With a field of 11 talented 3-year-olds, the Grade 2, $500,000 Woody Stephens going seven furlongs, one of 10 stakes races on Belmont Stakes Day, is set to be one of the most competitive races on the card.
Shipping in from California for China Horse Club and Head of Plains Partners is American Anthem. A son of Bodemeister under the care of Hall of Famer Bob Baffert who also trained his sire, American Anthem began the year on the Triple Crown trail finishing second by a head in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes in January at Santa Anita. He subsequently changed course following a pair of subpar runnings in the Grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn Park and Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.
Cutting back in distance to seven furlongs for the Grade 3 Lazaro Barrera, American Anthem once again displayed the talent he showed to start the year to win by 1¾ lengths while recording a 98 Beyer Speed Figure, tops in the Woody Stephens field.
“That was a huge effort last time coming off of those other races,” said Baffert. “If he can run that race back he's going to be very competitive. Eventually I want to stretch him out. I thought about the Easy Goer [Saturday at Belmont] because of the mile and a sixteenth [distance], but the Woody Stephens is a big race so we'll take a shot there.”
Drawing post 8, American Anthem will retain the services of Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith at co-highweight of 123 pounds.
Racing in the silks of Sagamore Farm will be Recruiting Ready. Purchased for $110,000 as a yearling at the 2015 Keeneland September sale, the son of Algorithms is the most experienced runner in the field with nine lifetime starts and enters the Woody Stephens on a three-race win streak, most recently capturing the Chick Lang on May 20 at Pimlico. With no plans to change his front-running style, trainer Horacio DePaz hopes his colt will handle the extra distance following three wins in four starts at six furlongs.
“He's certainly coming into this race in the right form,” said DePaz. “We only ran him long once, but hopefully he can get seven furlongs. We're not going to try to change his style. He's going to continue to run the same way he's been running.”
With regular rider Horacio Karamanos aboard, the pair will depart from post 3.
Entering off a victory in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile and making a cutback in distance for Calumet Farm and trainer Rusty Arnold is Wild Shot. A homebred son of Trappe Shot, he broke his maiden in his second career start at Churchill Downs and was on the Kentucky Derby trail before ultimately finishing seventh in the Grade 2 Blue Grass at Keeneland. Wild Shot came from off the pace to impressively win by four lengths and earn a 97 Beyer Speed Figure over a wet-fast track in his last start.
Drawing post 7, Wild Shot will be ridden by Corey Lanerie.
Trainer Chad Brown will enter Long Haul Bay for Alpha Delta Stables. A New York-bred son of Quality Road, he broke his maiden on February 18 at Aqueduct and returned to capture the Grade 3 Bay Shore on April 8 at Aqueduct in only his second start.
With Manny Franco in the irons, the pair will leave from post 10.
Rounding out the field are Hard Scramble for trainer Steve Asmussen and Calmuet Farm; Classic Rock for Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and trainer Kathy Ritvo; Gold for the King for owner Frances Paolangeli and trainer Charlton Baker; Petrov for Rialto Racing Stables, Head of Plains Partners and trainer Ron Moquett; The Money Monster for Hall of Fame Trainer Bill Mott and R.A. Hill Stable and Black Ridge Stable; and Giuseppe the Great for Hall of Famer Nick Zito and Mossarosa.
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