News and STORIES

Pair of Grade One Races on the Grass at Belmont

Author: Chris Adams
Published: Wednesday July 07, 2021

The 2021 Belmont Park summer meet is drawing to a close. As sights turn to Saratoga the final 2 graded stakes of the season will take place on Saturday. Both on the Belmont turf course, the Oaks and Derby are Grade 1 events that are part of a final weekend which includes 4 stakes races in total. 

Belmont Oaks

The Belmont Oaks will be run at 10 furlongs on the Belmont turf. Early indications are that the race will live up to the Grade 1 status based on the horses who appear to be targeting this race.

The headline will be the ultra talented Santa Barbara who comes over from across the pond. O’Brien is one of the top trainers in the world when it comes to turf runners. Joining the European contingent will be 2 additional runners. Cirona finished 10th last out, but that was in a competitive group 1 event in France and Rocky Sky won a listed stakes in Ireland at last asking.

Hoping to defend the home turf, a number of American horses are planning to line up at the gate as well. The exacta from 2 Grade 3 events are set to return in this spot. Con Lima for Todd Pletcher will return after a win in the Wonder Again. The runner up in that race was Plum Ali for Christophe Clement and will look to turn the tables in this spot. Clement started heating up in the turf division about this time last year. If he follows his form pattern this could be a great jumping off point for his runners at Saratoga.

The Regret (Grade 3) will also return the top 2 finishers in this spot. Gam’s Mission for Cherie DeVaux will return after upsetting the favorite Spanish Loveaffair who is also set to return here. The upset victory gave DeVaux her first ever graded stakes victory.

Higher Truth is listed as the only Chad Brown pointing toward this race. Anyone who follows American turf racing knows that the handicapping of any turf race often starts with Chad. The horse is lightly raced, but is 2 for 2 on the Belmont turf. 

Belmont Derby

Unlike its counterpart in Kentucky, the Belmont Derby is run on the turf course. Similar to the Belmont Oaks, the race will feature both American and international contingents. 

One of the enjoyable parts of the 3 year old male division following the Kentucky Derby is that connections can stop chasing the Kentucky Derby and start putting their horses in the races they were meant to run. 

Sainthood for Todd Pletcher entered Churchill Downs as one the “wise guy” picks to be competitive and finished 11th. After that Pletcher moved him to the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge where he won over a field that was not of the caliber of the Derby. Now the horse switches to turf. His 2nd in the Jeff Ruby on synthetic suggests he should be able to handle the surface switch just fine.

Along with Sainthood the race features 3 other horses who won their last race. Hard Love won an allowance at Belmont back in June. Cellist was the winner of the Audubon Stakes at Churchill where he defeated Palazzi and Hidden Enemy, both of whom are looking to run here as well. Du Jour was an upset winner for Baffert in the Grade 2 American Turf. The horse now switches to Bill Mott’s barn after the Baffert ban from NYRA. The question with this one will be do you trust that the horse won the last race or did he have a little help?

The international group for this race includes Bolshoi Ballet for Aiden O’Brien. The horse finished 7th in the prestigious Group 1 Epsom Derby. Prior to that he won in back to back Group 3 events at Leopardstown. For whatever reason Irish track has had a sneaky way of producing good American turf runners. The other European comes from France as Tokyo Gold looks to improve on a muddied European form. 

Using DHP Tools to Handicap the Race

Daily Horse Picks uses sophisticated AI to analyze running speed and pace styles that have advantages at each track. Data from Belmont shows 100 races have been run between 8.5 and 10 furlongs furlongs on the turf.

In those races there is clear evidence that, much like on dirt, the “Fast” and “Fastest” horses win far more frequently than the rest of the runners. In fact, “Fast” and “Fastest” horses have won over 80% of the races analyzed.

When it comes to turf racing in New York, every race seems to doddle through the first half to three quarters of the race. As the horses enter the final stages of the race, they do their fastest running. This run style is supported by the pace analysis tool showing that “Stalkers” and “Closers” win about 65% of the turf routes. Meanwhile horses labelled as “Leads” and “Deep Closers” have failed to win 10% of the wins.

Interestingly enough true speed horses labelled as “Leaders” win at a respectable 17% clip. This suggests that if you find a true need the lead horse, they can be potential upsetters stealing the race on the front end.   

To access Daily Horse Picks speed and pace classifications for the Belmont Oaks and Belmont Derby, players can purchase one of Daily Horse Picks Premium packages. Players will gain access to all races from Belmont as well as the rest of the races from around the continent.