Key Races & Bets for Saturday, May 5

Sheepshead Bay Stakes – Race 6 at Belmont Park – Post Time 3:30 PM Eastern

Santa Monica showed a ton of promise as a future stakes star in her U.S. debut last month at Keeneland. That was her 1st start after 4 1/2 months off and first on Lasix and she swept past the field from last of 8 to be in front by 2 lengths at the 8th pole, drawing off from there. This step up from 2nd level allowance to grade 2 stakes is no big deal because Santa Monica was a group 3 stakes winner in Ireland last June and European group 3 races are equivalent to grade 2 races in the states. Likely to improve markedly 2nd off the layoff, Brown wastes no time taking a shot at a nice purse and although Gaffalione has never ridden here I have no issues because the jockey is 6 for 18 riding for Brown in the last 18 months. Even opening at 5/2 odds, or a bit lower, Santa Monica is truly a KEY BET because the favorite, Holy Helena, is vulnerable on many counts in this field. She won the Grade 2 Very One Stakes in March at Gulfstream Park when last seen but only earned a 98 Equibase figure in doing so, and a 97 prior to that winning a classified allowance. Santa Monica earned a 102 figure in her allowance win and whereas Holy Helena has run the same race twice, Santa Monica has upside in her 2nd race off the layoff. For the exacta, I’ll try to keep Holy Helena out entirely and use Estrechada and Summersault, both having won at 11 furlongs or father on the grass so having no issues with this 11 furlong trip. Estrechada won the Grade 3 Waya Stakes last summer at Saratoga and her fourth place finish in her only start of the year can be improved upon, while Summersault won the non-graded Soaring Softly Stakes in March at Gulfstream Park at this trip and the last time she got into top form she held that form for three straight races including the Grade 3 Orchid Stakes at this distance on turf. Win Bets: Bet Santa Monica to win at 6 to 5 or higher, a true low odds overlay. Consider small win bets on Estrechada and Summersault at odds of 3 to 1 or more. Exacta: Box Santa Monica, Estrechada and Summersault. Then also play an exacta of Santa Monica over Estrechada and Summersault. Fort Marcy Stakes – Race 10 at Belmont Park – Post Time 5:48 PM Eastern Robert Bruce was a perfect six-for-six in his native Chile, winning at distances ranging from six furlongs to a mile and one-half. He won one of the biggest turf races in South America last fall, a group 1 with a purse of $160K U.S. and he’s been training steadily in Florida this spring for Brown, who gave him a whirl on the Belmont training track last week. Gaffalione rides and if Santa Monica runs as expected in the Sheepshead Bay that could give Brown and Gaffalione two stakes wins on the day. Brown is exceptional with horses coming off layoffs so the return from six months off is no issue, nor is it being his first start in the U.S. because again that is something Brown is exceptional at, winning with 25% (8 for 34) of his foreign imports in the past couple of years. As such, Robert Bruce could keep his perfect record intact with a win in this year’s Fort Marcy Stakes. That being said, Lucullan SHOULD NOT BE 12/1 as he is on the morning line. With three wins in six turf races to date, the colt has shown a lot of talent and he’s not overmatched at this grade 3 level as in his only stakes start last year he missed by inches to Yoshida in the Hill Prince Stakes at this trip last October. Lucullan won his 2018 debut in February nicely in allowance company then ran on late but too late, from 11th to 6th, in the Muniz Stakes at the end of March. He’s another that has put in some nice works in the morning coming into the race and to ignore this exceptionally well-bred and competitive McLaughlin runner at these odds may prove to be a mistake. Spring Quality is another tough horse, with a record nearly as good as that of Robert Bruce. Spring Quality has five wins in nine races. Only one of those was on turf BUT it was a graded stakes, the Red Smith, last November. Graham Motion, like Brown, is one of those trainers I have no qualms about when they bring a horse back from a layoff so the fact Spring Quality hasn’t raced since the November win is of no concern and he may actually have a shot of picking up where he left off, with a stakes win on grass. For the exacta, I will add Markitoff, who opens at 15/1. I am taking a stand against Blacktype (9/2 morning line) because his comeback on 4/8 just didn’t indicated he could bounce up to the form necessary to win. I am also taking a stand against morning line favorite Silverwave, because I believe Robert Bruce should be the favorite. Silverwave is also trained by Brown but Chad goes to Carmouche and no matter that Kendrick is a good jockey he’s just 1 for 7 for Brown in the last 18 year compared to 6 for 18 for the Brown/Gaffalione combination. Silverwave was last seen running in the Arc de Triomphe and that’s the reason for his low odds but he was 87/1 in the race and ran like it when last of 18. His body of work before that includes 3 stakes wins at 12 furlongs so there is NO reason to believe he can win at this 9 furlong trip. Win Bets: Robert Bruce at 9 to 5 or higher, other low odds overlay Key Bet. Make a win bet on Lucullan at 3 to 1 or more, adding a place bet at 8 to 1 or higher. Additionally, a win bet on Spring Quality may be warranted at 5 to 1 or higher, for a smaller amount than either Robert Bruce or Lucullan. Exacta: Box Robert Bruce, Lucullan, Spring Quality and Markitoff. Westchester Stakes – Race 11 at Belmont Park – Post Time 7:07 Eastern

