Belmont has two graded stakes races on Saturday, headed by the G2 Kelso Handicap.
Kelso Handicap (G2) – Belmont, Race 9 – #5 Sharp Azteca (4-5) leads the field and will be the controlling speed under Paco Lopez for trainer Jorge Navarro. Over the last five years, Navarro is 5-31 with a $1.01 ROI in NYRA dirt races, and has been dealing with fallout from a video of Navarro and one of his owners that has led to fines and denied entries in some jurisdictions.
Sharp Azteca is obviously a very talented horse by I think typically you want to play against these Navarro runners at short prices outside of Florida and New Jersey. Granted, he did run very well in the Met Mile and should be on what is a pretty slow pace here. Still, there is one big-priced alternative that we want to bet.
#6 Bird Song (12-1) has always been a horse that has been better going one-turn than two, and while he did win the Alysheba at Churchill on Kentucky Oaks Day, he did so riding a gold rail. They stretched him out again in the Foster and he was wrangled back off the pace and everything went awry.
Ian Wilkes then turned him back to six furlongs in the G1 Vanderbilt on July 29th, and unfortunately for Bird Song, the track was strongly-biased towards inside runners, and his very wide run in there gave him no chance to win as El Deal (ironically also trained by Navarro), was easily able to wire the field (and by the way will be a big play against next week in the Vosburgh).
In this race, Bird Song should be able to track Sharp Azteca on the outside and getting back to one mile from six furlongs should suit him well.
We should also mention #4 Divining Rod (2-1), who ran ok in the Forego with very little chance chasing Defrong, the Breeders Cup Sprint favorite, who was wiring the field. Further, Divining Rod was coming back on just 14 days rest in there and has four weeks rest for this race. He is also a possible upsetter, but we just prefer Bird Song and his better price.