Belmont picks, jockey analysis for Empire Showcase Day

New York breds will be front-and-center on Saturday’s Empire Showcase Day at Belmont Park. All 11 races on the program are restricted to state-breds, highlighted by the $300,000 Empire Classic Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on the main track (Race 10, approximately 5:19 p.m. EST). I’ll discuss this event in great detail here, but be sure to do your homework on the other ten races on the card if you’re taking part in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!

#2 GOVERNOR MALIBU is the 2-1 favorite in the Empire Classic and appears to have the class edge. The Cristophe Clement trainee campaigned in some of the country’s most rigorous races for three-year-olds earlier in the year with mixed results before romping against lesser foes in the mud last time out. He could be aided by another potentially wet track on Saturday, and Joel Rosario sticks with him. However, he could be vulnerable in this race.

Last month’s win was his first ever at Belmont; GOVERNOR MALIBU was winless at the track in four prior starts. The competition here is certainly tougher than the last bunch he faced, so I’ll be looking to play against him.

#6 ROYAL POSSE (3-1) looks like the right horse to back with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle. He’s coming off a dominating win against similar foes in the Evan Shipman Stakes last month, and trainer Rudy Rodriguez is firing on all cylinders at the current meet (30%). He should be able to take advantage of a contentious pace set by #1 WAKE UP IN MALIBU and #5 HIT IT ONCE MORE. GOVERNOR MALIBU stands to benefit from a pace duel as well, but his odds probably won’t be as appealing as ROYAL POSSE’s.

#9 EMPIRE DREAMS (10-1) traded wins and losses with ROYAL POSSE last year and will face off with him again. EMPIRE DREAMS took this race last year and loves this course (8-3-4-0 record), so he’ll be one to reckon with late under Manny Franco.

Finally, #1 WAKE UP IN MALIBU (4-1) should not be dismissed as cheap speed. He was able to run 1:08 & 3/5ths for six furlongs in the 8.5-furlong Saginaw Stakes earlier this year and still win, beating ROYAL POSSE by over two lengths. Jose Ortiz will be in to ride this gelding that recently upped his record at Belmont to 10-4-1-3 with a win over allowance/optional claiming foes last time out.

The play: $4 exacta 6/1,2,9, $4 win 1, $2 win 9 ($18)

DFJ analysis: I don’t care for Javier Castellano’s mount in this race (HIT IT ONCE MORE), but I would still add him to my stable for $11,000. All nine of his other mounts on the card are 4-1 or below in odds, so he should bank some serious purse money on Saturday. That includes a mount on even-money favorite Fourstar Crook in the Ticonderoga Stakes for Chad Brown.

Irad Ortiz ($11,500, and I realize it would be quite tough to afford both) also holds a strong hand on Saturday. He starts his day in Race 2 with even-money favorite Dream Passage then has quality stakes money chances in the Maid of the Mist (Bonita Blanca), Sleepy Hollow (Mission Command), Empire Distaff (Wonder Gal) and of course the Empire Classic (ROYAL POSSE).

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