A group of precocious young colts who are on “the make,” will be taking on one another in what amounts to “Closing Weekend” at beautiful Belmont Park. A piece of $1 Million bucks will be awarded shortly after the wire is crossed. If you can settle your mount early, then you might be able to reserve enough power for an end run down the lane.
Back in 2019, it became part of the inaugural “Turf Triple Series,” which was specifically geared for 3-yr-old colts. The second leg, the $1 Million Saratoga Derby, will be contested at 1 3/16-miles (1,900 meters) 6 Aug. on the Saratoga sod. The series is capped at Belmont Park with the 1½ $1 Million Jockey Club Derby in mid-September, which is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race for Keeneland’s BC Turf.
Past winners include a bevy of greats like Artie Schiller and Court Vision to more recent ones like Up With the Birds, Mr Speaker, Oscar Performance, Catholic Boy, Henley’s Joy, and Gufo. Last year, we saw the rise of Aidan O’Brien’s Bolshoi Ballet (IRE), who won impressively with Ryan Moore aboard. The Irish-based conditioner notched his 1st victory in the race, and it was Moore’s too. Who will be poised to take the crown this year?
Now, let’s find out about this field…
#1 Implementation (Jky: J. Velazquez/Trn: P. Brandt):
A homebred with experience running mainly at Chantilly in France, this son of Constitution has steadily improved his class rating since last fall. Trainer Pia Brandt has upped the ante from a Handicap contest to putting her charge into Group 3 contests. Even though the results were mixed to this point, that doesn’t mean he cannot make an impact in this race. Adding veteran rider John Velazquez to the mix is a good plan. He has a long history of piloting long shots to victory on the grass when you least expect it. Still, it is going to take a major effort. Rival Machete #6 … has beaten him 2x already …
#2 Stolen Base (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: M. Maker):
Trainer Mike Maker knows turf runners, and he has a strong one that finally broke through last time out with a signature win at Churchill Downs in the G2 American Turf. The son of Bodemeister beat Motion’s Sy Dog #7, despite clipping heels early in the race. The switch from Flavien Prat to Luis Saez is not a negative one. The real question is, will the colt appreciate the stretch out in distance 1¼? If Saez can conserve his reservoir of late speed, then he has a chance against the Euros late. It will not be easy, especially because traffic troubles will most certainly come … One to consider for the exotics for sure …
#3 Napoleonic War (Jky: F. Prat/Trn: C. Brown):
Is this horse possibly one of the “weaker” Chad Brown turfers in his stacked stable? If this 3-yr-old was in another trainer’s barn, he would probably be the ace. There is no question that this son of War Front possesses talent, but this is a much tougher field than he faced in a G2 at Belmont last time. Flavien Prat has signed on once again to ride for owner Peter Brant, and that means this colt has more than just a slight chance of victory. He has a strong late turn-of-foot, and he is going to need every bit of it. This is one of the races that Brown hasn’t won … hmm … that might remain the case.
#4 Classic Causeway (Jky: J. Leparoux/Trn: K. McPeek):
I have no idea what this son of Giant’s Causeway is doing in this race, but maybe his 1st experience on grass in a Grade 1 will go off without a hitch … Dare to dream … Once the Derby Trail was complete, ownership made the switch from trainer Brian Lynch to Kenny McPeek. Maybe they did not care for the former’s management of their colt? McPeek is making the switch to the grass in hopes for a fresh start. It is hard to see this one making any headway against such a large and formidable field as this one. Veteran rider Julien Leparoux comes to town to ride, and he had the assignment in the KYD148 in early May. McPeek doesn’t quite have the numbers to support success in a spot like this one. Best to look elsewhere, like the other half of his uncoupled entry.
#5 Grand Sonata (Jky: T. Gaffalione/Trn: T. Pletcher):
A Whisper Hill Farm homebred for trainer Todd Pletcher, this colt is looking to get back on track after a couple of misses. In the Transylvania S. (G3) at Keeneland, and the Audubon S. at Churchill Downs, the short-priced favorite just couldn’t muster the strength when the chips were down. The distance should not have been much of an issue, and with Tyler Gaffalione, that made him the one to beat. A return to Belmont should make him competitive since he was last here for his debut. Maturity and fitness are assets to be sure; plus, Pletcher has a strong Meet going. Even though he does not have a large number of deep turf routers, his experience is a major guide. Some past works look inviting too … but maybe, that will not be enough.
#6 Machete (FR) (Jky: S. Pasquier/Trn: F. Chappet):
It is rare to see a Grade 1 horse owned and trained by the same person. Most North American conditioners that own horses run them at much lower levels. This colt by Myboycharlie (IRE) is under the care of Fabrice Chappet. A European turf router with strong class lines, he has competed at Chantilly and Longchamp (FR) over the past few months in Group company. Not having to run against Vaden is probably a welcome sight to the connections. Regular rider, Stephane Pasquier is making the flight over to New York, and he is hoping to turn this one’s fortunes around. The 7th Place ending in the Prix du Jockey Club (G1) over soft footing speaks to the fact that he might like a firmer course. He may well get it at Belmont. If you are looking for a sleeper pick, then this might be it. French runners on the grass are never to be underestimated …
#7 Sy Dog (Jky: M. Franco/Trn: G. Motion):
Here is a son of Slumber (GB) whose sire once scored in the celebrated Manhattan S. (G1) for Chad Brown. Trainer Graham Motion is hoping that this colt can channel those grass bloodlines to victory in this tough race. Last out in the American Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs, he tried to keep up with the Maker entry. Running out of real estate might make some think that he wants to go longer. That could very well be the case … This time around, Motion is going with Manny Franco, a rider who he teamed with to bring home a Breeders’ Cup win with Sharing at Santa Anita a few years back. Franco doesn’t exactly qualify as an elite American turf jockey, but he will give it his best effort. Looking back at the Transylvania S. (G3) in April, there was much to like with the late run he made down the Haggin lane. This is going to require much more, if Head of Plains wants to be in the winner’s circle.
