How to bet the Van Clief Stakes

July 20th, 2023

A competitive field of 10 will dash 5 1/2 furlongs on the Colonial Downs turf in Saturday’s $150,000 Van Clief S. The race lacks a clear-cut standout and is a challenging betting endeavor, which leads me to search for a decent price with my top selection.

I’ll go to the outside and take a shot with #10 Smokin’ Jay (6-1) for conditioner Kelsey Danner. The five-year-old son of Cairo Prince finished a flat sixth in the race last campaign and has some inconsistent form coming into the heat, but the gray seems poised to give a nice account of himself here at a fine price.

Smokin’ Jay is one-for-four this season and his best performance might have been two prior when a rallying second in a deep field in an allowance test at Churchill Downs. The Kentucky-bred has an excuse for his latest showing at Laurel Park when he caught a ‘good’ turf oval, and I envision him running much better on Saturday over an expected firm lawn. Jevian Toledo has the call and will rally the selection from off of a contested early pace.

Grade 3 victor #7 Gear Jockey (4-1) has a lot of back class and might get back to his best while running fresh off the layoff in his seasonal debut for Rusty Arnold. By Twirling Candy, the six-year-old has been training in very good fashion leading up to this and has proven to be capable of running off of works in the past, so the Calumet homebred intrigues with Feargal Lynch taking the reins.

Two-time Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint (G3) winner #6 Yes I Am Free (8-1) has finished first or second in each of his five tries in 2023 for conditioner Laura Cazares, and the seven-year-old is a top-three must-use in my opinion. The Florida-bred son of Uncaptured has excellent gate speed and will be forcing, or establishing, the tempo from the opening bell with Emisael Jaramillo in the silks.

Defending champ #2 Front Run the Fed (5-1) is a one-run closer who is always dependent on the pace of the race, but the son of Fed Biz can be very good when he fires his best shot. The Kentucky-bred bay will make just his third start since December and wouldn’t be a major surprise with David Cabrera accepting the mount.

Van Clief Wagers

$4 exacta key box: 10 with 2,6,7 ($24)

$1 trifecta box: 2,6,7,10 ($24)