Henley’s Joy, Concrete Rose Sparkle on Stars and Stripes Card

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Henley’s Joy rallied powerfully to post an upset win in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes July 6. (Eclipse Sportswire)

As confusing as the race for leadership among 3-year-old males on the dirt may be, their turf brethren seem equally intent to stage a wild battle for supremacy.

Fourteen 3-year-old grass runners, representing the United States, Europe and Japan, lined up at Belmont Park July 6 for the $1 million, Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes and, true to this year’s baffling form, a victory by a 20-1 shot who was 13th in the wagering produced an outcome that triggered an $8,901 trifecta payout for $2.

“After today, there’s certainly some confusion with this group,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who understands the confusion at both ends of the 3-year-old division. Not only does he train Country House, who was declared the winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, but in the Belmont Derby he sent out Juddmonte Farms’ Seismic Wave, the 9-2 favorite who finished fifth behind the victorious $43.60 longshot, Bloom Racing Stable’s Henley's Joy.

“It was spectacular,” owner Jeffrey Bloom said.

Spectacular, on some levels, as the first leg of the New York Racing Association’s inaugural Turf Trinity produced a wide-open betting race that probably raised more questions about the 3-year-old turf division than answers.

Or did it?

“Hopefully we’ll make it an easier situation to pick out the best 3-year-old turfer when the Turf Trinity is over,” Bloom said about the 3-year-old trained by Mike Maker. “We’re off to a good start.”

The Turf Trinity continues Aug. 4 with the $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational Stakes at Saratoga Race Course and ends with the $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park Sept. 7.

Bloom said the son of Kitten’s Joy is a go for the second leg after finally working out a winning trip following a series of misadventures, such as the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge Stakes when he finished a wide, bumpy fourth.

“I sound like a broken record, but he’s had so many races where he had nothing go his way, and I mean from start to finish. The Pennine Ridge was another perfect example of a terrible trip. He didn’t lose by much but he never got a chance to run,” Bloom said. “I feel good for the horse. He’s such a nice horse and he tries so hard. I’m glad he got to showcase his talents on the big stage.”

Concrete Rose Rolls in Belmont Oaks

Concrete Rose (Eclipse Sportswire)

For Ashbrook Farm and BBN Racing’s Concrete Rose, 2019 is a year to remember.

Already a three-time graded stakes winner when she walked onto the Belmont Park turf for the first time July 6, the daughter of Twirling Candy left it all on the racecourse and picked up her first Grade 1 score in the $750,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes.

“I feel like a champagne bottle that has been shaken up and not opened,” Bo Bromagen of Ashbrook told a representative of Fasig-Tipton. “This is beyond my expectations, but you dream for it.””

Jodie, the Japanese invader making her first start stateside for owner Tadakazu Obama, took the lead from the break in the 1 ¼-mile test. Concrete Rose and regular rider Julien Leparoux stalked in second just off the rail followed by Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf victress Newspaperofrecord who was rank on the inside and then tipped out into the two path as Irad Ortiz Jr. worked to get a firm hold. The move forced Cafe Americano out eight-wide causing Coral Beach and Just Wonderful to check.

Settling down for a drive at the top of the stretch, Concrete Rose took command a furlong from the wire, kicked home, and crossed the finish 2 3/4 lengths in front in 1:59.97.

“I thought [trainer] Chad [Brown]’s horse [Newspaperofrecord] would be on the lead unless they came for her, but I guess today they tried something new and took her back a little bit,” Leparoux said. “The Japanese horse [Jodie] wanted to go, so I was happy to be second and my filly relaxed beautiful for me the whole race. I knew at the quarter-pole, I had a lot left. She made a big run at the end. It was nice.”— Meredith Daugherty

No Cracking Code of Honor in Dwyer

Code of Honor (Eclipse Sportswire)

Jockey John Velazquez dropped his whip in the stretch, but that was probably the last thing he needed to guide Code of Honor to victory in the $245,000 Dwyer Stakes.

Given two months of freshening by trainer Shug McGaughey after being placed second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, Will S. Farish’s homebred Code of Honor returned as sharp as ever in the Dwyer, finding a seam in the stretch and motoring to an impressive 3 1/4-length victory under a hand ride during the July 6 Stars and Stripes Racing Festival at Belmont Park.

“It might be good that he dropped the whip. We have to get to the next one,” McGaughey quipped.

The next one figures to be the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga Race Course July 27, which will serve as a springboard to the 3-year-old division’s midsummer showdown in the $1.25 million Runhappy Travers Stakes at the Spa Aug. 24. But reflective of the patience McGaughey employed in steering clear of the final two legs of the Triple Crown, he also left the door open to training up to the Travers if needed.—Bob Ehalt

Preservationist Stuns Catholic Boy in Suburban

Preservationist (Eclipse Sportswire)

In his stakes debut, Centennial Farms’ Preservationist proved quite the giant killer.

The 6-year-old son of Arch was forwardly placed and took control at the top of the stretch in the $700,000 Suburban Stakes July 6 at Belmont, turning back dual Grade 1 winner Catholic Boy en route to a 4 1/2-length win.

Preservationist broke alertly in the 1 1/4-mile test and took command to lead through an opening quarter-mile in :24.48, but was quickly passed by 6-5 favorite Catholic Boy, who made an early bid under Javier Castellano and moved up outside the eventual winner to dictate a half in :48.09.

“He was a little keen in the first part of the race and that probably cost me the race,” Castellano said. “I don’t want to take anything away from the winner, but unfortunately it wasn’t [Catholic Boy’s] day.”

With Junior Alvarado in the irons, Preservationist tracked Catholic Boy through three-quarters in 1:11.69, then geared up to surge back for a head advantage through a 1:35.68 mile. A four-wide Catholic Boy tried to come back, but Preservationist widened his margin in the final furlong, drawing off to finish in 1:59.99 on a fast track.

“My horse broke good, and I let him find his rhythm. He took the lead during the first part of the race and then Catholic Boy came on the outside, a little keen,” Alvarado said. “I wasn’t worried. I was trying to give a nice, confident ride to my horse. At the five-sixteenths pole, when it was time to pick it up, I asked him, and he was there for me. He gave me a nice run in the end.”

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