#8 Royal Patronage (FR) (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: C. Johnston):
Mark Johnston added Charlie to the training line for this son of Wootton Bassett (GB), and the pair watched this 3-yr-old develop nicely over the course of the spring and into the summer. Owned by the syndicate, Highclere T-bred Racing, they are hoping this one can hop the pond, and run a cracker of a race. The opportunity is there, especially since this colt has taken on some tough Group Co. dating back to last year. Mind you, he has won a G3 and G2, but recently the class hike against the likes of Desert Crown, Coroebus, and Luxembourg were just too much to take on. Maybe this race at Belmont qualifies as a bone fides class drop, then? Could be … What is really interesting will be to see how Joel Rosario handles the assignment on a course (Inner Turf) that he knows quite well. Based on his pedigree, this is a horse that should enjoy the distance, even though early-on in his career he was more of a miler. One to consider, especially if you are a Rosario groupie …
#9 Tiz the Bomb (Jky: D. Davis/Trn: K. McPeek):
The Kenny McPeek Show comes to Belmont for a rare appearance. This is a trainer that runs primarily in Kentucky and Florida, so it will be interesting to see how his turf ace runs at NYRA. Even though he was technically on the Derby Trail, his real talent resides on the grass. He has the dubious honor of being the “winner” of the BC Juvenile Turf (G1) at Del Mar back in November, after Charlie Appleby’s Modern Games was declared to be running for “purse money only.” Even though the KYD attempt did not produce an intended result, it still gave the son of Hit It a Bomb valuable class experience. Regular rider Brian Hernandez isn’t in New York to take the mount again, but I would not be surprised if this one is in-the-mix down the stretch with budding star Dylan Davis aboard. Magdalena has a superb runner on their hands …
#10 Nations Pride (IRE) (Jky: F. Dettori/Trn: C. Appleby):
There is little argument from me that Charlie Appleby’s colt by Teofilo (IRE) is the real deal. Some bettors will try to take him on, but I do not think that I am going to be one of them. He ships to America with a solid record, and add Frankie Dettori to the team … and this one is what we call a “deserving favorite.” Even though the Cazoo Derby (G1) was a clear misfire, let’s not forget that was against a field of 16 others … some top-class rivals … including Desert Crown. A Godolphin homebred, they would like nothing better than to come to Belmont and collect this victory for the “Boys in Blue.” Appleby continues to click at an amazing rate for a fellow in his mid-40s, and he has proven that he can compete almost anywhere in the world. With “Flying Frankie” in the irons, it is hard to see this one getting bested by anyone in this field. My top selection … book it now …
#11 Emmanuel (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: T. Pletcher):
The other half of the Pletcher uncoupled entry, this colt by More Than Ready prepped ably with a score in the Pennine Ridge (G2) … it was all on the frontend that afternoon. Even though that was a rousing success, the field (which included Napoleonic War #3 and Limited Liability #12) is not near as salty as this one. Irad Ortiz is going to have his work cut out for him, if he wants to make it to the winner’s circle. He is coming off his Royal Ascot suspension, and that will make him hungry. Still, it is hard to see an on-the-engine-type like this one making it wire-to-wire. He is a talented runner for sure, with a price tag coming to $350k. WinStar and Siena Farms certainly paid a pretty penny. Use this one in your exotics at your own risk.
#12 Limited Liability (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: S. McGaughey):
The influence of Stuart Janney on this sport extends well beyond the meager power of the Jockey Club of America. An important owner, he has had his share of runners over the years … and yes … he breeds them too. Here is a son of Kitten’s Joy, trained by Shug McGaughey, that is looking to get back on track after a 3rd Place finish in the Pennine Rideg (G2). Like the other alums from that race, he is going to have to find more against this lot. He is another entry that looks to have strong bloodlines coursing through his veins, but with a suspect record thus far, it is hard to know just how he will react against the Euros. Regular rider, Jose Ortiz, is the only jockey this colt has ever had … maybe he can get his mount home at what is certain to be longer odds? We’ll see …
#13 Stone Age (IRE) (Jky: R. Moore/Trn: A. O’Brien):
Aidan O’Brien notched his 1st victory in this race last year, and he is back with Ryan Moore to try for a repeat. His entry this time around is certainly talented, and like Appleby’s player, was against Desert Crown in the Cazoo Derby (G1). The result was clearly the best of those that are entered here … 6th Place. We all know that O’Brien’s training prowess, and ability to ship to faraway lands is strong. Moore is an expert rider, and is used to challenging Dettori for the top spot across continents. He knows this mount very well. A son of the now deceased Galileo (IRE), one of the great turf sires of all-time, there are some great expectations for this Pip. I think if all goes well with the flight, he should be near the top of the tote. Watch him in the Paddock while the saddling is taking place. If he is sweating profusely, then that might qualify as a major concern. A worthy adversary for Appleby … once again …
Join us Saturday for all of our selections! Should be a great set of races from beautiful Belmont Park! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter … Horseracing_USA !!!