G M B Racing's Tom's Ready will look to build off an impressive rally last out in the Grade 1 Forego when he returns to Belmont Park to compete against a field of five competitors in the 37th running of the Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso Handicap for 3-year-olds and up on Saturday.
Tom's Ready went six-wide in the upper stretch in the Forego, moving from 10th to earn third behind Awesome Slew and winner Drefong in the seven-furlong sprint on August 26 at Saratoga Race Course. The 4-year-old More Than Ready colt will be stretched out to one mile for the first time since winning the Leemat on July 9 at Presque Isle and has two wins and a second-place finish in five career starts at the distance.
“I think the distance we'll set up fine, he's a tough little horse,” trainer Dallas Stewart said. “Drefong is a champion horse, and last time he [Tom's Ready] ran pretty well trying to run him down. We didn't get beat far for second, so it was all positive. We'll take our chances in this spot and see what happens.”
Tom's Ready has been breezing at Churchill Downs since the Forego and will fly to New York on Wednesday, Stewart said. He will carry 117 pounds in the Kelso.
“He seems sharp and looks like he's ready to run,” he said. “His energy is good. He's coming off the good race in Saratoga and we know he likes Belmont.”
His last start at Belmont was a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on June 10, Belmont Stakes Day. His only other Belmont appearance was a victory in the 2016 Grade 2 Woody Stephens. His jockey for that race, Joel Rosario, will have the return call from post 1.
“It'll be fun to watch him ride, they get along good,” Stewart said.
Paul Pompa, Jr. and P and J Stables' Tommy Macho will also be cutting back to a distance in which the 5-year-old is 2-0-3 in six career starts. The Todd Pletcher trainee struggled to a seventh-place finish in the Forego but will be returning to Big Sandy for the first time since a third-place performance in the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship on July 8.
“He seems to be training fine. We're happy to get him back to a one-turn mile since that seems to be his specialty,” Pletcher said. “He's had his better races there. He seems to be a little better going a mile than six or seven [furlongs]. He might like Gulfstream a little better, but he's had good races here.”
The Forego was the only time Tommy Macho failed to finish on the board in six starts this year, which includes a 5 ¾-length win in the Grade 3 Hal's Hope and third-place efforts in the Belmont Sprint, Metropolitan Handicap and Grade 1 Carter Handicap.
Carrying 117 pounds, Joe Bravo will ride from post 2.
Multiple graded stakes winner Sharp Azteca has earned back-to-back triple digit Beyer Speed Figures, garnering a 109 for his 7 ¼-length score in the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup and a 106 for his runner-up effort to Mor Spirit in the Metropolitan Handicap.
Trained by Jorge Navarro, Sharp Azteca has finished in the money in his last seven starts, including a victory in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap on February 11. The 4-year-old son of Freud has never failed to place in six starts at a mile, going 4-1-1.
Jockey Paco Lopez will break from post 5 carrying the highweight of 124.
Divining Rod will make his Belmont debut after running fourth in the Forego. Trained by Arnaud Delacour, the 5-year-old son of Tapit will make his second straight graded stakes start after winning the Polynesian by 6 1/4 lengths on August 12 at Laurel Park.
In his last start at one mile, Divining Rod dueled Connect for supremacy in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on November 26 at Aqueduct, finishing second by a head. That marked the first time in four starts the Kentucky bred failed to win at the distance.
Jockey Daniel Centeno, who rode him in both the Cigar and Polynesian, will be in the irons again out of post 4.
Bird Song will be coming off a nearly two-month layoff since finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on July 29 at the Spa. The 4-year-old Unbridled's Song colt has two graded stakes triumphs in the current campaign, earning a trip to the winner's circle in the Grade 2 Alysheba on May 5 at Churchill and the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper on March 4 at Gulfstream Park.
Julien Leparoux, at 116 pounds, will break from post 6.
Ross, who made his North American debut with a 10th-place finish in the Forego, drew post 3 with jockey Rajiv Maragh set to ride at 116 pounds. Trained by Peter Schiergen, the Irish bred Ross went 4-5-1 in his first 24 career starts in Germany, France and the United Arab Emirates before arriving in the United States.
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