It's Empire Showcase Day at beautiful Belmont Park, and there are "Black Type" races aplenty on this 10-race card that celebrate the very best in New York breeding operations.
As for the betting options, they will be diverse, and offer us some unique handicapping experiences. Nothing like a NYRA test on one of the greatest horse racing stages in the world!
Today, I am covering the heart of the stakes action (Races 5-9) in such a way that you can "roll" any of these selections into a variety types of horizontal wagers. Pick 3s, Pick 4s, Pick 5s, and even the Empire Pick 6. Enjoy!
If you're looking for picks elsewhere around the country this Saturday be sure to check out our free Horse Racing Picks via the gold button below.
LEG 1: (Race 5: Dirt, 6½F, Hudson H., $150k, 3+ NY Breds)
Remember back to July 2020 when it seemed like NY Traffic #8 was poised to overtake Authentic as a fashionable pick heading into The Kentucky Derby? His late charge against the Baffert runner in the Haskell Invite reflected his strength and Authentic’s weakness, they said. Flashforward a little under a year and a half later, and my how everything has changed … Authentic just finished his 1st year at stud, covering 229 mares at $75,000 each, while NYT spent the year trying to win a race that was higher than an OC45k. Coming into this contest, "Traffic" appears to be best in class, but one wonders just how good the Saffie Joseph trainee really is after a poor showing in the Charles Town Classic (G2). A class drop does not automatically improve one’s chances, in other words …
Using the 4-yr-old colt by Cross Traffic makes sense, but I actually like Ray Handal’s Foolish Ghost #3 at a nice price—6/1. This Mineshaft gelding appears to have some solid “Non-G” contests under his saddle, and I like the fact that he ran well in the slop at Saratoga in late July. Handal has a small sample when it comes to these types of races, but he is more than proficient when it comes to competing in them. If his runner can make the lead, then he might be able to hold it, if he is running well. Jockey Jalon Samuel is a young man with some budding talent, and wouldn’t it be something to see him take on Irad Ortiz (NYT’s rider)? Let’s see if he can make it happen!
Selections: 3/8 (2-Deep)
LEG 2: (Race 6: Dirt, 6½F, Iroquois S., $150k, F&M 3+ NY Breds)
We find ourselves in the midst of a six-pack here, and there are at least half of these runners that have a legit shot to take home the prize. I am interested in Espresso Shot #6, who is a venerable mare by Mission Impazible. She has extensive “black type” races to her credit, and I am sure that trainer Jorge Abreu has he in form—3rd in this cycle. She has not won a race since the chill of the Aqueduct Meet was present back in the Spring ’21, but that does not mean that Jose Ortiz is not able to see her home.
As for 2 of her main rivals, the question is … can she catch Bruce Anderson’s Miss Jimmy #1 or Steve Asmussen’s The Important One #2? Both of these early goers look tough, and if either can slow things down up front (avoiding a speed duel), then each has a chance to visit the winner’s circle. I would lean towards Jose Lezcano’s mount (The Important One #2), since Asmussen’s figs are impressive. This is a Bloom racer, and that means quality, even if this filly is going to have to contend with the class hike.
What a tough trio we have drawn in here …
Selections: 1/2/6 (3-Deep)
LEG 3: (Race 7: Dirt, 1 Mile, Maid of the Mist S., $250k, 2F NY Breds)
I love a 1-turn Mile at Belmont because it is pretty unique in the sport of North American horse racing. Not every track has a long enough lane to get up to the necessary 88mph that is needed. This particular spot is an interesting contest because we have a bunch of young 2-yr-old fillies who are very inexperienced. Who is fastest out of the gate, but has the stamina to see this through to its conclusion? My money is on Sue Ellen Mishkin #6 from the barn of Jorge Abreu. The daughter of Mohaymen was up against it in the Spinaway S. (G1) last time. It was not feasible to best Echo Zulu because … well … she was just too good. Now, with Luis Saez back aboard, she should be in a much better position to contest the lead, or lay just off the frontend. If her fitness is in good shape, I do not see why she should not be able to get the job done.
As for one other runner of interest, I am intrigued by Joe Sharp’s Classic Lynne #4. The Kentucky-based trainer travels some of the Thoroughbred trails up north occasionally, and he made some statements back at the Saratoga Meet. Coming into this spot, his filly is making the move from the turf to the dirt … and I think this is timely. Sure, the class jump is a concern, but let’s not dwell on that. The daughter of Classic Empire is maturing rapidly, and might appreciate the opportunity to go after this 1-turn affair. Her speed could be a weapon, as Sharp looks to grab what is nothing short of a tidy purse. Going with this pair should cover us!
Selections: 4/6 (2-Deep)
LEG 4: (Race 8: Dirt, 1 1/16th, Empire Distaff H., $250k, F&M 3+ NY Breds)
As wide-open an affair as there is in this slate of “Non-G” races at Belmont, it is going to be quite a challenge to prognosticate who will cross the wire 1st. If you want to take the free pass and hit the “All” button, then no one would begrudge you. However, for the sake of variety, when it comes to a race like this one, I choose to lean on a strong NY Barn like Danny Gargan’s. He is just so competitive when it comes to state bred company, and when he pairs with Luis Saez, it makes for a potent combination. Ice Princess #1 is accomplished, and I like the way she jumped up from running in ALLW Co. at the 3 NYRA tracks to competing in the John Hettinger S. at the 1st of this month. With over $333k in career earnings, plus an overall record of 14/4-5-1, this filly by Palace Malice looks the part. Therefore … it’s a “Single.”
Selections: 1 (Single)
LEG 5: (Race 9: Dirt, 1 1/8th, Empire Classic H., $300k, 3+ NY Breds)
The big ticket on Saturday that should bring dollars into the coffers is this race—the Classic. Going a 1 1/8th at Belmont is still a 1-turn business because Big Sandy is enormous at the bends. Looking for those that have already braved such a grueling set-up, I am pretty bullish on John Terranova’s Three Jokers #2. I’ve backed this colt by Twirling Candy for that precise reason … his pedigree … and it paid off handsomely. Coming into this race, it is going to be a true class test, and not easy whatsoever. However, with Jose Ortiz aboard, I am confident that the 4-yr-old is in good hands.
Looking for a backup, just in case “The Joker” doesn’t flip the script at 6/1, then I also like his former rival, Tiergan #8. Rudy Rodriguez has this gelding by Afleet Alex going well against lesser company, as the gelding comes back to Belmont riding a 3-race win streak. Trading Luis Saez for Irad Ortiz is not a slight in the least, but it is interesting that Saratoga’s leading rider is choosing to jump aboard Todd Pletcher’s Americanrevolution #5. Considering this son of Constitution is clearly the best horse in this race, it makes a ton of sense. If he is on his game, then this race will be his for the taking. Up against Hot Rod Charlie last time in the Pennsylvania Derby, he was no match for the West Coast power runner. Now, the script is decidedly different. Going with this trio should do the trick across the horizontals.