Saturday, Oct. 3, Belmont Park
The Low-Down: While the Clark Handicap remains on the calendar in Kentucky for this fall, the East Coast's last major race in the handicap division, and more specifically, prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic, comes Saturday in this 1 1/4-miles event. While only a field of seven, there are five legitimate win contenders in what should be an appealing betting race if you can focus your attention.
Our Eyes: Four millionaires join Grade 1 winner Quality Road ($822K) in making up a deep cast. There's really no extra filler here that might accompany a 9 or 10-horse field at this level. You have the winners of the Belmont Stakes, Travers, Stephen Foster and Suburban, as well as runner-ups in several big races this year as well.
Tizway appears to be the only real speed horse in the race intent on making the lead and probably will be allowed to do so with ease. Still, the miler looks overmatched and no one will fear reeling him in, so expect perfect, stalking trips for Quality Road and Summer Bird, who figure to be pasted to each other like in the Travers. Asiatic Boy should show more speed with the addition of blinkers and likely pace scenario that's on the moderate side.
Given the smaller field size and pace scenario, you'd expect this race to be won by a horse in the first flight. Deep closers like Macho Again and Dry Martini should be at a disadvantage given those facts. It comes down to which of the three stalkers you think can accelerate best when the real racing begins: Summer Bird, Quality Road and Asiatic Boy.
In a similarly run Travers, that was a no-brainer, Summer Bird outkicked everyone to win by daylight. Quality Road had only run a single sprint since March, however, going into the Travers and should be infinitely more prepared for the 10-furlong rigors. But Summer Bird has experience at Belmont, winning the final jewel of the Triple Crown, and still holds the edge.
Dry Martini likely will be too far back to catch those getting 'first run,' but he loves this track, has a money rider in Edgar Prado and is training smartly for Barclay Tagg. At 8-1 in the line, I can see him splitting someone in the exacta. Since the race is at Belmont, not Saratoga, he's the deep closer I prefer for a piece vs. Macho Again, who would have had the edge at the Spa.
The Bottom Line: Summer Bird should be awfully strong Saturday and march on toward the Breeders' Cup with a 2-race win streak. Quality Road's perfect trip set-up and more fitness here puts him back in the exacta discussion. I'll be playing a heavy Summer Bird-Quality Road exacta and a smaller Summer Bird-Dry Martini exacta.
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