Just a Game Stakes 2021 Picks: Summer Romance begins at Belmont for Appleby

Summer Romance will romp in this one ... See why Charlie Appleby has reason to celebrate!
Summer Romance will romp in this one ... See why Charlie Appleby has reason to celebrate!

1 Mile (Turf) Just a Game Stakes (G1), $500k, F&M 4+

A highlight for me on the Saturday card at Belmont is this 1 Mile turf event. Historically, this race brings together some “game” grass specialists, and we all know that trainer Chad Brown has this one circled on his calendar. I always want to find ways to best his low-priced favorites who take money like a slot machine. He has a bevy of them drawn here, so our hands are going to be full.

In this spot, I would wager that at the top of the tote will be one of Brown’s cows. Blowout #11 is a turf specialist who over the past few years was fun to watch. You just know in the end she is going to be there. Although, her G1 win-record is sparse, Brown has her running well coming into this race after a score at Churchill in the Distaff Turf Mile (G1). That was not a particularly tough one, in my estimation, since it was only a field of 6. True, the rest of the horses that hit the board that day are here—New York Girl #12 and Zofelle #1—so, that is nice to see. However, I am skeptical that this daughter of Dansili (GB) with Flavien Prat should be just handed this crown. Use her for sure … lean on her … but I want to look for some value elsewhere, since she will not be 4/1 with 2 seconds before the load.

The same could be said for Regal Glory # 4 and Tamahere #10. The former is one Brown trains for the excellent Peter Brant. This mare out of Animal Kingdom waited for this race, bypassing others. She was excellent in her 2021 AQU debut, and the connections wanted her ready on the catapult. She was 4th in this race last year, so redemption is in order. The services of Jose Ortiz have been retained once again. She will take some money, but I am not sure she can class jump properly to win in here. As for the latter, she was a “stayer” last time at Keeneland in the Jenny Wiley (G1). Though she finished 2nd, that was against Cox’s Juliet Foxtrot. She had a win over the Belmont blades last October, and what makes her a “player” is having Javier Castellano aboard. If Madaket Stables is involved, then respect is warranted. I like her quite a bit.

One other Brown runner I was really keen on was the Keeneland ALLW Co. type who was sure good last out. The Juddmonte homebred, Pocket Square #6 was stellar on the Haggin. Boy, she is talented after coming to the U.S. from the U.K. But here is the deal … without Irad Ortiz in the saddle, I am afraid I am out. Trusting Irad once again would have been the bet, but that isn’t happening. Out …

If there is a conditioner who can check Brown, and take him head-on, then without question it is Charlie Appleby. The Godolphin-sponsored leader of their international Thoroughbred training division has come to Elmont to take on the best North America has to offer. He brings a pair of entries (including what would have been a Belmont S. entry in Rebel’s Romance) into this short route. I like them both, and am particularly bullish on one of them. The first is the well-bred Althiqa #8, who Appleby has Mike Smith riding. I am not sure that is the best decision, especially considering the veteran HOF jock enters turf races as often as NBA plays defense. Still, this Meydan (UAE) charge was solid in her past pair of races in Dubai. She is out of Dark Angel (IRE), and that speaks for itself.

As for my top pick, give me Summer Romance #9 because not only is she fit after working well on the track over the past month, but she is getting Luis Saez. Talk about a major plus! Her PPs are full of talented opponents. Look back to 2020, when she ran in France against an excellent grass goer named Watch Me in the Prix Rothschild (G1). So what … she was 6th? The point is, European class is European class. If the Breeders’ Cup is any yardstick, then American bettors would do well to remember how good these international Thoroughbreds can be. A little cut in the turf should also be appreciated based on her experience from last year. Snowball argument …

As for others in this race, I see some quality, but not for a Grade 1 race like this one. It is time to go Euro, with some Browns sprinkled in … take a look at this wager!   

Wagering Recommendation: $1 Trifecta Wheel, 9 w 4/6/8/10/11 w 4/6/8/10/11

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