On Saturday, Belmont Park hosts the best card in America outside of the Breeders’ Cup meeting, with eight Grade 1s on a superb day of racing. The feature is the mile and a half Belmont Stakes itself, In which ten colts will line up, including Preakness winner War Of Will.
The Mark Casse trainee was a game and popular winner at Pimlico but there are doubts as to whether he will be as effective over this extra distance. Therefore, preference is for the Bill Mott-trained Tacitus, who sat out the second leg of the Triple Crown and comes here following a solid third in the Kentucky Derby. He looks more likely to see out the trip and has a freshness angle over War Of Will.
The Longines Just A Game Stakes is the first of the Grade 1s and it’s hard to oppose Rushing Fall, who gets her optimum conditions here. Chad Brown’s five-year-old has won her last three, including Keeneland’s Grade 1 Jenny Wiley last time out, and should be too good. The improving Beau Recall, who took the Grade 2 Longines Distaff Turf Mile last month, rates as the main danger in the field of seven.
Just five fillies go in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps, on the dirt, and there is again a hot favourite in Midnight Bisou, who heads here after beating the re-opposing Escape Clause in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park in April. She is a tough filly and will be hard to beat, but a chance is taken that Come Dancing can do just that. Trainer Carlos Martin has only run the filly twice this season, by design, and she was impressive when romping to a six and three-quarter length victory in the Grade 2 Ruffian Stakes here last time. She needs to prove as effective on a dry track, but it shouldn’t be a problem.
The six furlong turf Grade 1 Jaipur Invitational looks a cracking race, and the sentimental vote goes to Disco Partner, who is trying to win it for the third year in a row. However, he was well-beaten when only ninth in his prep last time, so might find a couple too strong this time. World Of Trouble, a versatile type who is a Grade 1 winner on dirt, just gets the nod over the tiny but gutsy Belvoir Bay, whose effort when second to Blue Point in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint would be good enough to win this.
Nine three-year-old fillies clash in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes on the main track and it will be a surprise if Serengeti Empress can’t emulate last year’s winner Monomoy Girl in adding this to her Kentucky Oaks success. Thomas Amoss’ filly was a comfortable enough winner at Churchill Downs and is the only Grade 1 winner in the field. Guarana, an impressive maiden winner over this track for the incomparable Chad Brown, can give her most trouble if overcoming a huge leap in grade.
The Grade 1 Woody Stephens, over seven furlongs on dirt, often features three-year-olds cutting back from the Triple Crown races, but this time Mind Control, who missed the series in favour of sprinting, looks the stand out. A Grade 1 winner at two, he posted an easy win over Much Better in the Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes last time and recent strong works suggest he should be hard to catch here. The Grade 1 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap, on dirt over a mile, looks the race of the season so far in America and six Grade 1 winners line up in a field of nine. They include dual Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow, who drops to this trip for the first time since finishing second over this trip at Meydan in January 2018. He’s run once at Belmont, rating an unlucky nose second to shock winner Discreet Lover in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. That was over ten furlongs, however, and the drop in trip is a real concern in a field of this depth. There are ground worries of an increase in trip for Mitole, brilliant up to seven furlongs, while Bob Baffert has also expressed reservations over whether favourite Mckinzie will handle this trip from his draw in two. At times, he hasn’t always looked the most willing in a finish, so he’s overlooked here in favour of third choice Firenze Fire. Jason Servis’ charge is unbeaten in three starts at Belmont, including a track and trip win in the G1 Champagne Stakes, and is the tentative pick in a fascinating contest.
The day’s turf feature is the Grade 1 Manhattan, over ten furlongs, in which Brown, who has won this four times since 2012, looks to hold the aces with Bricks And Mortar. The five-year-old beat Qurbaan and Raging Bull in the Grade 1 Old Forrester Turf Classic at Churchill last month and goes for his fifth win in a row here. Bill Mott’s Channel Maker, winner over slightly further than this in the Grade 1 Man O’War Stakes here last time out, is another solid contender, while French import Olympicogives Brown an exciting second string after his local debut Grade 3 success.
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