By Ed McNamara
Egad, Chad. You’re everywhere.
Chad Brown will be saddling a large, fully armed cavalry troop in Saturday’s four graded stakes at Belmont Park. The quiet man from Mechanicville, New York, owns the last four Eclipse Awards, and his stable may be even more loaded than usual.
He sent out odds-on Rushing Fall to take the Beaugay Stakes (G3) on Wednesday, opening day of Belmont’s long-delayed spring/summer meeting. He also won an allowance/optional claimer on the turf with Value Proposition ($11.20), one of five victories by two-time champion jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. Rarely do you get 9-2 with Chad and Irad, one of racing’s deadliest collaborations.
It will be a shocker if Brown doesn’t win a few on Saturday, when he will enter 11 runners in the Grade 2 Fort Marcy (four), Grade 3 Westchester (two), Grade 3 Intercontinental (four) and Grade 1 Carter (one).
The Carter is the only one where Chad won’t have the likely favorite, so I’ll set the over/under on trips to the winner’s circle at 2½. All his horses are separate betting interests, and maybe he’ll produce another medium-priced winner for us. We can dream, can’t we?
The stakes are grouped in the sixth through ninth races; there’s no pick 4, but there are three pick 3’s in the sequence. Instead of isolating one I’ll just name live horses, leaving it up to you to create do-it-yourself pick 3s.
Race 6: Fort Marcy, 1 1/8 miles (turf)
Chad’s best here looks like Flop Shot (4), off since August and just 1-for-5, all in France. He’s a lot better than his record, because he was facing top 3-year-olds last year, when he dominated a Group 3 at 1 1/8 miles. None of his three stablemates classes up to Flop Shot, whom I’ll play to win and use in exotics.
Todd Pletcher’s Social Paranoia (8) is a solid finisher who has strong figures and can handle the distance. He’s never run a bad one in 10 grass tries and is the most logical winner if Flop Shot comes up short. Synchrony (6) has lost a step or two at age 7 but belongs in trifectas.
Race 7: Westchester, 1 1/16 miles
Code of Honor (9), last year’s winner of the Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup (via DQ), shapes up as a single in his 2020 debut. He’s working brilliantly for Shug McGaughey, is 2-for-3 at Belmont, and a one-turn mile and a sixteenth suits him perfectly. There’s enough speed to set up his midpack rally.
As for exacta possibilities and the Chad factor: Monongahela (2) has six wins and seven seconds in 17 tries at the distance. He debuts for Brown after a solid 2019 for the suspended Jason Servis. Payne (4) makes his stakes debut for Brown after crushing two weak fields in one-turn miles. He has more upside than Monongahela.
Race 8: Intercontinental, 7 furlongs (turf)
Chad’s Quad Squad is led by Newspaperofrecord (5), who was Fake News last year — 0-for-3, with duds at 15 cents and 20 cents on the dollar. She’ll try to recapture her unbeaten 2-year-old form. If she can’t, Significant Form (12) can get the money for Brown. She won this race last year, one of three career stakes victories. Unlike Newspaperofrecord, who needs the lead, Significant Form is more tractable. If speedy Djakarta pressures Newspaperofrecord, Significant Form could sit a perfect trip. I’ll play her to win.
A third Chad is Regal Glory (7), 5-for-8 on grass and out of the money only once. Her figs aren’t much, but how can you discount a Brown filly who knows how to win? Christophe Clement’s Rose Flower (9), a dependable closer, is 6-for-6 in the money in turf sprints against weaker. She’ll be a price and could outrun her odds. Consider her for exotics.
Race 9: Carter Handicap, 7 furlongs
For once, Brown won’t have the favorite, which isn’t saying he can’t win. Although Network Effect (5) is 0-for-3 in graded stakes, he’s 2-for-2 at 7 furlongs, and last time he rocketed the final furlong in 11 4/5 seconds. His only finish out of the exacta came against superstar Maximum Security in the Cigar Mile, and you can’t hold that against him.
Performer (2) and Mind Control (10) look like standouts, while Firenze Fire (1) is a question mark. He’s 3-for-5 at Belmont, loves elongated sprints but 0-for-5 vs. Grade 1 fields. He makes his first start for Kelly Breen after the dispersal of Servis’ stable. He’s training sharply, but many handicappers wonder whether former Servis horses will do as well in new barns. Vekoma (11) also is in the mix. His only poor race came in the sloppy 2019 Kentucky Derby, so automatically draw a line through that one.
Mind Control (10), a relentless closer, is 4-for-6 at 7 furlongs, including two Grade 1 trophies. He’s the likeliest winner. I’ll play him to win and box him with Performer, Network Effect and Vekoma.
Ed McNamara is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about thoroughbred racing for 35 years. He has handicapped races for ESPN.com, Newsday and The Record of New Jersey. He is the author of “Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown” and co-author of “The Most Glorious Crown,” a chronicle of the first 12 Triple Crown champions.