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Horse racing newsletter: A look at Jon White’s Belmont Stakes rankings

The start of the 2018 Belmont Stakes.
(Julie Jacobson / Associated Press)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa.Welcome to our horse racing newsletter as we get ready for four days of racing at Santa Anita.

We finally have some clarity on the Triple Crown. The Belmont Stakes will go first on June 20 and at a distance of 1 1/8 miles. It will be followed by the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5. The Preakness will follow on Oct. 3. The Belmont will be without spectators, and as for the Derby and Preakness, who knows?

It got me thinking that if the same horse were to win all three races, if it would be a tainted Triple Crown. Now, first of all, it seems unlikely this would happen because horses develop at varying rates and the best horse in June may not be the best horse in October. Usually the entire Triple Crown series is conducted over five weeks.

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If there is such a horse, though, you could make the case the Triple Crown should come with an asterisk. It’s not the horse’s fault, but the Triple Crown is as much about stamina over a short period of time. Sure, golf and tennis have a Grand Slam that is over several months. Of course, if the same horse wins the Belmont and Kentucky Derby, all will be forgiven as we look forward to the Preakness.

Jon White will share his views of the state of the Triple Crown race in just a moment. But, before we get to that, a programming note. Our weekly Golden Gate preview, written by the personable Matt Dinerman, will be moving to Saturday to get a better handle on the weekend action.

Now, the good stuff.

Jon White’s Kentucky Derby Top 10

As always, we’re lucky to have top expert Jon White take a look at what’s happening on the Kentucky Derby trail. Jon makes the morning line at Santa Anita, he’s a licensed steward, and he’s the preeminent historian on racing. We’re lucky to have him. So, here’s his Kentucky Derby rankings, brought courtesy of Xpressbet.com, or is it 1/ST BET?

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“The Triple Crown was won for the first time 101 years ago by Sir Barton.

“This year, for the first time in the history of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes will be run before both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

“Rescheduled dates for a significantly revamped road to the 2020 Triple Crown are now known. The changes, of course, stem from the major curveball that the coronavirus has thrown not just to horse racing, but to the entire world.

Martin Panza, senior vice president of racing for the New York Racing Assn., put it well Wednesday on Steve Byk’s SiriusXM radio program ‘At the Races’ when he said that this year ‘tradition is out the window.’

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“This year’s Belmont will be held at Belmont Park on June 20 instead of on June 6. The distance has been shortened considerably to 1 1/8 miles from 1½ miles.

“The 2020 Kentucky Derby will be held at Churchill Downs on Sept. 5 instead of on May 2. The distance remains 1¼ miles.

“The Preakness will be held at Pimlico Race Course on Oct. 3. It originally had been scheduled for May 16. The distance is being kept at 1 3/16 miles.

“In reaction to the revamped sequence in which the Belmont Stakes will now kick off the series, I am switching to a Belmont Stakes Top 10 from a Kentucky Derby Top 10.

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“Has the Belmont ever not been the final race in the Triple Crown? Yes. From 1897 to 1905 and also in 1908, this was the order of the Triple Crown events: Kentucky Derby, followed by the Belmont, then the Preakness.

“The Belmont will be offering points this year toward starting eligibility in the Kentucky Derby. This is due to the Belmont being held prior to the Run for the Roses. The first four finishers in the Belmont will be rewarded on a 100-60-30-15 scale.

“Nadal and Charlatan, who won the two divisions of the Arkansas Derby on May 2, are both candidates for the Belmont, according to trainer Bob Baffert. Nadal tops my Belmont Stakes Top 10, while Charlatan is No. 2.

“Undefeated in four career starts, Nadal had a sharp four-furlong workout Wednesday at Santa Anita. The Kentucky-bred Blame colt worked in company with Bronn, a Baffert-trained 3-year-old Conveyance colt. Bronn has not raced since winning a maiden race at Los Alamitos last Sept. 8 in his third career start. Nadal and Bronn each registered a :48.00 clocking Wednesday, fastest of 34 works at the distance.

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“Charlatan has won all three of his races by a combined 22 lengths. The Arkansas Derby was his stakes debut.

