Five Key Takeaways from Belmont Stakes Day

Sir Winston edged Tacitus in the Belmont Stakes to cap off a great three days of racing at Belmont Park. (Chelsea Durand/NYRA photo)

Tom Pedulla presents five key takeaways from Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets Day on Saturday at Belmont Park:

SMART CHOICE: Trainer Gregory Sacco made a wise call when he decided to take a shot in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes with Joevia after the Shanghai Bobby colt earned his first stakes victory in the Long Branch Stakes over a sloppy track on May 12 at Monmouth Park. Joevia made an easy lead in a Belmont that lacked significant early speed and earned a solid third-place finish behind Sir Winston and Tacitus in his first Grade 1 try. “He put it all together last time in the Long Branch,” Sacco said. “It was in lesser company, but he did it effortlessly. He had to step up to the plate (Saturday) and he did.”

Guarana and Ortiz. (Eclipse Sportswire)

SMART CHOICE II: Jockeys do not typically take off 3-year-old fillies that won the Longines Kentucky Oaks. Jose Ortiz did exactly that, leaving behind Serengeti Empress, and was rewarded when Guarana stormed home as a six-length victress in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes. She blazed the mile in a stakes-record 1:33.58. The previous mark was 1:34, set by You in 2002. Ortiz was aboard when the daughter of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper dominated her debut by 14 ¾ geared-down lengths on April 19 at Keeneland. When trainer Chad Brown decided on the Acorn for Guarana’s second start, Ortiz was all in. “It was a hard decision when I took off the Oaks winner, but I didn’t want to miss this opportunity,” Ortiz said. His brother, Irad, inherited Serengeti Empress and took second-place money in the Acorn.

Bricks and Mortar (Eclipse Sportswire)

DOMINATION: If anyone doubted how powerful Brown’s lineup of turf stars has become, he reiterated the point when Bricks and Mortar, Robert Bruce and Raging Bull filled out the top three positions in the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes. “This ranks right up there. I have to digest it first, but it’s certainly way up there,” Brown said of his accomplishment. “I hold this race in such high regard. To run one-two-three in it really points out how fortunate I am to have so many talented horses in my barn. To see the others be not far from Bricks and Mortar gives us hope they are going to have really good years as well.”

PERFECT: Midnight Bisou remained undefeated through eight starts at a mile-and-a-sixteenth when she unleashed a powerful late kick to register an authoritative 3 ½-length victory in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes. She stayed perfect through four starts as a 4-year-old. “I believe she’s added to how great she is with consistency,” said Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. “She’s expecting to win, and I think the results speak for themselves.” Asmussen said Midnight Bisou will be shipped to Churchill Downs, where she will breeze once or twice before her next start is determined.

NEARLY PERFECT: Brown described Rushing Fall as “one of the greatest turf mares I’ve trained” after she rolled from gate to wire to win the one-mile Longines Just a Game Stakes by 2 ¼ lengths for her eighth victory in nine career starts. She absorbed her lone defeat on May 4 of last year, when Toinette overtook her by a neck in the Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs. Brown said of Rushing Fall’s style, “She doesn’t need the lead, but she has enough speed she can really hurt you. A horse like this does not come around very often.” Up next will likely be the 1 1/8-mile Diana Stakes on July 13 to highlight the first Saturday of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course.

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