Grade I glory up for grabs in the Man o’ War

Nine turfers are set to go a mile and three-eighths on Saturday at Belmont in the Grade I Man o’ War. The feature event of the day, it’ll go as Race 10 on the program with a post time of 6:17 p.m. EST.

#9 WAKE FOREST was established as the 2-1 favorite on the morning-line despite #7 KAIGUN (5-2) beating him when they faced off in the Grade II Pan American Stakes at Gulfstream last month. However, upon examination of the replay it’s safe to say that WAKE FOREST would’ve won with a better-timed rally under John Velazquez. As long as Velazquez is able to save ground aboard WAKE FOREST breaking from the far outside post he can turn the tables on KAIGUN, who settles for minor awards too frequently for my taste. It certainly doesn’t hurt that 23% trainer Chad Brown is behind WAKE FOREST, and that he’ll be making his second start since August.

There is, however, an even more appealing runner in this field (at least from a value standpoint). #6 UP WITH THE BIRDS (6-1) will make the second start of his six-year-old season, and while the son of Stormy Atlantic hasn’t won since July of 2014, he’s given a good account of himself whenever he’s been able to get into a rhythm. I think he’ll get an honest pace to work with for once; #5 GO AROUND appears to be entered as a rabbit for #4 CLOSING BELL, as both are trained by Bill Mott. UP WITH THE BIRDS also gets a positive rider change to Jose Ortiz, who is at 26% on the year and 27% on turf.

#3 CAN’THELPBELIEVING (15-1), trained by UP WITH THE BIRDS’ conditioner Graham Motion, is the only contender with a win at this distance aside from longshot #8 BIZ THE NURSE. CAN’THELPBELIEVING appears to be rounding into peak form as he comes in off three straight runner-up finishes with the strongest speed figures of his career. He needs to prove that he can handle the step up in class, but 15-1 is encouraging enough to try and get him into the exotics.

The play: $1 trifecta 6/3,4,7,9/3,4,7,9, $1 trifecta 6/7,9/3,4,7,9, $1 trifecta 7,9/6/3,4,7,9 ($24)

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