“Tiz the Law is considered definite for the Belmont. He is No. 3 on my Belmont Stakes Top 10. Trained by Barclay Tagg, the New York-bred Constitution colt won Gulfstream Park’s Holy Bull Stakes by three lengths on Feb. 1 and Florida Derby by 4¼ lengths on March 28.

“When the upcoming Santa Anita Derby is contested at 1 1/8 miles on June 6, it will be worth 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby points to the first four finishers.

“The projected Santa Anita Derby favorite is the Baffert-trained Authentic. Undefeated in three career starts, the Kentucky-bred Into Mischief colt sparkled in a 1:11.00 solo workout last Sunday at Santa Anita. Authentic took Santa Anita’s Sham Stakes by nearly eight lengths on Jan. 4 in his 2020 debut, then won the San Felipe Stakes by 2¼ lengths at the Arcadia track on March 7. Honor A.P. finished second in the San Felipe for trainer John Shirreffs.

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“Honor A.P. will stay home and try to turn the tables on Authentic in the Santa Anita Derby rather than run in the Belmont, according to Shirreffs. ‘I think it’s certainly better to support Santa Anita than going somewhere else,’ Shirreffs told Eric Sondheimer of The Times.

“Maxfield makes his long-awaited 3-year-old debut Saturday in the 1 1/16-mile Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs. This race has 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby points up for grabs.

“Trained by Brendan Walsh, Maxfield won both starts last year. The Matt Winn will be Maxfield’s first race since his scintillating performance when he closed with a rush from far back to win the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Futurity by 5 1/2 lengths at Keeneland on Oct. 5.

“Maxfield was entered in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Nov. 1, but was scratched when all was not well. The Kentucky-bred colt subsequently underwent surgery for the removal of an ankle chip on Nov. 18.

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“According to Equibase, Maxfield has 11 workouts this year leading up to the Matt Winn. He worked five furlongs in a bullet :59.20 at Keeneland on May 10, fastest of 34 at the distance. That was followed by a brisk four-furlong drill at Keeneland on May 16, third fastest of 22 works at the distance. ‘From what he’s shown me in his works, I can’t wait to see what he’ll do on the track,’ Walsh said to Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman. ‘We’ve done all we can with him.’

“Walsh went on to say that Maxfield ‘is a much stronger horse’ than he was as a 2-year-old. ‘He’s filled out,’ the trainer noted. ‘Last year, he was a frame of a horse. He’s put on plenty of weight and muscle.’ Walsh describes Maxfield as a 3-year-old who has blossomed physically into ‘an outstanding individual.’

“I decided to go ahead and put Maxfield on my Belmont Stakes Top 10 just in case Walsh would possibly run him back in that race after the Matt Winn. It seems unlikely at this point, but not out of the question.

“A son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, Maxfield is the 5-2 favorite on the Matt Winn morning line. Pneumatic and Attachment Rate are the co-second choices at 4-1.

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“Pneumatic, who did not race last year, is two for two. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the Kentucky-bred colt was victorious in both of his starts at the recently concluded Oaklawn meet. Pneumatic’s sire, Uncle Mo, was voted a 2010 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male.

“Attachment Rate, trained by Dale Romans, is coming off a third in Gulfstream’s 1 1/16-mile Unbridled Stakes on April 25. Dr Post, who is No. 9 on my Belmont Stakes Top 10, won the Unbridled for trainer Todd Pletcher. Attachment Rate’s sire, Hard Spun, finished second to Street Sense in the 2007 Kentucky Derby.

“Ny Traffic, 10-1 on the morning line, and Mystic Guide, 20-1, could be dangerous in the Matt Winn. Ny Traffic, conditioned by Saffie Joseph Jr., finished second in the Louisiana Derby on March 21. Mystic Guide, trained by Mike Stidham, goes into Saturday’s race off an impressive five-length maiden win at the Fair Grounds the same day as the Louisiana Derby.

“Major Fed, trained by Greg Foley, had the misfortune to draw the outside post among the dozen Matt Winn entrants. He is listed at 5-1 on the morning line. Major Fed rallied from 14th to finish fourth in the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby.

