A Classy Champion, 1989 Belmont Stakes Winner Easy Goer
This Saturday, Belmont Park will host the $1.5 million, Grade 1 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets. This year’s 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion” concludes this year’s Triple Crown series, and features some of the country’s top 3-year-olds. The field will include Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer as well as Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality, third and fourth, respectively, in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, and Grade 1 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World.
The Belmont Stakes is not the only big race at Belmont Park this Saturday, however, as the card features eight other stakes races, including three Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” races. The winners of those races are guaranteed a spot in the starting gate at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar on Nov. 6-7.
Here, we’ll take a look at some of the horses to watch on the Belmont day undercard.
HILL ‘N’ DALE METROPOLITAN MILE HANDICAP
The “Met Mile” is regarded as one of the country’s top races for older horses. Originally held on Memorial Day, it was moved to Belmont Stakes day in 2014.
The race has a long-and-storied history with many Hall of Famers winning the prestigious race. Over the past decade, top horses such as Shackleford, Palace Malice, Honor Code, Frosted, and Mitole have won it.
This year’s Met Mile is one of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge races on Saturday’s card. The winner will receive a spot in the starting gate for the $1 million Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on Nov. 7.
The headliner of the field is Knicks Go. Last November, Knicks Go won the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland by 3 ½ lengths, running the mile in an impressive 1:33.85. In his next start, he won the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes by 2 ¾ lengths at Gulfstream Park. He’s looking for a rebound off a fourth-place finish in the Group 1 Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.
Four horses in the field are coming off stakes wins. Silver State won three stakes at Oaklawn Park earlier in the year, including the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 17. A win here may make him the leader in the older male division. By My Standards won the Oaklawn Mile Stakes on April 10 in his 2021 debut. Last year, he won three graded stakes. Mischevious Alex won the Grade 1 Carter Handicap by 5 ½ lengths at Aqueduct on April 3 in his most recent start. He’s a perfect 3-for-3 on the year. Dr Post won the Grade 3 Westchester Stakes on this track on May 1.
In her last start, 2020 champion 3-year-old filly Swiss Skydiver squared off against two-time champion Monomoy Girl in a much-anticipated edition of the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap. However, the speedy Letruska went gate-to-wire, while Swiss Skydiver was no better than third.
Swiss Skydiver will seek revenge in the Ogden Phipps Stakes, as her and Letruska square off in an exciting rematch. Letruska is far from a one-hit wonder; she’s won graded stakes races in four of her last six starts.
Of course, Swiss Skydiver also has an impressive resume. Last fall, she made history by beating male horses in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes, winning by a neck after a long stretch battle. She’ll have a new jockey on Saturday, as Jose Ortiz takes over from usual jockey Robby Albarado.
The Ogden Phipps field also includes Shedaresthedevil, who won the Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks last fall in an upset. She’s a perfect 2-for-2 on the year, most recently winning the Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes Presented by Twinspires.com at Churchill Downs on April 30.
This race is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race, so the winner will receive a spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Del Mar on Nov. 7.
Some of the country’s top turf sprinters will do battle in the Jaipur with the winner securing a spot in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Fast Boat enters this race off two straight stakes wins. He won the Pulse Power Turf Sprint Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park in January then took the Grade 2 Twin Spires Turf Sprint Presented by Sysco last out. Bound for Nowhere also comes in off a graded stakes win after prevailing in the Grade 2 Shakertown Stakes in his first start off a long layoff at Keeneland on April 10. If he earns any money in this race, he will pass the $1-million mark in career earnings.
The field also includes last year’s Jaipur winner, Oleksandra. She’s searching for her first win since last year’s race. She’s one of two mares in the race; Got Stormy, a multiple Grade 1 winner in her career, is the other.
The headliner of this field of 3-year-old fillies is Search Results. She won the Grade 3 Gazelle Stakes at Aqueduct on April 3 then finished second by a neck in the Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks behind Malathaat. She cuts back in distance to one mile and looks for redemption in this spot. She’s one of two Kentucky Oaks starters to return in this race. Travel Column, who won the Grade 2 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks, was fifth in the Oaks last out.
The top three finishers from the Grade 3 Eight Belles Stakes Presented by Smithfield resurface here. Obligatory came from way behind to win by a length in a 16.50-1 upset. Favored Dayoutoftheoffice made her 2021 debut in that race and led late before getting caught in deep stretch. She held on for second, and looks for improvement second off the layoff here. Make Mischief was a surprise third at 23.60-1.
RESORTS WORLD CASINO MANHATTAN STAKES
The Grade 1 Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic Stakes was one of the highlights of Kentucky Derby day. Colonel Liam and Domestic Spending both surged at the finish line in the closing seconds and hit the wire together in a dead-heat. For Colonel Liam, it was his third graded stakes win in as many starts this year. Domestic Spending made his 2021 debut in that race after a 2020 campaign that included two major stakes wins. If either of them wins this race, they will very likely be considered the leader of the older male turf division.
The top two finishers in the Grade 1 Man o’ War Stakes on May 8 also are back here. Channel Cat won in an 8.20-1 upset, edging out favored Gufo who was making his first start of the year. Last year, Gufo won the Grade 3 Kent Stakes and the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes.
Chad Brown sends out four runners here. Blowout won the Grade 2 Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes by 1 ½ lengths in a front-running performance May 1 in her most recent race. She will loom large if she can get away with an uncontested lead again. Her stablemate Pocket Square won her American debut at Keeneland on April 7. Brown also entered graded stakes winners Regal Glory and Tamahere.
Other contenders include Daddy is a Legend, a multiple graded stakes winner who won her season debut in an allowance at Keeneland last out, and a pair of European invaders for trainer Charlie Appleby in Summer Romance and Althiqua.
WOODY STEPHENS STAKES PRESENTED BY NASSAU COUNTY INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY
The top two finishers in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile Stakes Presented by LG&E and KU are back. Jackie’s Warrior, a multiple Grade 1 winner as a 2-year-old, ran a huge race on a fast pace and held on for a head victory over Dream Shake in the Pat Day Mile. The latter finished third in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes and the Grade 1 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby.
The field also includes Caddo River, who was second in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, and Drain the Clock, a three-time stakes winner this year.
BROOKLYN INVITATIONAL PRESENTED BY NORWELL HEALTH
A pair of horses in this 1 ½-mile race are coming off stakes wins. Tizamagician won the Grade 3 Tokyo City Cup Stakes April 18 at Santa Anita Park in a dominant performance. He stalked the pace and drew away to win by nine lengths. Lone Rock won the Isaac Murphy Marathon Overnight Stakes Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance at Churchill Downs last out to record his fifth win in his last six races.
Todd Pletcher won the last running of this race in 2019 with Marconi. He has two prospective starters in here: Moretti, who won two long-distance races last year; and Ajaaweed, most recently second in the Flat Out Stakes at Belmont.