There is stakes action all over North America on the Fourth of July. In my never-ending quest for wagering value, I have landed on a trio of live win contenders at Belmont Park, Gulfstream Park, and Woodbine. Without further ado, let’s get handicapping!
Belmont Park Race 3 - Grade 3 Victory Ride - Post Time 2:24 p.m. EDT
Frank’s Rockette is the 3-5 morning line favorite, and I have no major knocks on the controlling speed from the rail. She fired exacta shots in all seven starts and cruised in both fast track sprints this year. Despite all of that, she has never won a graded race and has yet to win two straight and she meets a couple of quality rivals.
Up in Smoke (7-2) is a viable alternative to the favorite. She is 4-for-4 in sprint races, but this event does not seem to set up for the patient filly.
The other interesting contender is Center Aisle (5-2), and I am selecting her on top. She stalked and spurted away in a clearly best sprint debut at Gulfstream Park on March 29, and broke slow and never got involved when splitting a 10-horse field as the chalk in an extended sprint at Churchill Downs on May 22. Chad Brown’s $1.5 million purchase can bounce back if she breaks cleanly, and Joel Rosario strings along. Brown would not just throw her in a graded race for the fun of it. He must really like her, and that last running line should help the odds.
Gulfstream Park Race 9 - Azalea Stakes - Post Time 4 p.m.
Boerne is the 6-5 choice, and she had her three-race win streak snapped in a runner-up finish behind Up in Smoke in the Game Face Stakes on June 6. This seven-panel affair is her longest test to date, and she will probably attempt a wire job. She owns the best overall pace ratings, and if she can get out there and get a bit of a breather, she might go all the way, but the final eighth might get interesting if she is pressured on the lead.
I am going with razor sharp class riser Don’t Get Khozy (4-1). My top pick captured four of her last five starts, and she is sharp enough to step up and compete with less than stellar stakes foes. She is versatile and her speed figures are on the rise.
Woodbine Race 8 - Grade 2 Eclipse - Post Time 4:46 p.m.
We are dealing with another odds-on favorite in this synthetic route. Mr Ritz is even money on the line. He deserves favoritism, but I think that is a bit low. The early-pressing type is consistent, and he was sharp in his final three starts of 2019. He returned from a similar layoff and missed by a nose in this race last year.
I am taking a shot with Skywire at 10-1 on the line, and he sure is intriguing at that price for Mark Casse. He is not great on turf or fast dirt, so his last three losses can be forgiven. He actually ran alright in a local turf event June 11, and the return to all-weather footing is just what the doctor ordered. Three of his best career efforts came in local synthetic races at a mile and a sixteenth, including a victory in the Wando Stakes last year, followed by runner-up finish in the Marine (G3). He was the beaten favorite in the Queen’s Plate, and that began a four-race slide. His aforementioned last-out effort on turf was a step in the right direction, and he might outrun his odds Saturday.