Five graded races, each with Breeders’ Cup implications, took place at Belmont Park this past weekend and I will shed some light on what I witnessed.
Jason Servis-trained FIRENZE FIRE swept to the lead nearing midstretch and stayed on through the wire to notch a half-length win. Florida-bred son of Poseidon’s Warrior overcame a tough 12 post and was pretty handy making a big move into a swift early pace beneath Irad Ortiz. Colt received a solid 97 BRIS Late Pace figure to hint that he will appreciate more ground going forward, but Firenze Fire has work to do if he wants to test Bold D’oro and Free Drop Billy at Del Mar.
Maiden GOOD MAGIC was three lengths clear of his nearest foe in second and has run two nice races to start his career for Chad Brown. $1 million chestnut appears to have a very bright future and could be a mainstay on the 2018 Kentucky Derby Trail with a pedigree and running style that seems suited to longer trips. I liked how the second timer stayed close to a fast tempo and didn’t give much away when outmoved by the eventual winner. I prefer this one going forward more so than the race victor.
SEPARATIONOFPOWERS bounced back from a subpar run in the Spinaway (G1) with a convincing score for Brown. Two-year-old Candy Ride filly tracked in a perfect spot early on and was always looking best in registering a strong 104 BRIS Speed figure. Kentucky-bred is the best in the East and could vault forward once again at Del Mar when making her two-turn debut, with a pedigree that indicates that she will prosper with more ground (out of an Empire Maker mare).
CALEDONIA ROAD broke slowest of all but rebounded with a huge run for second, more than eight lengths clear of her nearest foe. Ralph Nicks charge has done little wrong from a pair of lifetime races while displaying a fine turn of foot in each and if you like the winner, it makes sense to keep Caledonia Road on the radar as well. Daughter of Quality Road is something of a wildcard, having never traveled two turns nor raced on a fast main surface, and might be worth a gamble at Del Mar at big odds.
Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1):
A tough race to get a hold of as DIVERSIFY had everything his own way in never being headed. New York-bred son of Bellamy Road has never been better for conditioner Richard Violette, registering an excellent 110 BRIS Speed number for a second straight race, and 4-year-old appears to be no fluke in New York. But there’s no chance he can receive the same nice voyage at Del Mar and no reason to press forward toward that assignment with the late-blooming gelding. Diversify figures to add to a hot and contested Classic (G1) pace if he does proceed to Del Mar.
As honest as they come, KEEN ICE is rounding into the Classic in fine form. Bay son of Curlin launched his move entering the far turn and loomed as a serious win threat before winding up second best, and his BRIS Speed Ratings (112-101-109) are peaking. Confirmed closer is a 1 ¼-mile specialist and with many speedy types lining up for the Classic field, Keen Ice is eligible to challenge for a top three finish at Del Mar.
PAVEL is surely a talent and I am very impressed by how he has held up while being thrown to the wolves since his July debut. I tabbed him as a horse to watch after his eye-catching unveiling and Pavel has improved his BRIS Speed numbers with each start, earning a 108 Saturday. It’s still hard for me to envision the son of Creative Cause being a major player in the Classic, but Doug O’Neill runner does have more room for improvement in the fifth career outing. If the gray sophomore trains in lights-out fashion over the next few weeks, Pavel might be an interesting exotics contender.
Flower Bowl (G1):
Shug McGaughey’s WAR FLAG earned a lifetime-best BRIS 100 Speed figure when holding on by a head late to eclipse this affair, her second win from four runs since coming to the U.S. Bay filly is very consistent and worth of a Filly & Mare Turf bid, though she will need to make another forward move to challenge the divisional big guns from here and abroad.
The ever-consistent DACITA always packs a big late punch for Brown and I think she could be an exotics player in the Filly and Mare Turf. Six-year-old by Scat Daddy has class and could capitalize most of all if a hearty pace occurs at Del Mar, setting up things for the one-run closer.
Brown’s GRAND JETE has come up a bit short in her last pair and might benefit from a cut back in distance if she heads west. But as with the aforementioned duo, she looks to be a notch below the best in the prospective Filly & Mare Turf field.