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“Here are this week’s rankings for the June 20 Belmont Stakes, courtesy of Xpressbet:

1. Nadal (1)

2. Charlatan (2)

3. Tiz the Law (3)

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4. Maxfield (6)

5. Sole Volante (8)

6. Max Player (NR)

7. Modernist (NR)

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8. Basin (NR)

9. Dr Post (NR)

10. Gouverneur Morris (NR)

NOTE: Last week’s Kentucky Derby rankings in parentheses.”

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Santa Anita preview

Friday is the first day of the only four-day week for the remainder of the season. It’s a nine-race card starting at 12:30 p.m. There are three allowance/optional claimers, two maiden specials and three turf races. With five graded stakes turf races coming up this holiday weekend, the track is saving the turf course by setting the rail at 30 feet.

We’re calling the fifth race, a mile turf allowance for horses 3 and up, as the feature as it’s got the biggest purse at $53,000 and the highest optional claiming price of $62,500. The favorite, at 2-1, is Odysseus for trainer Richard Mandella and jockey Jorge Velez. He’s undefeated in two starts winning by 1¼ and 1 lengths.

The second favorite, at 4-1, is Proud Pedro, a French-bred colt. The only reason it’s worth mentioning is I don’t know a lot of people from France named Pedro and Flavien Prat, from France, will be the rider. Leonard Powell is the trainer. He’s won two of 10 lifetime races and is coming off a win.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 8 (1 also eligible), 8, 6, 8, 8, 9, 10, 10, 9 (3 ae).

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Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick

RACE TWO: No. 2 Dorita’s Lemon (10-1)

Dorita’s Lemon is 10-1 morning line for trainer Eric Kruljac with Umberto Rispoli riding. This tandem was on fire earlier in the year and they won last out on this horse in the debut going six furlongs. Kruljac is 33% when coming off a maiden winner in their last race. Nice value today.

Sunday’s race: Loud Mouth broke great on Sunday and tracked perfectly at the front, a nice change in strategy that almost paid off. Mouth took the lead but all weekend front runners were not rewarded and the horse was swallowed up. Make a note for the next race especially if they shorten up with this new strategy.

Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for Californiapick4.com, which offers daily full-card picks, long shots of the day, best bets of the day. (Of course, that’s when there is racing.)

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Los Alamitos weekend preview

Now we turn things over to marketing and media guru Orlando Gutierrez, who will tell us about things going on at Los Alamitos. Orlando, the floor is yours.

Ed Allred’s Up And Atem, a two-time Grade 1 futurity finalist last year, will make his 2020 debut when he headlines an $11,825 allowance event at 110 yards on Friday. First post is 6 p.m. for the eight-race card.

“Up And Atem was fourth to Runforyourlife in the Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity and qualified to the Grade 1 $1.9 million Los Alamitos Two Million last year. He was never a factor in the futurity, but after some time off he returned with a sharp 350-yard drill in :17.90 on April 21.

“Twenty-four 2-year-olds have been evenly distributed in three races at 300 yards on Friday. Oscar Peinado, who leads the meet with 13 wins aboard 2-year-olds, will pilot the Three Times Ablaze (fifth race), Coopers Best Card (sixth race) and J Best Boogie (seventh race). Diva This and Garda Cash, both runners-up in their career debuts, will also race Friday night. The racing program will also have 30 horses in the early Pick Four races, which includes two 1,000-yard events.

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“Twostrikesurprise, who caught the eye with a bullet :12.10 drill on May 9, is one of eight 2-year-olds in Saturday’s eighth race. For some, it’s a prep for the June 7 trials to the Grade 1 Ed Burke Million Futurity. The ninth race on Saturday is an $11,325 allowance at 330 yards headed by Los Alamitos Oaks finalist Jessafamouslady, Governor’s Cup Futurity finalist Bono Is Good and recent allowance winner Favorite Illusion.

“Sunday’s card is highlighted by Chocolatito, who is back after winning the Grade 3 Kaweah Bar Handicap on May 2. The multiples stakes will face off a group led by Mr Jet Moore Handicap winner Alamode and three-time Grade 1 finalist Ali Babe Foose. Sunday’s card will also have the $38,000 Adequan California Derby Challenge. Led by Mister Tornado, a winner in four of his last six starts, nine quarter horses are in the 400-yard event.

