by Brian Nadeau
April 25, 2018
Ahhh Belmont Park, welcome back. Has it really only been six months or so since you last left us? It seems like about six years, but Big Sandy returns Friday, and not a day too soon. So, let’s take a look at the Opening Day Pk5. Whereas in the past I’ve put together one caveman ticket on a small-scale budget, going forward I’m going to try and present a bit more of an in-depth play that will utilize backup horses and tickets, while painting a broader picture of a suggested play.
*** Please take note that this analysis is done upwards of 36 hours in advance, so obviously weather, track conditions and especially late scratches can and will have an effect. Please check back around 12pm Friday for an update. ***
Race 1: 4up 14k N3L going 6 ½ furlongs
The meet opener looks like a bit of a spread, as there are four viable A-list contenders who are all very similar on paper. Top honors go to #7 MISSLE BOMB (5-1), who seems a bit incorrectly priced at this ML, since he drops stiffly from the 50k starter ranks and goes for Brad Cox, who is hitting close to 50% at Keeneland and hasn’t lost a step since opening up a NY barn a few years back. His last was a complete no-show, but this drop is a seismic one and the cutback seems to work too. There’s little doubt #6 BLAME US ALL (2-1) hits hard on his own drop, this one from the 35k N2L ranks, but he’s a huge underlay at this price, especially since he’s no faster than his main rivals on paper. It’s tough to separate #3 HARD HITTER (4-1) and #8 RANSOM NOTE (3-1), as they were a half-length apart when 3-2, respectively, at the level last time, so I won’t try, but if you need to cut to save money, they would be the ones I’d lop off, since the top pair have been facing much better.
Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 7,6,8,3
I’m going to stand alone with only A runners, since the one other I could potentially use as a backup, #2 Lightning Buzz, is stepping up off a N2L win and is unlikely to be able to down all four on the rise.
Pk5 B horses (listed in order of preference): None
Race 2: 3upfm 20k MCL going 6 furlongs
I’m not necessarily sold that this is the two-horse race the ML will tell you (though I agree with it), but there’s no doubt the two most likely winners are #6 JUST BLING IT (7-5) and #7 MERCURIAN (2-1). But they the types to stand alone with? That I’m not so sure about, as the former was just drubbed pretty good at 6/5 while the latter had the same thing happen to him at Laurel, where Linda Rice hits at seemingly 70%. Which leads us down below…
Pk5 A horses: 6,7
The rest of the proven dirt runners hardly inspire and would need big moves forward, and there’s no reason to expect it to happen, however, turf runner #8 JORDY’S READY (15-1) has a bit of appeal. She didn’t really do any running on the turf down at Gulfstream Park this winter, but those were against open foes, who are better than this group, and her numbers fit here too. And while comparing dirt to turf figures is silly, if nothing else, it shows she’s in the class level of the two heavy favorites. You’re not getting this 15-1, but even half that seems fair, and it’s not like she needs to improve a ton to beat two gals who have shown they aren’t afraid to burn money.
Pk5 B horses: 8
Race 3: 3upfm 16k N2L going 1-mile
Taking on winners for the first time is never easy, so while #4 MY GIRL ANNIE (7-5) will take a ton of money for Chad Brown, she may not be the lock the toteboard will tell you she is, even though budget players will probably stand alone with her. The $64,000 question is what to do with #7 PAULA’S PISTOL, who was an extremely fast 2nd at the level last time, but did it in the mud, with a figure that is about 10 lengths faster than anything she’s ever done before. I won’t take that effort at face value, but will put her on top, as she has the benefit of a run against winners, draws a nice attack post for Michelle Nevin, who has been enjoying a strong run of it in NY for a few months now, and will be a better price than ‘Annie too.
Pk5 A horses: 7,4
I’m not in love with #6 DUNE BUGGY (7-2), as she’s too slow on paper, but her stalking gear will come in handy if the top pair hook up, which is possible, and getting a third-choice home in a
short field is never a bad thing. The gal I’m against is #3 Connie A, who seems to be going the wrong way fast for Pletcher and just doesn’t inspire.
Pk5 B horses: 6
Race 4: 3up NYB 25k MCL going 6 furlongs
This may be the one spot where you’re allowed to think a bit outside the box, since #1 PANA ELIANNE (2-1), #2 Geranium (3-1) and #3 SARDONYX (7-2) are all solid, but very unspectacular. I’ll use the former and the latter, since ‘Elianne takes a huge class drop out of open MSW foes at GP, while the latter got a nice comeback last time and takes her own drop, albeit it from state-bred MSW gals. However, there are potential upset candidates looming down below…
Pk5 A horses: 3,1
It’s tough not to use Geranium, as she is a Clement firster who has yet to show she’s only moderately fast, but she’s also doesn’t seem like a true 3-1 ML second-choice, so take note of that. The other two I’m using, at what should be solid prices, are #4 SUMMER SQUEEZE (8-1) and #9 SPA ANGEL (15-1). The former is another MSW dropper who was 4-1 in a 12-horse field on debut turf sprinting, her only grass start to date, and will now run with blinkers on the turf for the first time. The latter took a bit of money at 8-1 against MSW’s on the turf in her debut, and while she didn’t fire, this is the first time she gets back to the grass for a very crafty John Terranova.
Pk5 B horses: 4,2,9
Race 5: 4up NYB $100,000 Affirmed Success at 6 furlongs
I’ll be rooting for #1 Weekend Hideaway (8-5), as will most people, as he’s one of the coolest NYB’s to come around in quite some time, but that doesn’t mean I have to take this price, from the rail, off a modest comeback and two straight duds to end 2017. I have my reservations about #6 Eye Luv Lulu (2-1) either, especially on a fast main track, but this outside attack post is perfect, and Jason Servis does have him going good (again). However, if things are fast, note he’s just 2-for-26 on dry land, and, even more importantly, has lost nine (!) straight races. Yes, he’s run some big 2nds, and yes, he’s been close, but at the end of the day, a loss is a loss is a loss. And because of those negatives on the perceived top pair, I’m going another way and using #4 LOKI’S VENGEANCE (4-1) as a bold single, as his return win last time was big and he just seems to be the right fresh new face. He’s also run only twice for Linda Rice, and the first came in a tough stakes off a long layoff, where he ended up dueling on the lead, which is not his style.
Pk5 A horses: 4
Obviously ‘Hideaway and ‘Lulu have to be put in here, I’m not that hard-headed. It may be foolish to not use #2 Gypsum Johnny, but his recent form isn’t any great shakes and he could be caught in a pace sandwich, which is the main reason I’ll side against him.
Pk5 B horses: 6,1
The main A ticket is a simple 2x3x2x3x2 for $16, and that’s our starting point. But by adding in our B horses in with the A’s in the other legs, we can get more coverage and allow for some margin for error too. As you’ll see below, the backups tickets are a more cost conducive way of getting added coverage, without breaking the bank; if we combined all the A’s and B’s, the ticket would cost $270 (4x3x3x5x3), whereas this way is a more manageable $88. I’m also an advocate of playing you’re A ticket for $1 (or more), so you capitalize if you handicap it out of the park.
Main Ticket: 7,6,8,3 with 6,7 with 7,4 with 3,1 with 4 = $16
R2 B Backup: 7,6,8,3 with 8 with 7,4 with 3,1 with 4 = $8
R3 B Backup: 7,6,8,3 with 6,7 with 6 with 3,1 with 4 = $8
R4 B Backup: 7,6,8,3 with 6,7 with 7,4 with 4,2,9 with 4 = $24
R5 B Backup: 7,6,8,3 with 6,7 with 7,4 with 3,1 with 6,1 = $32