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SportsHorseracing

Steve Matthews’ Belmont selections for Friday, May 25

Best Bet: SHIRAZ (8); Best Value: PLAYING HOOKY (9)

FIRST: Madeline’s Hope was a useful fourth in first start since two-month absence last time; forward move predicted. Moment of Triumph drops and makes first start since claimed by Robertino Diodoro; very dangerous. Hug the Rail should be favorably positioned near the front; don’t ignore.

SECOND: Odie moves to grass after game placing in dirt debut; paltry price is the problem. Gins and Tins, an uncoupled barn mate of top selection, is from a dam that has thrown four grass winners. Junipero Avenue is bred for grass on both sides of pedigree; must consider.

THIRD: Messi compiled eye-catching training tab at Fair Hill base and owns two wins and two thirds in four starts on Belmont turf. Silverware was an even fifth in U.S. debut for Chad Brown; improvement expected. Profiteer was a hard-charging second in last; rail is added bonus.

FOURTH: Simona drops, adds blinkers and returns to preferred footing; takes this on best. Mercurian wheels back in a hurry for new barn after clear-cut score last week; very dangerous. Velvet Trinni’s speed gives her a puncher’s chance at fat odds; very interesting.

FIFTH: Avery Maeve never has been off the board in four starts on Belmont turf and compiled tight work slate for first start since December. Ventry Bay logged two, crisp 5 furlongworks since last start; big-time player. Dirty (two bullet drills since last race) and No Regrets (game second in last) both own speed and each must be factored into the mix.

SIXTH: Lion in Wait was a front-end winner on May 16 and paired up victories on Belmont grass last fall; history repeats. Miss Munnings has worked three times since determined maiden score last out; very playable. Sweet Connie Girl also has trained consistently since breaking maiden in last; must respect.

SEVENTH: Magari was a clear-cut second to a much-the-best winner in last; more to give in third start of form cycle. Pursuing Justice should pack amplified kick with cutback to sprint; worth long look. Long Eyelashes noticeably picked up the tempo in final workout before debut; follow the money.

EIGHTH: Shiraz tallied solid late-pace figure when second in last and should have more in the tank in second start since eight-month layoff. Looking Ready is speedy and firing bullets for first start since January; big-time, front-end threat. Forward Motion was a front-running maiden winner in last; right in the thick of this.

NINTH: Playing Hooky is fresh, owns swift final fractions and hails from Alan Goldberg; primed and ready. Frontier Market, from Chad Brown barn, has finished second in three of four starts; can you say underlay? Admission Office, also from Brown stable, compiled tight work tab for debut; any questions? Labeq was compromised by wide trip when four lengths behind Frontier Market last out; easily could close the gap.

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