As the racing world awaits the G1 Belmont Stakes run two weeks from this Saturday, Belmont hosts another compelling nine-race card on Friday. As usual, our in-house handicapper has broken down the action, with detailed analysis of his best value plays and picks for the whole card.
If you're looking for picks elsewhere around the country on Friday, be sure to check out our Free Horse Racing Picks via the gold button below.
Seismic Wave (#1a) is the horse to beat in this 50k claimer on turf, but he’s a tough one to trust as he drops in for a tag following a pair of disappointing efforts for trainer Chad Brown. He was purchased for just 60k last November so it’s not as if the drop he’s taking is that alarming, however it is concerning that he even sold for such a low sum of money to begin with considering what a relatively strong campaign he had in 2020. He could obviously wake up with the addition of blinkers and Lasix on a course he performs well on, but he’s going to be too short a price to be worth the gamble.
The surprise morning-line favorite in this race is the other entry, Carom (#2) and Battalion (#2b), both of whom are entered for turf. Neither of these horses would be a surprise, however I also don’t think they’re individually all that appealing. This seems to be a classic case of an entry taking money simply because you’re getting two for the price of one, if they indeed end up favored.
Given my concerns with these horses I think you’re obligated to take a shot in here, which is why I landed on Vettori Kin (#6). He’s probably a little better going longer, however I think he lands in the right kind of spot after running for almost double this claiming price in his last race. He didn’t put in a huge effort or anything in that start, but he did run a solid race against superior competition and a repeat of it would make him a surefire contender. Vettori Kin has some back class and I expect him to be a substantial overlay in this race, provided he gets some pace to attack.
I really don’t have many knocks on Ahead of Plan (#7), who is likely to go off favored in the day’s feature, but I also don’t think he has much of an edge on this field and is going to get bet heavily because he’s trained by Chad Brown. Taking horses like him is a recipe for losing money at the windows, and although he can win I’m perfectly happy to take a bigger swing with a seemingly marginal contender.
Yes and Yes (#4) is coming off a pretty good try against softer competition on May 1 at Belmont, but I believe this horse is primed to run a big race in his second start of the year. It’s clear from his running lines that he’s at his best over the Belmont turf, and he followed an eerily similar progression last year when he just missed against conditioned claimers in his seasonal bow and came right back to smash starter allowance competition. If he moves forward the same way he did in his second start of 2020 he’s going to be a handful here, however I don’t think he even needs to make such a leap to have a major say in the outcome. Despite finding himself in a short field without a true standout, he should still offer plenty of value.
There’s a lot happening in this conditioned claimer, but I couldn’t resist picking Not Phar Now (#5) as he makes his first start on turf. I wish a turnback in distance was accompanying this move to the lawn, but I’ll have to take what I can get with this guy, who is bred strongly for this surface. While it might be a bit disconcerting that he’s just now trying turf in his ninth career start, it appears to be purely a matter of circumstance as he was away from the races during New York’s turf season last year. Not Phar Now has also been on the improve since adding blinkers three starts ago, which has really sharpened his early speed, and I think you’re catching this New York-bred at the right time as his career appears to be on the upswing. Given this confluence of factors I believe he’s a strong play even though he’s an unknown on turf.
As much as I like Not Phar Now, I came very close to putting Light the Posse (#9) on top in this race. I’m a little surprised he’s listed at such a short price on the morning line (6-1) given his recent form, but perhaps that’s the power of his jockey Joel Rosario. My love affair with Rosario in turf sprints is no secret, and admittedly it is a large part of the appeal with Light the Posse, whose prior turf form is good not great, though he had no chance behind dawdling splits in his last attempt on this surface. He now re-adds blinkers and should get ample pace to run at, so I’m counting on Rosario to have him motoring in the stretch.
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