Hello Belmont; Opening Saturday Stakes

One thing that is undeniable about the Belmont Fall Championship Meet is the abundance of great stakes racing, as ten Grade I stakes races are run on the flat.  Two of them kick off the opening weekend of the meet and even with adverse weather conditions, the stakes racing today at Big Sandy features two heavy favorites that are towards the top of their respective divisions. 

RUFFIAN

#1 SEVENTH STREET will be looking to continue a terrific run this year as she’s a two-time Grade I winner and has finished second in two more graded stakes outings.  She seemed beaten at the eighth pole of her last start but dug in gamely and forged her way to a one and a half length score.  The track had turned into a quagmire shortly before that event and thus her final time was a tad slow, earning her a 96 Beyer figure.  Her style is versatile so the fact that there’s other speed in here shouldn’t be a deterrent.  #2 SWIFT TEMPER has been the beneficiary of circumstance in her two biggest scores of the year, the Sixty Sails (G3) and the Delaware Handicap (G2).  She took both in wire-to-wire fashion as she was able to get away with murder on the front end in each of those events and a similar setup is highly doubtful today.  She should, though, be in a good spot early and her back class puts her among the main win candidates in this field.  #5 LUNA VEGA rebounded from a terrible effort in the Go For Wand with a game win in the Molly Pitcher at Belmont.  While the GFW effort has the built-in excuse of the wet track, it’s hard to imagine that she’s found the 8+ lengths that was between she and Seventh Street at the finish.  She should, however, get a favorable pace setup and hails from connections that you must always handle with care.
PICKS: 1-2-5

GARDEN CITY

#1 GOZZIP GIRL hasn’t been out since a sharp win in the American Oaks early in July at Hollywood and now returns off a brief respite for trainer Tom Albertrani.  She has been an absolute beast on the weeds since January with four wins in five starts and Albertrani made it clear in an article with the DRF that she’s just now getting to her best: “”She started to come back to her old self maybe just over two weeks ago; she started to put on the weight that she had lost from the trip back and forth,” Albertrani said. “She looks like she’s back to her old self again and she’s been training really well.”  #2 KATARA has lost twice in a row to #6 SHARED ACCOUNT but has had excuses in both as she ran into traffic trouble on a boggy course upstate in the Lake Placid.  She has no speed and that works against her but she’s going to be overlooked in the wagering and should be able to finish with any pace help today.  #4 MISS WORLD has won two in a row and has shown tremendous promise in each of the wins.  She is now being moved up aggressively in class by trainer Christophe Clement and has more upside than a number of the seemingly overmatched participants in this affair.
PICKS: 1-2-4-6

PRESQUE ISLE MASTERS

#2 DIAMONDRELLA has been on an absolute tear since June of 2008 as she’s now won six consecutive races, four of them stakes, including the GI Just a Game on the Belmont Stakes undercard.  She was supposed to try for Grade I glory again on the grass in the Diana up at Saratoga but trainer Angel Penna opted against running her 9 panels.  He clearly has Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on his mind and that might be a distance that hits her right between the eyes.  All she has to do is prove that she can handle synthetic surfaces and that test comes here.  There’s a good amount of speed set to spar early as #11 DUBAI MAJESTY has never been shy when it comes to mixing it up early.  That should set things up nicely for this daughter of Rock of Gibraltar.  #9 INFORMED DECISION was on a tear herself before a dull effort in the Ballerina on the Travers undercard.  She had won five in a row leading up to that decision and her synthetic record is beyond reproach.  She will, like the top pick, benefit from a good pace setup, so expect her to be in the mix late.
PICKS: 2-9-5

TURFWAY PARK FALL CHAMPIONSHIP

After being lengthened to 12 furlongs, the Turfway Park Fall Championship was made a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Marathon.  #4 GANGBUSTER could be a steal at his morning line of 4-1 as he has run three consecutive races on synthetic surfaces at marathon distances that would take this event handily.  He kicked off his 2009 synthetic tour de force with a romping win in the Fort Harrod over Keeneland’s Polytrack and has since hit the board in two other races on synthetic surfaces, including a runner-up finish in the Polar Expedition at Arlington.  He should benefit from a steady pace in here with the two runners on the inside likely to show speed.  #2 LORD KIPLING was claimed out of a 35k optional claimer at Saratoga in August as he went wire-to-wire in a 2 mile marathon.  He is clearly at his best going long and he likes to do his running on the pace.  Trainer Scott Lake has long been one of the best trainers around with horses coming back off claims, so you have to imagine this guy will be ready to go.
PICKS: 4-2-5

Good luck with the races all over the country on Saturday!

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