ground before unleashing his come-from-behind running style. #2 Smile Bryan returns to the turf after finishing fifth over the Churchill Downs dirt on May 16. His lone turf effort one race prior was his best effort since breaking his maiden, and trainer Graham Motion and jockey Jose Ortiz have won 20% together since 2019. #8 Bray hasn’t run in over six months, but he looked good in 2019. Joel Rosario is aboard yet again for Christophe Clement, one of the nation’s best turf trainers (20% from 411 starters since 2019).

Race 3: Maiden Special Weight for 2-year-olds going 5 furlongs on the dirt

This has the look of a two-horse race on paper, headlined by Todd Pletcher and Wesley Ward. The Pletcher trainee #2 Prisoner is a 2-year-old colt by Violence who has been consistently working at Palm Beach Downs prior to making his way to Belmont Park. The winning combination (27%) of Pletcher and Irad Ortiz, Jr., makes him tough on paper. Ward’s #3 Fauci is the 4/5 morning-line favorite, and for all of the young horses in Ward’s barn with exponential upside, Fauci (named for world-renowned epidemiologist Dr. Fauci) may be the next potential superstar. Read more about Fauci (the horse) here.

Race 4: $10k Claiming for 3-year-olds and upward going 6 1/2 furlongs on the dirt

#3 Business Cycle is a lightly-raced 7-year-old who finished second by less than 1 length in this class last time out. This condition fits this horse perfectly and Manny Franco has finished in the money 4 of 6 times prior. #6 Stone Breaker was much better than this field when he started his career, going on a 3-race win streak prior before switching barns. He lost his form with the change, but perhaps he can rediscover it for new trainer Bruce Levine. He’s got speed and easily outclasses this low-level claiming group. #7 Moneymeister defeated this class last time out and has improved his performance with every start. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him replicate his most recent effort. #8 Blue Belt exits the same race that Moneymeister won. Moneymeister was more forwardly placed and got the jump on him, but Blue Belt was more visually impressive and closed more ground. His odds should float up towards double digits at post-time, presenting value.

Race 5: Maiden Special Weight for New York-bred fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and upward going 6 furlongs on the inner turf

#1 Strongerthanuknow has not run since last September, but she performed well two back in the Colleen Stakes over the Monmouth Park turf and will have a great chance to break her maiden status in her 3-year-old debut. #12 Crescent Lady will try her luck going much shorter here, and while none of her previous three efforts indicate that sprinting will be her preferred style, Bill Mott is one of the best trainers in history. I love Jose Ortiz, who rode her each of her three prior starts, but the switch to Hall of Famer John Velazquez (who has won 18% aboard Mott runners) might be what she needs.

THE TICKET

$.50 PICK 5 (Races 1-5) 4,8,9,10 / 1,2,8 / 2,3 / 3,6,7,8 / 1,12,16 – $144