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Juvenile expert Andrew Champagne previews the fifth race from Belmont Park on Monday

Monday’s holiday brings with it racing around the country, including a nine-race card at Belmont Park. The fifth is a maiden claimer, and this is an example of a race that holds plenty of appeal from a value perspective despite not having much in the way of proven form.

I really enjoy going against favorites on top in races like this, and there are legitimate reasons to do so here. I’m excited to play this race, and if I’m right, I stand to connect for a nice score. Let’s get to it!

The Vulnerable Favorites

#8 LEEWAY drops in from the maiden special weight ranks for Christophe Clement. She was last seen running fourth in a rich race for the level at Kentucky Downs, but that event didn’t come back strongly in terms of speed figures, and the quality of the field she faced is murky at best. Furthermore, per numbers from The Daily Racing Form, Clement has just one winner in his last 21 starts with runners dropping from maiden special weight races to maiden claiming events.

I’m also not crazy about #10 DAYS OF SPRING. She did respond with a drop to this level when second last time out, and of the two favorites, she does hit me as the more likely winner. Having said that, her race two back going long wasn’t good, and she seems like a closer in a race without much early speed signed on. Perhaps she wins, but she hits me as an underlay at her likely price.

The Top Pick

Owner/trainer Michelle Nevin tried to get #7 I AM AINE on turf in her debut last month in a maiden special weight event for New York-breds, but that event was rained off the grass. Between the elements and the fact that it was her career debut, I’m more than willing to excuse her first-out effort. She’s got a decent turf pedigree (her turf Tomlinson is a respectable 269), and her female family is pretty strong. Her dam, Essence of Cute, has thrown four other progeny, and they’ve all found the winner’s circle.

I Am Aine is 8-1 on the morning line. I think she’ll come down a bit, but she’d still hit me as a decent value play at 5-1 or higher. Improvement seems logical at second asking, and it’s not like she’d have to be any great shakes to win this.

The Huge Price

#4 CHEROKEE SONG is 20-1 on the morning line, and for good reason. She’s beaten a total of three horses home in her first two starts, and trainer Randi Persaud is hitting at just 4% on the year.

However, I think there’s a chance she’s getting her desired conditions here. She carries a 301 turf Tomlinson into her first start on grass, and she should also relish the added ground. Her dam, Chicalelee, has thrown three other runners, and two of them have won going longer than a mile.

A win is almost certainly too much to ask. However, if you’re playing exotics, I think she’s worth a look. If things break right for her, I think she could grab a piece of it at a gigantic price.

How I’ll Play It

I’m leaning on I Am Aine pretty heavily here. I’ll be betting her to win and place, and I’ll also have small exactas going that use her above and below Cherokee Song, Leeway, and Days of Spring.

4 units: Win/place, 7

1 unit: Exacta key box, 7 w/4,8,10

Article Author

Horse Racing

Andrew Champagne is a horse racing handicapper with a specialism in juveniles. One thing is for certain, Champagne gets the party started.


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