Here are my thoughts on the Empire 6 mandatory carryover races, which include the Grade 1, $250,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup and a $426,806 carryover starting in Race 6.
Yesterday's Weekend Plays article goes into more detail on the Flower Bowl, along with the QEII at Keeneland.
Belmont Race 6: Maiden
Without a doubt, 2-year-old maiden races featuring first-time starters offer some of the toughest challenges for any multi-race wager because of the lack of form to study.
The 8/5 favorite Newbomb is capable of moving forward and leading them all the way this time for trainer Todd Pletcher, but his fade to third after opening up in his debut is disappointing.
Weyburn brings an interesting pedigree as a half-brother to the sprinter Yorkton. That is important because these horses are running six furlongs.
Risk Taking probably deserves an inclusion as well.
Is there a way to save money? Consider tossing out the expensive Pletcher first-timer Overtook, who brings an obvious route-oriented pedigree with Curlin on top and Got Lucky underneath. Remember her? Got Lucky took the 2015 Spinster Stakes (G1) among other route wins and placed in a handful of stakes races. All 17 starts came in routes.
If Overtook overcomes his pedigree to win at six furlongs, it will come as a surprise, although tossing out Todd Pletcher in baby races requires bravery.
ALSO: See the odds & previews for Breeders' Cup races:
Belmont Race 7: Maiden
This 2-year-old maiden turf race offers an even bigger field and greater challenge for bettors. Those playing the Empire 6 probably need to spread far and wide here.
Hardison figures to improve in his second career start for trainer Bill Mott, who does not crank up his 2-year-old horses in their first start. In his career debut, he ran a decent third after initially starting the race in eighth, 12 lengths behind the leader.
Big Everest, Connagh’s Quay and Spirit Maker show the right connections and pedigrees to fire a big race in their first career starts. Granted, it is still a guess.
Confused? Even the brightest handicappers will not find this race likeable. Just search for the good turf trainers and green pedigrees, and then move on.
Belmont Race 8: Flower Bowl Invitational (G1)
As stated in the Weekend Plays post, Civil Union brings a three-race win streak into this race, including the 1 3/8-mile Glens Falls Stakes (G2) at Saratoga over the notable closer My Sister Nat and Beau Belle.
Cutting back to 1 ¼ miles, Civil Union figures to stay close to the pace, while My Sister Nat is probable to give up around eight lengths or so.
Can Civil Union defeat the favorite Cambier Parc? Cambier Parc did appear flat in her return in the Canadian Stakes (G2) at Woodbine, as Rideforthecause put Cambier Parc away easily in the stretch. Perhaps Cambier Parc did not enter the Canadian fully prepared though.
Sometimes trainers use races to train their horse into shape, rather than only workouts.
Also, a stronger-than-expected pace might propel My Sister Nat’s kick even if she gives up several lengths. She only lost the Glens Falls by a length to Civil Union.
For those playing other types of tickets, Civil Union is the best choice on top, or My Sister Nat if her odds drift upwards. In this Empire 6 sequence though, Civil Union, Cambier Parc and My Sister Nat are usable.
Belmont Race 9: Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1)
Someone in the other post asked why it matters if Luis Saez pilots Prioritize. This is the type of even-moving horse who concedes ground in the early stages and churns away to a check late, while Saez is an aggressive jockey who might keep this grinder into a better position.
Notice that he only lost the runner-up position in the Woodward Stakes (G1) by 1 ¼ lengths to Tacitus, after running wide on the first turn.
As for Happy Saver, he owns quite the stamina-oriented pedigree with Super Saver on top and a dam line that traces to Weekend Surprise, the dam of A.P. Indy.
Tacitus owns the best speed figures and overall class, but betting on this horse is a frustrating practice given the amount of times he loses at short odds.
Belmont Race 10: Sands Point Stakes (G2)
Tamahere is an obvious threat for trainer Chad Brown as she makes her North American debut. This filly shows a 6-2-2-1 record in France, with the only misfire coming when stretching out in a synthetic race.
Selflessly rebounded from her poor season opener by capturing the Lake George Stakes (G3) at Saratoga by a nose over the favorite Sweet Melania. She could also move forward for Brown, setting up an exciting Brown match race in the stretch.
It sounds chalky, but one of those two runners will probably get the job done.
Belmont Race 11: Maiden (state-bred)
Belmont does not make winning the Empire 6 easy. For those who made it to this point, they still need to pick the winner in a state-bred turf maiden sprint filled with first-time starters.
Herald Angel does offer some experience with a solid runner-up finish at Saratoga in a state-bred maiden turf sprint, before a disappointing eighth in the Untapable Stakes at Kentucky Downs. Toss the latter race out because of the odd turf course configuration.
If Herald Angel can progress off the Saratoga effort, she is a threat.
Amity Island is the second choice, but this is partly due to Chad Brown as the trainer. With all these state-bred first-time starters, it is hard not to side with him.
The Promised Road trained by George Weaver is another first-time starters to consider. She shows a steady tab of mostly turf workouts.