Four past stakes winners will arrive at the Belmont starting gates, two of which having won on the grass here before, with several non-blacktype entries to make things interesting. The undisputed favorite will likely be recent American Turf Stakes (II) winner Camelot Kitten, who was also Grade 3-placed here at Belmont as a two-year-old, but he’ll faced contention from other horses from that race including stablemate Converge.
Not to be left out, Todd Pletcher will be sending in two entries for the purse money in Grade 2 winner Azar and maiden Kismet’s Heels– both stretching out to nine furlongs for the first time.
$200,000 Pennine Ridge Stakes (III) – 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on inner turf course at Belmont Park. Post Time: Saturday, June 4 at 5:13pm EST.
[Post Position, Horse – Jockey, Impost, Trainer – Summary, Opinion]
1) Hammers Vision [ON] – Angel Arroyo, 115 lbs, Brian Lynch – Outdistanced in prior stakes races, the son of Court Vision broke his maiden on this turf course last year over future Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf pacesetter Manhattan Dan, and he was second off a layoff last time out here at Belmont, getting passed in the stretch a seven-furlong allowance race on the Kentucky Derby undercard by Changewilldoyagood. While the distance gets considerably longer than he’s used to winning at, Hammers Vision is sure to benefit as the only horse certain to go to the lead right away, and he will likely improve off his last start.
2) Camelot Kitten – Irad Ortiz Jr, 121 lbs, Chad Brown – The likely favorite considering his win last out in the American Turf Stakes (II) at Churchill Downs, the Kitten’s Joy colt broke his maiden here and was second to Airoforce in the Bourbon Stakes (III) as a two-year-old. His class edge shined in the American Turf over excellent company, with the runner-up Beach Patrol being privately purchased after the race and third-place Surgical Strike winning a stake in his next move. However, he is typically pretty far back in most of his races and may want a good bit of help getting to the front in time. He’s not indestructible, although he’s a worthwhile favorite.
3) Kismet’s Heels – Christopher DeCarlo, 115 lbs, Todd Pletcher – The less-experienced of the two Pletcher entries with three runner-up finishes in four starts with no career wins yet. His pedigree is full of champions, being by Tapit and hailing from the strong female family of Canadian champion Dance Swiftly, and he had a very interesting last race at Keeneland where he appeared out of the clouds to run second in a 1 1/16 mile race. Elevating a maiden to a stakes race is an ambitious move, and given the light impost, he’s a dangerous play to Pletcher’s other entry Azar, who was a graded winner last year. I really like him and I want to see what he can do here at nine furlongs.
4) Azar – John Velazquez, 121 lbs, Todd Pletcher – Already a Grade 2 winner as last year’s With Anticipation (II) at Belmont, the son of Scat Daddy was elevated to second in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Gulfstream followed by a win next out in an allowance. His most recent start was a fifth place finish in the American Turf Stakes (II), beaten some five lengths by Camelot Kitten. Not a terrible horse, but I get the feeling Azar peaked in high school. He runs pretty evenly which is probably not going to be enough to hold off some of these classy closers.
5) Highland Sky – Luis Saez, 121 lbs, Barclay Tagg- A stakes winner last out in the Woodhaven Stakes at Aqueduct, the Sky Mesa colt outfinished Mighty Mo by 3/4 length last out and will seek to close into the competition again. Most of the Woodhaven also-rans ran last weekend in the Paradise Creek Stakes, with runner-up Mighty Mo falling well short of the prize as the favorite. He’s not terribly interesting to me.
6) Dressed in Hermes – Eric Cancel, 121 lbs, Janet Armstrong – The early Hat Trick [JPN] progeny have been pretty darn cool, with this gelding making an appearance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, where he finished fifth at long odds. More recently, Dressed in Hermes was the winner of the one-mile Pasadena Stakes at Santa Anita then was seventh in the American Turf Stakes (II) where he was ridden wide into the stretch. His three wins have all been at a mile on turf, so a two-turn follow-up test hangs in the balance. I would consider his past two tries in this setting– the Breeders’ Cup and the American Turf– to be better than they looked, as he was way out of it only to go wide at Churchill and then hit a lot of traffic and pressure at Keeneland. Still, is he good enough? Might just be a decent exotics horse.
7) Call Provision – Jose Ortiz, 115 lbs, Chad Brown – The Lemon Drop Kid colt must’ve impressed the right folks entering here after his maiden win at Aqueduct in April, where the New York-bred colt lunged at the start to be eleven lengths behind at one point, rallied heading around the turn, and then cut clear to win by a length at 1 1/16 miles. Could be dangerous by the numbers– Chad Brown is 29% with 46-90 day layoffs and Jose Ortiz wins at 26% on the turf– and with slight improvement, Call Provision is a win candidate with a light impost.
8) Converge – Junior Alvarado, 121 lbs, Chad Brown – Chad Brown’s second New York-bred entry, the Sidney’s Candy colt won the Palm Beach Stakes (III) earlier in the year, which is always a pretty quality race, and was most recently sixth in the American Turf (II). Considering The Chad is back in New York and this horse has two great performances on this course, he’ll likely go off at a pretty nice price and has the back-class to win as he stretches out to nine furlongs for the first time. I highly doubt he’ll be as far back as he was in the American Turf, too.
9) Toughest ‘Ombre – Dylan Davis, 115 lbs, Tom Albertrani – The Tale of the Cat colt got his maiden victory going to the turf for the first time at 1 1/16 miles at Tampa Bay Downs then was seventh in the Woodhaven Stakes at 80-1 odds. It might make the best sense to send him early, as such a strategy was the path to victory in his maiden start, but nonetheless, he’s a longshot here.
10) Noble Quality – Manuel Franco, 117 lbs, Christophe Clement – Third last out in the 1 1/16 mile English Channel Stakes at Gulfstream Park, the Elusive Quality colt improved nicely in that start and previously beat the winner in a prior allowance race at one turn. He’ll need to significantly improve again to win this race, and further uncertainty looms as to whether or not he’s a two-turn horse ready for the class test. Potential exotics horse.
Top 4 Picks in Order (with preferred odds):
#2 Camelot Kitten (5/2)
#3 Kismet’s Heels (5-1)
#7 Call Provision (5-1)
#1 Hammers Vision (10-1)
Using the American Turf Stakes (II) as a yardstick is a terrible idea given the strung-out shape of the race and how it set up for horses who a) weren’t dueling up front and b) weren’t too far behind. However with that said, Camelot Kitten is a fine horse. I even used him in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and while he didn’t win his last start by much, I thought it was telling of his current form and class. I will back him up with the maiden Kismet’s Heels, who is a diamond in the rough and should love more ground AND getting six pounds from the favorite. He could potentially upset, along with #7 Call Provision, who ran a terrific debut race but still, much is still unknown about him and he could show signs of greenness. #1 Hammers Vision I normally wouldn’t take, but he’s set to be out front all alone, and Brian Lynch is a great turf trainer. He probably won’t upset, but he could grab a piece.
Value Pick: Kismet’s Heels has shown a major kick in the past, and I remember him being scary good while I was in Converge’s cheering section. He might get overlooked for not having won yet and not being a Chad Brown horse, but he’s an exciting type.