Opening Day in the books at Belmont Park and The Saratoga Special’s John Shapazian is ready to tackle the first Saturday card of the spring-summer meeting on Long Island.
The nine-race card features the $100,000 Elusive Quality Stakes going 7 furlongs on the grass and it attracted a good group that includes veteran New York-bred Kharafa and a competitor from last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in Calgary Cat.
Shapazian, who tabbed an area-based 130 winners in 2016 at Saratoga in The Saratoga Special, will provide race-by-race selections for the weekend cards at Belmont. Here are his picks for Saturday, April 29.
Z TOWN showed promise at Gulfstream in his debut, draws an outside post were he may be able to stalk the pace. DHAMAAN is fresh off a Jacobson claim. KILLYBEGS CAPTAIN second off a layoff will flash speed from his inside post. 6-4-1
NEW YORK’S FINEST returns to the grass after being on the bench for seven months, was impressive at the Spa last summer. SHIRAZ faces state breds, raced with better in Florida. ANIMAL POSSE has not been seen since June may better this rating. 8-4-1
TUG OF WAR wheels back in six days for Rudy Rodriguez. ACKERET drops for Joe Parker. TIZ LONG GONE takes a plunge in price, your call. 6-5-1
EL TALENTO may have a bright future on the lawn for Pompa/Pletcher. STORM TEAM has been knocking at the door, draws Irad Ortiz. HIGH RIDER debuts with Lasix. 9-3-8
HARD STUDY is coming off a sharp April 15 work, narrow margin. ADMIRAL BLUE was overmatched in last, goes out for the always dangerous Leon Blusiewicz. RIVER DATE maybe the one to catch. 2-6-4
SNAP DECISION finds a softer spot, could be better than these. CONQUEST SANDMAN will take them as far as he can, may not look back. TRICKED UP adds blinkers, will get a lot of support at the windows for Chad Brown. 8-1-6
SUNSET RIDGE may come out running in debut. GOLDTOWN adds blinkers for Oxley/Casse. BARBIE ON A BUDGET should improve after a promising debut. 2-7-1
DISCO PARTNER looks well spotted for Clement. KHARAFA 8-year-old veteran never stops being impressive. SIDING SPRING attracts Johnny V. for Mark Casse. 5-1-3
TOO FAST TO PASS comes off the claim, returns to the lawn, afforded an edge. AKTABANTAY and CHAMOIS figure to be part of the mix. 4-12-1