“Recapping last Sunday’s Grade 2 Kindergarten Futurity, trainer Jaime Gomez set a new stakes record when fastest qualifier La Jaconde won to give Gomez his eighth Kindergarten win. La Jaconde was seventh after playing bumper cars at the start before flying late to win by a head. The filly is now being pointed to the Ed Burke Million trials.”

Chris Wade’s LA pick

RACE EIGHT: No. 2 Unique Ways (4-1)

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She has grown into a very professional horse with four wins and seven top-three finishes in nine outings. She is quick, always gives her all and she exits a win at this 110-yard distance. Her most recent effort was 41 nights ago when this speedster broke quickly and inward at the gate opening to take the lead and held it to the wire over the fast closing betting favorite, Spirit Foose. She will face Spirit Foose on Friday, but with her speed and willingness to win, this filly should be right there for a barn that is winning at a 34% clip since April 20.

A final thought

I love getting new readers of this newsletter, and you certainly can’t beat the price. If you like it, tell someone. If you don’t like it, you’re probably not reading this.

Either way, send this along to a friend, and just have them click here to sign up. Remember, it’s free, and all we need is your email address, nothing more.

Any thoughts, you can reach me at john.cherwa@latimes.com. You can also feed my ego by following me on Twitter @jcherwa.

Now, the star of the show, Friday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, May 22.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 46th day of a 60-day meet.

FIRST RACE.

4½ Furlongs. Purse: $50,000. Maiden Special Weight. 2 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1PositivityGeovanni Franco122Luis Mendez4-1
2Teton ValleyJorge Velez122Ryan Hanson4-1
3Tripp a MaticRuben Fuentes122Luis Mendez3-1
4Dennis CeleryEvin Roman122Doug F. O'Neill10-1
5IngestMario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill2-1
6Alpine ThunderTiago Pereira122Jose Hernandez, Jr.15-1
7IntenseUmberto Rispoli122Mike Harrington8-1
8Broken FingerVictor Flores115Rafael DeLeon20-1
Also Eligible
9RantanenAbel Cedillo122Andrew Lerner5-1

SECOND RACE.

5½ Furlongs. Purse: $22,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $25,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Bella RenellaVictor Flores113Rafael DeLeon12-125,000
2Dorita's LemonUmberto Rispoli126J. Eric Kruljac10-125,000
3Remember to SmileRuben Fuentes126Jeff Bonde5-125,000
4Your Royal CoilTiago Pereira126Paul G. Aguirre2-125,000
5BooliciousJorge Velez126Craig Anthony Lewis20-125,000
6Mongolian SunriseHeriberto Figueroa126Enebish Ganbat5-125,000
7Hot On the TrailAbel Cedillo126Mark Glatt5-225,000
8Miss BennetAssael Espinoza126Matthew Chew6-125,000

THIRD RACE.

5½ Furlongs Turf. Purse: $51,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Cheap Cheap CheapMario Gutierrez118Doug F. O'Neill7-2
2Smiling AnnieAbel Cedillo124Mark Glatt5-2
3Square PeggyEdwin Maldonado126Vladimir Cerin7-220,000
4Swing ThoughtsUmberto Rispoli126Steve Knapp6-120,000
5Shylock EddieAaron Gryder124Brian J. Koriner5-120,000
6Rosey SkyTiago Pereira124Brian J. Koriner3-1

FOURTH RACE.

1 1/16 Mile. Purse: $17,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1ManresaBrice Blanc126Thomas Ray Bell, II8-520,000
2Marci the GreatEdwin Maldonado120James M. Cassidy6-120,000
3New Year New MeVictor Flores119Vladimir Cerin6-120,000
4Turkish AngelJ.C. Diaz, Jr.120Marcelo Polanco20-120,000
5Vannavanna Bo BanaAssael Espinoza120Steve Knapp12-120,000
6SuezaaanaAgapito Delgadillo126Duff Shidaker5-120,000
7Alicia's PrideMario Gutierrez126Daniel Dunham12-120,000
8Diva in ChargeFlavien Prat126Peter Eurton5-220,000

FIFTH RACE.

