The Grade 3 Intercontinental Stakes assists in kicking off the “Graded” Belmont Bash that is headed our way over the course of Thursday, Friday, and into Super Saturday. The Widener Turf Course is not always the most inviting of settings, simply due to the angle in which the gate is positioned. That only applies when the distance marker hits anything over 1 Mile. So, a 7F sprint on the grass like this one, should not make much of a difference. What might be impactful is the weather, which looks to incorporate some rainfall. This past weekend, Elmont saw its share of moisture, as the grass events were all washed over to the MT.
As expected, New York-based turf heartthrob Chad Brown comes to this dance ready to boogie. Interestingly enough, signature rider Irad Ortiz is not aboard either Publication #1 nor Regal Glory #8, which is surprising. Instead, he pairs with Saffie Joseph and his mare, Sweet Bye and Bye #2. Last out in the Sand Springs 100k on Florida Derby Day, Ortiz rallied this runner at the top of the stretch and won convincingly. The thing of it is, that was a dropdown race, especially when compared to some of her prior experience under then trainer, Tony Dutrow. At such short odds, it was a foregone conclusion at 1/1 that she would win at Gulfstream. Coming into this spot, will not be a cakewalk by any means.
Opposing Joseph’s hiker are those pair of Brown sod-bred specialists, and they are both going to be forces in this race. Javier’s Castellano’s #1 filly is out of Tapit, and you know what that means—versatility. The dam portion is loaded with turf bloodlines with Mizzen Mast by way of Filimbi. Who doesn’t fancy a Juddmonte homebred with that stylish pink sash? Stepping up into this G3 will not be easy, but she is clearly guided by an excellent pilot. As for the other Brown entry, #8 is a mare with more experience, and she probably has quite a bit in the tank after having run only once in 2021. That was a mile contest on the Aqueduct lawn that was hardly a tough go. Jose Ortiz took her to the house, and he knows this daughter of Animal Kingdom backwards and forwards. Peter Brant owns this one, and his investments regularly win big.
One other entry that will garner some attention is Christophe Clement’s Madeleine Must #5. A couple years back, she was a filly running in some good competition in France, and ultimately at Newmarket. Coming to the U.S. last year, she sent some mixed messages at the OC62.5k level—last seen back in November in a 100k at Aqueduct. Clement, an excellent NYRA-based trainer, slates Joel Rosario to command the irons and that is certainly a plus. Given that he rode her during her only win on this side of the pond that might entice. I am not convinced she will fire, so maybe including her underneath is the proper course.
These runners I have mentioned are going to be, for the most part, short-priced, and I would not advise you taking them at 2/1 or lower. This is turf racing in North America, and you want to find some angles that can help you score. For that reason alone, I am much more interested in Mike Maker’s charge, the nicely named I’llhandalthecash #7. Talk about some upside … not only do you get a Maker runner who is going to be vastly overlooked, but he lines up Luis Saez to ride. When these 2 get together, they can be quite potent. The Kentucky-based conditioner got this 5-yr-old mare from Ray Handal, and he already sent her out to the Belmont turf in the License Fee 100k. Though that was a 6th, I think she can do much better 2nd out. Her turn-of-foot down the lane was better than just “belated,” as the PPs say. Saez’s riding is continuing to be strong, despite a bit of veer towards the downside in Elmont.
The other one I want to spotlight is Michelle Lovell’s ace, Change of Control #4, who might not end up as high on the tote as Maker’s runner, but still should end up being more than a square price. The mare out of Fed Biz was superb in the Giant’s Causeway 100k at Keeneland. At 9/1, she bested Into Mystic, which was no small task. Lovell then sent her to Churchill, and she just missed getting up against her foe. Nothing like trading barbs on the grass … The fact that Colby Hernandez comes to Belmont specifically to ride speaks volumes. She is one to consider, if you are good with the minor stretch out.
Constructing a ticket out of this lot should be a ton of fun. Here is what I am going to do …
Wager Recommendation: $1 Trifecta Wheel, 1/4/7 w 1/2/4/5/7/8 w 1/2/4/5/7/8, Total Cost: $60.00