Racing returns to New York Wednesday with a 10-race program at Belmont Park. Here are some horses of interest on the opener:
#7 Dream Friend will make his first start since finishing a nose second in a stakes-caliber turf allowance last November, and I’m keen to play him given that Hidden Scroll and Cross Border figure to take plenty of betting action.
A lightly-raced son of Ghostzapper, Dream Friend’s form turned around when switching to turf last June, posting a romping entry-level allowance win, and he recorded a respectable third when making his stakes debut in the Bernard Baruch (G2) two starts later.
The chestnut gained valuable experience while making his final two starts in tough allowances last year, recording a pair of commendable seconds, and he outfinished Instilled Regard, who came back to win the Ft. Lauderdale (G2) next out, in the latter.
I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Dream Friend yet. The promising turf miler can open his 5-year-old season with a win before returning to stakes competition for John Terranova.
#11 Forest Spirit showed excellent speed from the gate in his debut against a nice maiden special weight field on Feb. 29. He proved no match against an impressive wire-to-wire winner, but kept trying through the stretch while weakening to third.
Carlos Martin drops the 3-year-old gelding into the $30,000 maiden claiming ranks and adds Jose Ortiz. Listed at 5-1 on the morning line, Forest Spirit looks more than capable of leading this field all the way.
Taking a stand against the 9-5 favorite, In the Loop, who has beaten one horse in the last two starts and must work out a trip from the rail in his first appearance since September. #2 Split Verdict will have to step up his game to prove best at expected long odds (15-1 on the morning line), but his races earlier this year should provide a basis for fitness and I like the cutback to 6-furlongs.
A son of Successful Appeal, Split Verdict flashed some ability when opening his racing career in 2018, registering Brisnet Speed ratings as high as 90, but went on the shelf for 18 months. He returned this winter under the care of Gary Gullo and after a comebacker, the 5-year-old recorded an improved effort at a mile in mid-February. With his tactical foot, Split Verdict is eligible to sit a good stalking trip behind the speed, and I’ll include him in horizontal and vertical wagers.