From a betting perspective, the Grade 2, $200,000 Suburban Stakes on Saturday at Belmont is an interesting one with eight evenly-matched horses running 1¼ miles.
The morning line favorite Tacitus offers the most class, but he also brings a seven-race losing streak and a sizable following ready to bet on him once again. As for the second choice Mr. Buff, he is sharp when not competing at the graded stakes level and liable to fold otherwise.
One alternative is Sir Winston, the 2019 Belmont Stakes champion. He leads off the Belmont late pick 4 selections and a bonus Delaware Oaks (G3) pick.
Belmont Race 11: Suburban Stakes (G2)
As usual with some other low profile Belmont Stakes winners, Sir Winston does not carry around a large fanbase or hype around him.
After taking the last leg of the Triple Crown, Sir Winston did not return until December in the one-mile Woodchopper Stakes at Fair Grounds on turf. In a return effort plagued by some bumping and traffic issues, he missed the board by finishing 12th, 9¾ lengths behind Tracksmith.
Cross the race out. Sir Winston is not a turf horse, and trainer Mark Casse likely did not tune up his Belmont champion for that race.
Sir Winston then turned in a sharp performance when winning a one-mile optional claimer at Aqueduct in late January.
The connections wanted to try the Dubai World Cup, but the event canceled at the last second after all the horses shipped over there.
Instead, Sir Winston waited until June to compete again in the local Flat Out Stakes at 1 3/8 miles. He rallied nicely on the far turn, but flattened out in the stretch as the loose pacesetter Moretti widened his advantage. Sir Winston lost by 5¼ lengths to Moretti.
Given Moretti set the pace uncontested, Sir Winston gets a pass.
In this spot, Moretti might need to contest the lead with the speedy Mr. Buff and Joevia, the pacesetter in the 2019 Belmont Stakes. While Sir Winston and Tacitus figure to benefit from a fast pace, Sir Winston offers more value than Tacitus and already defeated him in the Belmont.
Considering the pace scenario and the likelihood of the public sticking to Tacitus, Sir Winston is the right choice. He deserves another shot.
Belmont Race 8: Poker Stakes (G3)
As stated Thursday, Got Stormy’s form is suspect. It is clear she does not like running 1 1/16 miles, which gives her an excuse for missing the trifecta in both the Endeavour Stakes (G3) and Beaugay Stakes (G3). However, Got Stormy also ran in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) at Santa Anita and was mowed down by River Boyne late.
In terms of upside, Valid Point is the better choice.
This 4-year-old Scat Daddy colt started off his career with three straight wins, including the Secretariat Stakes (G1) in only his third start.
When Valid Point tackled the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland against older horses, he unfortunately experienced some traffic problems and finished 10th, losing by only three lengths with little room. Trainer Chad Brown decided to skip the Breeders’ Cup and let him grow more. Not all developing 3-year-olds are ready for those kinds of races.
In this spot, Valid Point is capable of starting a new streak.
His stablemate Value Proposition also merits consideration after closing well to take a local optional claimer. But Valid Point owns slightly more speed, which will allow him to settle into the pocket position right behind Dream Friend and Got Stormy. He can get first jump on him.
Valid Point is the choice, and Value Proposition is usable alongside him.
Mr Freeze wants to sit off horses at one mile, as does Vekoma. McKinzie turns into a closer when cutting back to a mile.
In terms of recent form, Warrior’s Charge took them gate to wire in the Razorback Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn, before fading to second in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) one start later at nine furlongs.
The latter effort is forgivable. Warrior’s Charge gave up the lead to By My Standards, who went on to finish second in the Stephen Foster Stakes (G2).
Last year, trainer Brad Cox thought highly enough of Warrior's Charge to try him in the Preakness Stakes off an optional claiming win. Warrior’s Charge gave a good account of himself by setting a fast pace before fading slightly to fourth late in what was a promising stakes debut.
One question is whether one mile is too short for Warrior’s Charge. He only owns one race at the distance, which came in his third career start at Oaklawn. From midpack, Warrior’s Charge gave a mild bid to finish a non-threatening third. This is a more seasoned horse now though.
Warrior’s Charge is the upset choice.
Belmont Race 10: Manhattan Handicap (G1)
Rockemperor still lacks a win in four North American starts under Chad Brown.
However, check out the company Rockemperor has faced.
In his most recent start, Rockemperor finished second by only a nose to United in the Charles Whittingham Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. Prior to the race, United captured the San Marcos Stakes (G2) on the same course in February and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last fall. He quietly became one of the top turf marathoners in the country.
Two starts ago, Rockemperor closed for mild-looking third in the Muniz Memorial Classic (G2) at Fair Grounds. On second glance though, he faced a decent field for a Grade 2. Factor This wired the field in the Wise Dan Stakes (G2) one start later, while the sixth-place Instilled Regard captured the Fort Marcy Stakes (G2) at Belmont last month.
There are no European stars in this edition of the Manhattan. Given the field strength, Rockemperor deserves another chance from bettors.
Delaware Race 8: Delaware Oaks (G3)
In two starts this year, Hopeful Growth only owns an optional claiming win at Tampa Bay and a second in an optional claimer at Gulfstream.
Watch the May 6 Tampa Bay race closely.
Hopeful Growth switched to the outside on the turn and took aim at the leaders. She did need intially some left-handed encouragement, but towards the end she strode out beautifully late under her own power.
For the win, Hopeful Growth earned a 100 TimeformUS Speed Figure, adjusted down from a 104 because of the slow pace. The figure is competitive here.
Furthermore, Hopeful Growth’s dam Maiden America is a half-sister to Wonder Again, a turf router who won the 2004 Diana Handicap (G1). Based on pedigree, stretching out to a two-turn route is not a problem.
Hopeful Growth is the value choice.