1 Mile Turf. Purse: $53,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $62,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1OdysseusJorge Velez124Richard E. Mandella2-1
2Maestro DearteAssael Espinoza124Peter Eurton8-162,500
3Order and LawRuben Fuentes124Vladimir Cerin6-1
4Kazan Tiago Pereira124Doug F. O'Neill5-1
5Proud Pedro Flavien Prat124Leonard Powell4-1
6Gregorian Chant Abel Cedillo124Philip D'Amato15-1
7Hit the RoadUmberto Rispoli118Dan Blacker6-1
8King of SpeedMike Smith126Jeff Bonde6-1

SIXTH RACE.

6 Furlongs. Purse: $19,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1C DubRuben Fuentes124George Papaprodromou12-112,500
2Malibu BayGeovanni Franco124Lorenzo Ruiz12-112,500
3Jen Go UnchainedTiago Pereira126Rafael Becerra5-112,500
4Royal SeekerJ.C. Diaz, Jr.124Marcelo Polanco50-112,500
5Fast CottonAgapito Delgadillo124Doug F. O'Neill3-112,500
6Rmanie's Grey SuitMauro Donoe114Samuel Nichols20-112,500
7Rick's DreamEdwin Maldonado124Reed Saldana12-112,500
8Short of EzFlavien Prat124Kristin Mulhall5-212,500
9Papa TurfAbel Cedillo126Jeff Mullins2-112,500

SEVENTH RACE.

6 Furlongs. Purse: $15,000. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $12,500.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Golden ImageMauro Donoe116Daniel Dunham20-112,500
2Sierra MelodyEdwin Maldonado120Marcia Stortz15-112,500
3Lucky PatrickHeriberto Figueroa126Anthony K. Saavedra15-1
4All I Can SayAssael Espinoza126Val Brinkerhoff15-112,500
5King ParkerJorge Velez126Craig Anthony Lewis8-112,500
6Red ValorAbel Cedillo126Val Brinkerhoff6-112,500
7Captain BuzzkillGeovanni Franco126Gary Mandella5-112,500
8Music to My EarsUmberto Rispoli126Brian J. Koriner5-212,500
9OverkoterVictor Flores113Charles S. Treece20-112,500
10Mayan WarriorRuben Fuentes126Steve Knapp2-112,500

EIGHTH RACE.

1 Mile. Purse: $51,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $40,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1El HuerfanoAgapito Delgadillo126Vladimir Cerin5-140,000
2Starting BlocRuben Fuentes126Alfredo Marquez10-1
3Canyon CrestFlavien Prat120Michael W. McCarthy8-1
4Take the One O OneJose Valdivia, Jr.126Brian J. Koriner8-1
5BoogaluteDrayden Van Dyke126Mike Puype10-1
6TizamagicianVictor Espinoza120Richard E. Mandella2-1
7Nolo ContestoUmberto Rispoli126John W. Sadler6-1
8HeartfullofstarsEswan Flores126Edwin Alvarez30-1
9KylemoreGeovanni Franco126Gary Stute8-1
10Platinum EquityTiago Pereira126Steve Knapp8-140,000

NINTH RACE.

1 Mile Turf. Purse: $50,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1CreerAaron Gryder120David E. Hofmans8-1
2Bella DAssael Espinoza120Mike Puype20-1
3Unusual SecretBrice Blanc120Alexis Barba15-1
4GoodtingscominpinkRuben Fuentes126Vladimir Cerin7-2
5FlyinlaurelAgapito Delgadillo120Jeff Mullins12-1
6On MarsMike Smith120Philip D'Amato5-2
7Rose's CrystalDrayden Van Dyke120Carla Gaines7-2
8Too Hot for CurlinAbel Cedillo126Philip D'Amato6-1
9Warren's EmpressJorge Velez120Craig Anthony Lewis6-1
Also Eligible
10Starship SkyEswan Flores126Howard L. Zucker6-1
11Cassie BelleAbel Cedillo126Sean McCarthy4-1
12Rockie CausewayFlavien Prat120Manuel F. Marques3-1


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