Jeff Siegel Prime Plays for Saratoga / Belmont Stakes Festival | Friday, June 7, 2024

Grade Descriptions:  Grade A=Highest degree of confidence; Grade B=Solid Play.  Grade C=Least preferred or pass; Grade X=probable winner but likely at odds too short to play.

RACE 1:  Post:  12:20 ET Grade: B+
Prime Play: 4-Illuminare (4-1)
Backups/Savers: 1-Trulli Warrior; 8-Rolling Along.

Forecast: Illuminare is a first timer from the T. Pletcher stable that has been visually quite pleasing on video as viewed on with a pattern that indicates plenty of fitness and ability, so at 4-1 on the morning line he’s worth strong consideration in the win pool and the various exotics.  The son of City of Light may not be blazingly quick – it’s hard to tell because he’s never been asked to display his best stuff – but he moves like a colt with quality for a barn that always has been solid with debut runners.  Pletcher’s other intriguing first timer, the Curlin colt Trulli Warrior, has a couple of recent blazingly fast gate drills listed in the paper that really catch the eye, but we have no cameras at the Belmont Park training track, so we’re basically flying blind.  Rolling exotic players have to include him somewhere on their ticket.  The best of the known element based on speed figures is Rolling Along, who really won’t have to improve much (if at all) following a sharp runner-up debut performance in a productive heat over the all-weather Woodbine surface last month.  He’ll get Lasix and blinkers for a stable that has powerful stats with the second time-starter angle.

RACE 3:  Post: 1:27 ET Grade: B+
Prime Play: 6-Yo Daddy (5-1)
Backups/savers: none.

Forecast :Yo Daddy is protected today in a sign of confidence by new trainer L. Rice (26% with the first-off-the-claim angle) and may prove to be a timely purchase after being haltered for $50,000 from a career top main track win at Keeneland in mid-April.  The switch to grass shouldn’t be an issue – he had two good races earlier year on the sod at Fair Grounds - and this long-winded son of Yoshida shows two strong recent drills over the Belmont Park training track to have him primed and ready for another forward move.  He’s not the best of movers and is a grinding type without a true turn of foot, but at this nine furlong trip in a race that he fits the conditions to a “T” this developing sophomore should be capable of winning right back while offering excellent value at or near his morning line of 5-1.

RACE 6:  Post: 3:11 ET Grade: B+
Prime Play: 1-Stolen Magic (5-1)
Backups/savers: 6-Spirit Prince; 9-Army Officer.

Forecast: Stolen Magic showed he could run long on grass in his debut at the Spa during his juvenile season (he missed by neck to next out winner Agate Road) but has been kept around one turn on dirt ever since and finally returns to the lawn today after earning a career top figure when second (six lengths clear of the rest) in a blazingly fast allowance sprint at Aqueduct in late April.  The son of Good Magic lands the good rail and hopefully will be allowed to utilize his natural early speed to take control early and never look back.  The L. Rice barn has superior stats all over the map and stays with the colt’s regular jockey J. Lezcano, who knows and fits the colt well.  The one to fear most – and a “must use” in rolling exotic play – is the comebacker Spirit Prince, a stakes winner on turf last November and making his first start since as a first-time Lasix user for C. Clement, who always is solid with layoff runners.  Toss in Army Officer - solid on numbers and picking up Frankie – and you should have the race covered.  

RACE 11:  Post: 6:05 PT Grade: A-
Prime Play: English Rose (Ire) (3-1)
Backups/Savers: none.  

Forecast: This year’s edition of the New York S.-G1 is completely up to English Rose (Ire), it’s simply hers to win or lose.  The lightly raced daughter of Frankel was beaten just for the second time in five career outings in the Jenny Wiley S.-G1 at Keeneland in April, when a mostly self-caused troubled trip left her a length and one-half behind the uncontested front runner Beaute Cachee.  The C. Appleby-trained filly was off awkwardly and bumped, apparently got mad, and then was rank while constantly pulling hard until inside the furlong pole before she finally got clear, accelerated, but ran out of room.  In race that projects to have modest early fractions, she needs to switch off and settle early, and if she does the Irish-bred four-year-old should have an easy trip while on or near the lead throughout.  At or near her morning line of 3-1, she offers a excellent gamble.