Oscar Performance winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita (Photo by Zoe Metz/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)
Later this afternoon, Belmont Park will host an impressive series of graded stakes races led by the $1.25 million Belmont Derby (gr. I) and the $1 million Belmont Oaks (gr. I). These two races are the highlights of an all-stakes Pick 4 that figures to draw a large pool, though the potentially chalky nature of the four races means that large tickets could potentially yield an unimpressive return on investment.
With that in mind, here are my thoughts on the sequence, including a couple of singles to help reduce the cost…
Belmont Park Sprint Championship (gr. II)
This is a very competitive race on paper, containing several horses that routinely post triple-digit BRIS speed figures, but I think #2 Mind Your Biscuits will be tough to beat. The son of Posse was one of the best three-year-old sprinters in the country last year, winning the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) with a 104 BRIS speed figure and finishing third (promoted to second) in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) with a 107 BRIS. He’s come back as good or better this year, winning the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) by three lengths despite a very wide trip, and all reports indicate he’s bounced out of that race very well and is ready for a big run today.
#7 Unified, who beat Mind Your Biscuits by a neck in the 6 ½-furlong Gulfstream Park Sprint (gr. III) earlier this year, and #1 Stallwalkin’ Dude, an ever-consistent veteran coming off a runner-up effort in the True North Stakes (gr. II), are the other logical contenders. However, I think Mind Your Biscuits has the edge over this seven-furlong distance and is worth singling in a sequence where you might not want to go too deep.
Belmont Oaks (gr. I)
There are plenty of fillies to consider in this ten-furlong turf race, but I’m confident that #12 Sistercharlie will prove best. The Irish-bred filly has run five times in France, winning three races and most recently finishing second in the prestigious Prix de Diane (Fr-I) despite a very troubled trip. The outside post draw is a concern, and this will mark her North American debut and her first start for trainer Chad Brown, but if Sistercharlie runs anywhere near as well today as she did in the Prix de Diane, she will be difficult to beat.
Other fillies to consider on saver tickets are Sistercharlie’s Chad Brown-trained stablemates #8 New Money Honey and #7 Uni.
Suburban Handicap (gr. II)
#6 Shaman Ghost will be a single in this ten-furlong race, and deservedly so. The son of Ghostzapper loves this distance enters off wins in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) and Pimlico Special (gr. III), where he earned BRIS speed figures of 102 and 114. In fact, Shaman Ghost has earned triple-digit BRIS speed figures in seven of his last eight starts.
But in this small field, there doesn’t appear to be much early speed, and I think there’s a chance that #2 Matt King Coal could steal the race in gate-to-wire fashion. He’s won three of his four starts this year in impressive fashion, leading virtually gate-to-wire each time, and in his lone defeat, he lost the Charles Town Classic (gr. II) by a neck despite racing close to a fast pace that favored closers. If Matt King Coal is able to shake loose on an easy lead, I think he can post an upset at a solid price.
Belmont Derby (gr. I)
This might be the most competitive race in the Pick 4 sequence, as a solid case can be made for at least a half-dozen runners if not more. #4 Oscar Performance is 2-for-2 at Belmont Park and figures to be very dangerous on or near the lead, while #7 Yoshida looked terrific winning the James W. Murphy Stakes with a huge late run and #6 Arklow is unbeaten on turf, including a win in the American Turf Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs. #1 Good Samaritan and #2 Ticonderoga were second and third behind Oscar Performance in the recent Pennine Ridge Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont despite trying to rally into a slow pace, and both should be in the mix yet again, while the European shippers #3 Homesman and #5 Called to the Bar also warrant respect.
Splitting these evenly-matched runners is difficult, so rather than include some and leave off others, let’s use them all on our Pick 4 ticket, but in varying amounts.
Here’s how I would play the sequence:
$2.00: 2 with 12 with 2,6 with 2,4,7 ($12)
$1.00: 2 with 12 with 2,6 with 1,3,5,6 ($8)
Good luck to all, and enjoy the races!
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