A month after the end of the Triple Crown season, 3-year-old turf horses enter the spotlight at Belmont Park on July 9 during the track’s Stars & Stripes Racing Festival.
The 11-race card includes six graded stakes headlined by the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf “Win and You’re In” Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes, which have a combined purse of $2.25-million. Since Belmont Park rebranded these races in 2014 and upped the purses, they have lured steady stream of European entrants and 2016 is no different.
Let’s take a look at the fields and the international entrants.
$1-million, 1 ¼-mile Belmont Oaks
The headliner here is definitely 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Catch a Glimpse, who has won her last seven starts, including against the boys last out. If she were ever vulnerable it would be now with the filly stretching past 1 1/16 miles for the first time, and she has some tough competition to take on from overseas.
Ballydoyle the horse, not to be confused with the name of the training center her trainer is based out of, is no stranger to the big stakes. The filly has consistently competed in Group 1 races since September of last year. The filly is a full sister to classic winner Misty For Me and has carved out her own path as a Group 1 winner who was also second in the QIPCO One Thousand Guineas. Ballydoyle had a rough start in France last out in the Prix de Diane Longines (French Oaks), so it is a race that can probably have a line drawn through it. That was her only attempt going longer than a mile, but both her pedigree and past races have shown that she should be able to easily handle this distance.
Named after her owners, Coolmore is a full sister to classic winners Marvellous and Gleneagles and is a Group 3 winner herself. Coolmore has raced both midpack and on the lead so, assuming she isn’t in here as a pacemaker, it’s a bit of a question what tactics her connections will try. She ran well on the front end last time in the French Oaks and it wouldn’t be surprising if she follows that same path this time. With jockey Jamie Spencer aboard for the first time, it is doubtful she is coming over just to make it easier on her stablemate Ballydoyle, so keep an eye on her. If she does indeed go straight to the lead, it could make this race a little tougher on Catch a Glimpse. Both Ballydoyle and Coolmore are trained by Aidan O'Brien.
COOLMORE WINNING WELD PARK STAKES
A lightly raced, French-based filly, Magnanime is bit of an unknown in here. She’s a stakes winner in France and has won at a furlong shorter than the Oaks distance. In five starts, she’s won or hit the board in three stakes races but when she stepped up to a Group 1 and stretched out to 1 ¼ miles last out, she was fifth. However, Magnanime finished just two lengths behind the winner, so it was not a bad effort. Figuring out if it was the distance, the class or just a less-than-stellar day in her most recent start seems to be the biggest struggle bettors will face when it comes to analyzing Magnanime’s chances on Saturday, but she does have a U.S.-based jockey on her in Julien Leparoux, which should work to her advantage.
$1.25-million, 1 ¼-mile Belmont Derby
The Belmont Derby drew a competitive field as well with 13 colts and geldings entered for the race. Among the U.S.-based horses, Camelot Kitten looks like the one to beat after winning graded stakes in his last two starts, but he’ll be joined by Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Airoforce, among others. Just like the Oaks, the field has some European flavor, so let’s get to know the horses who have come over from across the pond.
O’Brien won’t just be represented in the Oaks as he also loaded two colts onto the plane to take part in this race. Deauville comes to the U.S. off an 11th-place finish in the Investec Derby, but he does have class behind him. He finished second to Wings of Desire in his prep for the Derby and that rival went on to finish fourth in the Derby. Deauville is a Group 3 winner, winning the Japanese Racing Association Tyros Stakes last year as a 2-year-old and finishing second in the Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge last September. O’Brien was second in this race with Adelaide in 2014, the last time he sent a horse over for it.
Humphrey Bogart already has taken his group of owners on the journey of a lifetime after winning the Betfred Derby Trial in May and running a creditable fifth in the Investec Derby last month, but he looks to do even better here. Humphrey Bogart has never run a truly bad race, and has never finished worse than sixth in 10 lifetime starts, more often than not finishing fourth or better only a few lengths behind the winner. The last time the colt ran at this distance, he was second by a neck to a promising filly in So Mi Dar and has won racing longer than this distance, so the 1 ¼ miles shouldn’t be a problem. This is a class relief from what he’s been facing and, even if he’s not good enough to win, expect him to be running at the end.
HUMPHREY BOGART WINNING DERBY TRIAL
Zenyatta fans should love Long Island Sound, the second runner from O’Brien’s barn. The colt, who has won three of his four starts, is out of Zenyatta’s half-sister Treasure Trail. Long Island Sound has kind of snuck under the radar in Europe with his first two starts coming on a synthetic surface before winning his turf debut in May. Long Island Sound stepped up to group stakes level at Royal Ascot in his last start and was third to the Kitten’s Joy colt Hawkbill on soft ground. Hawkbill went on to win the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse Stakes against his elders last weekend. While Long Island Sound’s only loss came at 1 ¼ miles, that was his first start on soft ground so he may have had an excuse for the performance. While he still has some questions to answer and shouldn’t be close to being a favorite, he may be worth a look when making your picks if he is decent odds.
You can catch both the Belmont Oaks and Belmont Derby, as well as the Suburban Handicap, on Saturday from 4:30 – 6 p.m. ET on NBC.