Timeform US Preview: Deal or no deal?

The Vosburgh Stakes and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic take place at Belmont on Saturday
The Vosburgh Stakes and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic take place at Belmont on Saturday

Timeform's Mark Milligan previews Saturday's Grade 1 action at Belmont...

"Current quotes of around 20/1 for this one look far too big..."

Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes, 6f Dirt (21:04 BST)

El Deal, trained by one of America's most controversial and divisive figures, Jorge Navarro, will head to post as a warm favourite for the 78th running of this dirt sprint. Navarro, recently fined $10,000 by the New Jersey Racing Commission for comments he made in a video that surfaced on the internet, has only had El Deal in his care since the spring, yet has elicited massive improvement from the five-year-old. Indeed, El Deal has gone from a horse routinely beaten in minor stakes contests to a genuine Grade 1 performer, his last effort when winning the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga in July one of the best by any US sprinter in 2017. If the same El Deal turns up in this contest then the rest of the field will be fighting it out for the runner-up spot.

Takaful, a lightly-raced three-year-old, was on the Triple Crown trail at the start of the year, but didn't cut much ice over longer distances. He has been reinvented over shorter trips, his most recent run a career-best in finishing second to leading Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile contender Practical Joke in the 7f H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at Saratoga last month. He looks the most likely to take advantage if El Deal isn't in peak form. Stallwalkin' Dude is a New York stalwart who tends to perform better on his home circuit than anywhere else. He should be fighting it out for a minor share, but does tend to come up a little short at the top level.

Selection: Win back El Deal

Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, 12f Turf (22:45 BST)

A wide-open running of the 41st Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, which features some familiar names from both sides of the Atlantic. With only 5 lb separating seven of the 11-strong field on weight-adjusted Timeform ratings, finding the winner will be a tricky process, but there looks like being some value about.

Money Multiplier and Sadler's Joy are closely matched on their recent meeting, the latter just coming out on top when they filled the first two places in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga last month. Sadler's Joy caused a minor surprise that day, doing well to quicken from the rear in a relatively slowly run contest. There should be little between the pair once more. Arlington Million winner Beach Patrol is another whose form ties in with the likes of Sadler's Joy, and he ought to be on the premises too. Fanciful Angel seemed to excel in finishing second in the Million for the Marco Botti stable, and now in the care of Chad Brown, could move forward even further.

Oscar Performance is another who should be prominent in the betting, a three-year-old who has done little wrong in winning six of his nine career starts. His last effort when winning the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington being a career-best. This will be his first attempt at facing his elders, though, and he will be short enough with that in mind.

The Grey Gatsby is worth a mention, but he has looked a shadow of his former self so far in 2017, and the one who looks overpriced at the time of writing is most definitely Mekhtaal. A big disappointment when only tenth in the Arlington Million for Jean-Claude Rouget, Mekhtaal has subsequently joined the Graham Motion barn, and he could well put that running behind him. His previous European form (a Group 1 winner) puts him right in the mix here, and despite not having won at a mile and a half, his fourth-place finish in last year's Grand Prix de Paris suggests he stays well enough. Current quotes of around 20/1 for this one look far too big.

Selection: Win back and place back Mekhtaal

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