This race marks the comeback of Cloud Computing, who opens at even money. Although the odds are a complete joke compared to the horse’s probability to win, they are right because the public will bet him solely because he won the Preakness last year. Let’s not forget, Cloud Computing was 13/1 that day, and then he ran pitifully in the Jim Dandy (5th) and Travers (8th) before going on the bench for more than a short respite, in this case eight months. Cloud Computing won his debut at six furlongs on the now gone Inner Dirt at Aqueduct and that’s about as irrelevant is it can get comparing that to a start in a graded stakes at a mile around one turn. His best Equibase figure where he was even competitive was 101 in the Preakness and although he’s likely stronger as a four year old even adding points to that, Cloud Computing isn’t even close to how fast three others in here can run.

First, Moe Trouble opens at 30/1, the exact opposite as Cloud Computing in terms of how bad the line is compared to reality. The horse has FIVE wins and SIX runner-up finishes in 16 races and $220K in the bank. Sure, he’s been beating up on Pennsylvania breds but he’s still a son of top sire Uncle Moe and his trainer is TOP NOTCH. Gonzalez is 40 for 160 on the year and 10 for 33 in stakes the past two years. The trainer has shipped to New York seven times in the past five years, with two wins and three runner-up efforts. Trainer Gonzalez likely looked at who was likely to enter here and said to himself “I can win the winner’s share of this 200K purse, or at least a big piece of it and that’s more than my horse can earn at Parx.” Carmouche takes the call and with an inside position on the only other horse that may want the lead, Conquest Big E, Moe Trouble can finish first or second here as the longest shot in the field because in his last start, a two-turn mile, he led until the top of the stretch and settled for 2nd with a field high 117 Equibase figure that is a grade 2 level figure in this grade 3 stakes. Additionally, if you look at the Hardacre Mile on 3/31 won by Conquest Big E, with Tommy Macho 3rd, or any of Tommy Macho’s losses in the Kelso or Forego you have to note he was beaten by a horse who controlled the pace. The only reason Tommy Macho won the Hooper was Conquest Big E hopped at the start. Therefore I think Moe Trouble is going to do what Conquest Big E did last out and lead from start to finish at double digit odds.

If I’m right about Conquest Big E being forced to yield the early lead to Moe Trouble, he’ll likely be in the second sport early. Although he’s earned his last three wins leading start to finish, he did prove he could close when he hopped at the start, rallying from 6th to be beaten just 3/4 of a length. Batista comes up from Florida to ride the hard knocking gelding and his best race, with a 111 Equibase figure, is good enough to win if repeated if he can relax off the early speed of Moe Trouble and go by that one late.

If I’m wrong about the pace and Conquest Big E and Moe Trouble hook up, Tommy Macho repeats his Fred Hooper score with a 107 figure, or his 2017 Hal’s Hope win at the same one turn mile trip with a 114 figure. He could offer low odds value as well anywhere near his 5/2 morning line considering how overbet Cloud Computing is likely to be.

Bets: Moe Trouble to win and place at 3 to 1 or more. Also consider a win bet on Conquest Big E at 7 to 2 or higher Consider a win bet on Tommy Macho at 2 to 1 or more, especially if you believe Conquest Big E and Moe Trouble are going to battle each other on the front end.   Exactas: Moe Trouble over ALL and (The opposite) ALL over Moe Trouble.

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Ellis Starr

Ellis is a well respected handicapper and contributor of AmWager. He has been a public handicapper for more than twenty years, educating racing fans of all skill levels with detailed commentary few other handicappers provide.

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