I was absolutely puzzled after Fort Larned came up empty in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) back on April 13, but luckily we stuck with last year's Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner and he rewarded us with an impressive victory in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) on Saturday night at Churchill Downs.
He took on a strong field that included the last two winners of the race along with last year's Florida Derby and Travers winners.
Under jockey Brian Hernandez the five-year-old jumped to the early lead, set solid fractions, and had plenty left in the stretch, drawing away to win by 6 ¼ lengths. He returned $8.60 for the win, with Golden Ticket rallying at nearly 12-1 to complete a $2 exacta that returned $69.40.
The biggest surprise was the effort from Take Charge Indy, who was sent off as the 9-5 betting favorite. After tracking the early pace the colt faded to finish sixth and last.
Another surprise was the loss by Royal Delta, who was the 1-5 favorite in the Fleur De Lis (G2) earlier on the card. She was trying to bounce back from a defeat in Dubai and had no trouble winning this race last year.
However, Funny Proposition took command early and took the field gate to wire to spring the upset, returning $13.40 for the win.
Royal Delta got leg weary in the stretch and only held on to second be three-quarters of a length over She's All In and Ice Cream Silence, who were separated by just a nose at the wire.
It was a good night with five winners on top in the 10 thoroughbred races, along with a couple of other close calls.
Here is today's opening from Belmont Park to get the day off to a good start:
BEL Race 1 Clm $15,000B (1:05 ET)
4 Southside Sis 4-1
5 Veturia 5-2
1 Pop Pop's Smyle 9-5
4 Still Shea to Me 6-1
Analysis: Southside Sis stalked the early pace, came up the inside with a run and flattened out in the stretch to finish third in her first go against winners. Two back she broke her maiden for a $16,000 tag in her seventh career start. The runner up Just Safe came back to graduate in her next start on June 6 here for a $16,000 tag. Her recent form is as good as any of these, a really weak group.
Veturia ran well in her first two starts after arriving in the U.S., and then bolted and was eased two back and last out she faded to finish a well beaten 10th for a $20,000 tag. She was claimed out of the race by the Englehart barn that is 10% winners first off the claim. She faces easier here but hard to figure exactly what we may see out of this gal here.
WIN: #7 to win at 3-1 or better.
EX: 5,7 / 1,4,5,7
TRI: 5,7 / 1,4,5,7 / 1,4,5,6,7
Today's Featured Race of the Day from Belmont Park:
BEL Race 8 Alw $62,000N1X (4:45 ET)
7 Roses for Romney 7-2
6 Funny Money 4-1
3 Flirtatious Spring 5-1
10 L C Cinderella 3-1
Analysis: Roses for Romney put in a game effort last out in her first go against winners, setting the early fractions over a yielding turf and battling right to the wire to come up just a neck shy of the top spot. She broke her maiden two back at the Big A on turf and off a five month layoff. The Pletcher trainee looks primed for a good effort here third off the bench, has shown she can handle ground with some give to it and still appears to have more upside than most of these state breds.
Funny Money faces winners for the first time here after a good looking maiden win last out in her fifth career start. The switch to Rosario seems to have suited this gal who had finished behind a couple of these she faces in her two previous starts. She has five sibs that are also grass winners and two of her sibs are stakes winners, top earner Mohegan Sky ($280,294) who was best on turf.
WIN: #7 to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 6,7 / 3,6,7,10
TRI: 6,7 / 3,6,7,10 / 3,6,7,8,10
Today's Featured Race of the Day from Churchill Downs:
CD Race 9 Md Sp Wt (4:59 ET)
5 Soul of Comete 5-1
7 Sun Disk 2-1
2 Bird County 6-1
1 Cookie 5-1
Analysis: Soul of Comete returns to dirt after checking in fourth last out on poly at Keeneland in what was not one of the strongest maiden races in Lexington. The filly earned a better fig in her debut on the main track at Fair Grounds and looks as if she will appreciate the extra ground here. She is by Perfect Soul out of a Holly Bull mare that has dropped three winners including a pair of stakes winners, top earner Munnings ($742,640).
Sun Disk chased the early pace from the outside and weakened to finish ninth last out on grass at Gulfstream Park. She makes her first start on dirt here and she showed some ability with a decent third in her debut. These do not look as tough and pedigree wise she may do better on dirt, by A.P. Indy out of an unraced Seeking the Gold mare.
WIN: #5 to win at 7-2 or better.
EX: 5,7 / 1,2,5,7
TRI: 5,7 / 1,2,5,7 / 1,2,5,7,8
These are price plays for exotic players looking to find a couple of extra contenders to use in their trifecta and superfecta wagers. Or for those with smaller bankrolls, you might want to get in a small win-place wager.
R4: #4 Romancing the Gold 12-1
R5: #11 Rufus Ruth 15-1
R6: #2 Neolexia 10-1
R9: #4 Your Time Is Up 10-1
R9: #5 Thepowersthatbe 15-1
R10: #3 Huge Asset 10-1
Mike DempseyMike covers the New York racing circuit (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga) year round as well as Keeneland, Churchill Downs, the Triple Crown, and the Breeders' Cup. The 2015 Triple Crown saw Mike correctly predict American Pharoah to win both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Mike nailed the Exacta and Trifecta in the Belmont Stakes. Mike had a solid 2014 Triple Crown race season, correctly picking the winning horse in 2 of 3 races. He selected I'll Have another to win The Preakness, and nailed Union Rags to win the Belmont Stakes as his top pick. Mike also had past success in the Kentucky Derby, winning with Animal Kingdom in 2011 and rode his top picks, Super Saver and Street Sense, to the finish line in 2010 and 2007 respectively. No handicapper in the industry works harder to bring you analysis that produces profits at the track! Mike's Reports include his selections, detailed analysis, a fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for the entire card. Join Mike each day with daily picks from Belmont and Churchill Downs or you can get his Weekend Best Plays Report in his Multi-Track package or sit at the track with him for 30 Days with his Monthly Horse Package!
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