Why I'm Betting Against the Favorites in the Bold Ruler Handicap
A turf horse switching to dirt and a lightly-raced runner making his first start off a 13-month layoff ensure that Saturday’s $200,000 Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III) at Belmont Park will offer handicappers a tricky challenge despite attracting just six starters.The turf horse in question is #6 Delta Prince, who has spent the vast majority of his career as a capable turf miler. The Shug McGaughey-trained five-year-old does have a reasonably dirt-oriented pedigree—he’s a half-brother to the two-time Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) winner Royal Delta—but given the strong success he’s enjoyed on turf (most notably finishing second by a neck in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap this summer), the cutback to seven furlongs while switching to dirt is a significant question mark.
#4 Coal Front is thoroughly proven on dirt, having won four of his five starts as a three-year-old last year, but he hasn’t run since winning the six-furlong Gallant Bob Stakes (gr. III) in September 2017, and he’ll have to shoulder top weight of 122 pounds in his comeback. Will he be ready to roll after this long away from the races? Trainer Todd Pletcher typically does well under these circumstances, but this is a particularly extreme example, and Coal Front is facing a nice group of rivals.
One example is #2 Bon Raison, a former claimer who has won his last three starts by a combined 12 ¾ lengths. Just two weeks ago, he won a starter allowance race over this track and distance in decisive fashion, clocking seven furlongs in 1:21 2/5 while posting a career-best 100 BRIS speed figure. Bon Raison is steadily improving and gets into the race carrying just 112 pounds, ten less than Coal Front. Under the circumstances, I don’t think it’s a stretch to conclude that Bon Raison could take another step forward and challenge for a spot on the board at a very nice price.
The same goes for #3 True Timber, who has won his last two starts (both at Belmont Park) with pace-pressing trips. Two starts back, the son of Mineshaft earned a 105 BRIS speed figure while winning a seven-furlong allowance race in 1:21 4/5, and the runner-up—Patternrecognition—came back to win his next two starts, including the Kelso Handicap (gr. II). Then, following a three-month layoff, True Timber returned to win another allowance race sprinting six furlongs with a 99 BRIS speed figure, which should serve as a perfect prep for his return to seven furlongs in the Bold Ruler.
I’ll place my focus on True Timber and Bon Raison for the top spot in the exacta and trifecta while trying to beat Coal Front and Delta Prince:
$7 exacta: 3 with 4 ($7) $5 exacta: 3 with 2 ($5) $3 exacta: 2 with 3,4 ($6) $2 trifecta: 3 with 2,4 with 1,2,4 ($8) $1 trifecta: 2 with 3,4 with 1,3,4 ($4)