That's Rapport, the Grade III winning runner for Trainer Baffert with M. Garcia up and the Turk's chalk in the Grade II Gallant Bloom at Belmont Park today. The Turk went to the tape and had to watch the Grade III Azalea before I could get comfortable picking Rapport. With R. Albarado up, Rapport shot out of the gate for a quarter mile in :21 1/5 and a half mile in :44 3/5 before shortening her stride in the stretch and getting gutty to hold on for fourth. Garcia goes back up, winning his last three rides with her, and she takes on the regal and much classier Sara Louise, last seen on a race track in November 2009.
These late September races are setting the stage for horses thinking Breeders' Cup and you get a mixture of horses coming off breaks or horses in a second of three race cycle looking to be peaked in early November. This Late Pick Four ain't no walk through the garden either. No real singles jump off the page and if I went purely off my base handicap I'd spend a whole lot and most likely lose or return less than my investment. That's not a good place to be so we will have to take some chances, gamble, and see if we can't make the investment and possible reward come back into the proper perspective. Let's get after it!
Belmont Park Late Pick 4; Post Time for Race 6 is 3:39 ET
In Race 6, I'm backing Stevil, a 30 start 5 YO gelding who's been in the money 19 times. He's most likely the bettor's chalk here although Lemon Spice, a Chad Brown runner with Borel up, will get play. Lemon Spice is 6 of 10 in the money on turf with a 92 BSF on fast Gulfstream Turf and is 4 of 5 in the money at the distance. For value, Glacier Bay is a nice 4 YO son of Distorted Humor and carries a race high 123 pounds. 4 of 6 in the money in 2010.
Race 7 is a claimer with a $25K purse again run a 1 1/16 miles on what should be firm turf. Shimmering Forest returns to this class after Placing at Saratoga on Woodward day. 4 of 5 in the money on turf. Hasten to be King is a stretch but comes in off a first race maiden breaker who was bred by Bobby Frankel and is now trained by Contessa. A nice turn of foot at 6f for Gomez, M. Luzzi is up today for the first time turf try. Don Balcazio is the best of the rest and I respect Trainer Clement with Maragh up, winners of 23% together at BEL.
Race 8 is an Allowance N1X with a $54,000 purse. Pretty Boy Freud is my tepid chalk; 10 of 13 in the money lifetime, a win would double Trainer O'Brien's 2010 total in 57 tries. I'm warming up on Devon Rock, starting sixth race, 3 of 4 in the money on Turf and a winner on Belmont turf in June. Will press the pace but his last few run lines paint a picture, "...faded...weakened...lugged in..." Optimism is a string suit of mine. Missinglisalewis is more polished with 6 of 8 in the money at the distance, 11 of 17 in the money on turf and 6 of 10 in the money on the turf at Belmont for Trainer Domino. Harmonizer, with Leparoux up, tries turf for the first time, something Trainer Maker does Ok with at 16% of his tries and a dirt to turf switcher at 18%. He's got dirt speed but he'll need to stay further today as well.
And in the Gallant Bloom Rapport gets my nod after a 103 BSF and win at Saratoga on Travers Day in the Grade III Victory Ride. Sara Louise won the Victory Ride last year only to run Place to Indian Blessing in the Gallant Bloom. The Godolphin Team bounces back from +180 layoffs 31% of the time and the horse has plenty of class and quality to not be phased by the inactivity. I'm not buying if 2-1 or 3-2 but I'm covering in Pick 4. Qualia is a nice horse for one of The Turk's favorites, Trainer Ribaudo, and the bettors might be comforted by My Jen and Pretty Prolific, capable teases.
As bettor's, this is a card that we ask for: Nine horse fields, quality competition, few heavy chalks, good stuff indeed. If you want easy, well, go somewhere else. I love Big Sandy in the fall, and with dirt being the surface of choice at the Breeders' Cup again this year I believe we'll see the best fall racing here instead of Oak Tree Hollywood.
Build your own handicap and have fun with it. Watch the weather which should be great, the scratches and changes, and keep that tote board in your mind. Value, value, value, but most importantly, fun, fun, fun. Never bet more then you can afford to lose from your household's budget.