RTSS False-Favorite Report, Saturday, June 8, 2024

Yesterday we rebounded slightly. Two of three false favs lost, and we cashed one winner at 9-2 odds.

The Belmont Stakes is on the docket today. If it was being contested at the usual mile and a half, our selection would be Todd Pletcher’s entrant Protective at about 20-1. However, Protective’s lack of early speed at this shorter distance and his loss of Irad Ortiz add up to something other than a winning effort, in our opinion.

The good news, we think, is that we see Sierra Leone as a false favorite, opening the door for a decent return on a more likely winner.

BELMONT AT SARATOGA

RACE 3. Optional Claimer $62,500 N2x. 6.5 Furlongs. Dirt.

False Favorite: #8 Full Screen (7-2).

Reason: This cheaply bred runner has been stuck at this level since 2022. It’s unclear why the connections aren’t willing to drop this near-miss master into a claiming race. His three career wins all came on either turf or AW. The switch to a shorter dirt sprint seems like a last-ditch shot in a nonclaiming event.

Top Contenders

  • #6 Awesome Native (4-1), 96
  • #1 Billal (6-1), 93
  • #2 Mandatory (9-2), 93

RACE 12. GRADE 1 BELMONT STAKES. 1 Mile and 1/4. Dirt.

False Favorite: #9 Sierra Leone (9-5).

Reason: Based on research I did from 1992 onward when writing The Lazy Bettor’s Guide to the Kentucky Derby, I always downgrade horses incapable of generating decent early speed.

First they almost always need to overcome some sort of trouble as they attempt to maneuver past multiple rivals. In addition they must be faster and fitter than runners ahead of them, many of whom have generated enough early speed to warrant a shot at this level.

As the grade level increases, the likelihood of the closer possessing the required talent advantage narrows. With Sierra Leone the advantage (measured by speed figs or raw times) has vanished.

Chad Brown, who still tends to train dirt runners like his turf stars, has some sense of this. He is changing riders, bits and possibly tactics. But as I state in my book, “You can often train a fast horse to slow down, but you can’t really train a slow horse to speed up.”

Top Contenders

#1 Seize the Grey (8-1), 105. He might face more early pressure than he did in the Preakness, but he doesn’t need the early lead to win. He’s razor sharp and facing a field that might not contain a true Grade 1 horse. Even if the early pace heats up, Seize the Grey looks like the most accomplished stalker. In that scenario, he’ll get the first shot at passing relatively unaccomplished “speedsters.”

#3 Mystik Dan (5-1), 102. This runner seems comfortable placed almost anywhere. He doesn’t own the type of quality early speed we like to see, but he’s proven multiple times that he’s the strongest late runner in this year’s class. He completes a two-horse wager that screams VALUE: you get the Kentucky Derby winner and the Preakness winner at odds of 5-1 or better.

You get early speed and late speed. Combined, they’re the equivalent of getting one horse who’s shooting for the Triple Crown. But one such horse would go off at 1-to-2 odds.

GULFSTREAM PARK

RACE 6. Claiming $8,000 N2L. 1 Mile and 70 yards. All Weather.

False Favorite: #9 Candy Street (3-1).

Reason: Between Gulfstream Park and Woodbine, thus runner has failed 9 times at this approximate level and lower. Even his second-place finishes have left him far behind the winners.

Top Contenders

  • #4 Belly of Jelly (6-1), 77
  • #2 Changeordersonny (6-1), 76
  • #8 Venezuelan Faith (8-1), 73