The final leg of the Triple Crown is finally here! Belmont Park is the highlight of all the racing action this weekend, with the graded stakes action kicking off Friday afternoon. Saturday will feature a total of six grade 1 races from the New York oval.
The Gr. 2 True North Stakes suffers a bit with the loss of Private Zone, but the remaining 5-horse field includes recent graded stakes winners Catalina Red, as well as Always Sunshine. Holy Boss will also be looking for a return to top form in the six-furlong sprint. Friday's Gr. 2 New York Stakes features fillies and mares at 10 furlongs on the turf, with favoritism resting with Sea Calisi of Chad Brown's three race entries.
Saturday's action begins with the Grade 1 Acorn, with 3-year-old fillies competing for $700,000 over a mile on the main track. A deep six-horse field features Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia, Black-Eyed Susan winner Go Maggie Go, and runaway Eight Belles winner Carina Mia.
The Gr. 2 Brooklyn Invitational has drawn a solid field of older males for the 12 furlong contest, with morning-line favoritism resting with Kid Cruz. The well-matched field also includes Shaman Ghost, Samraat, Elnaawi, Securitiz and Neck 'n Neck to try for the $400,000 purse.
A $1 million purse has drawn a field of seven fillies and mares for the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps. Stopchargingmaria will be looking to rebound off her second-place finish in the Madison, her first start of the year, though she'll face tough competition to do so. Mulitple G1 winner Curalina has drawn morning-line favoritism, though Forever Unbridled, Sheer Drama, and Cavorting are all entering the race with something to prove.
Up next is the Gr. 3 Jaipur Invitational, in which A Lot will look to out-sprint a field of 14 on Belmont's turf course.
The Gr. 2 Woody Stephens features sophomores over seven furlongs, competing for $500,000 in purse money. The speedy Justin Squared is three-for-three lifetime, but he's making his first jump into graded stakes company. At 4-1, the Baffert trainee is the morning-line second choice, but a deep field of 12 others awaits him. Sharp Azteca is the 7-2 favorite, with I Will Score, Mrazek, and Kentucky Derby-runner Tom's Ready also vying for a piece of the action.
Back with another Grade 1, The Just A Game will showcase fillies and mares over a mile on the turf. The division is a bit wide open at the moment with arguably its best contenders overseas, prepping for a shot at Royal Ascot next week. Mrs McDougal won a listed stake to kick off her 2016 season, and is installed as the “favorite” at 4-1. Recepta and My Miss Sophia are also in the field, along with Lexie Lou, who raced less than two weeks ago in a brilliant return to form in Woodbine's Nassau.
The Met Mile is up next, a Gr. 1 contest with a $1.25 million purse. Frosted returns for his first start since a disappointing finish in the Dubai World Cup, while Noble Bird enters the race off a recent victory in the Pimlico Special. Stanford, Ami's Flatter and Marking make up the rest of those listed below 8-1 on the morning line. Interesting longer shots include Blofeld, winner of the Gulfstream Park Handicap, and Calculator, a fast colt once on the 2015 Derby trail, who has finished no worse than third thus far in 2016, winning or placing in four graded stakes at Santa Anita.
Flintshire headlines the Gr. 1 Manhattan Stakes, held at a mile over the turf. He makes his first start for new trainer Chad Brown in the US, and is installed as the 8-5 favorite. Recent winners Ironicus, Divisidero, and Wake Forest are among those looking to upset the international invader, and Grand Tito makes his first start since a flying sign nearly wiped him out in the Churchill Downs paddock prior to the Woodford Reserve.
A brief interlude over to Churchill Downs takes us to the Gr. 3 Mint Julep Stakes, where Cash Control will hope to do just that for Brad Cox over 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
Finally, the third jewel of the Triple Crown: the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes. Exaggerator is the prohibitive favorite after his striking Preakness victory over Nyquist, but he'll face a tough challenge at 12 furlongs and a total of 12 other sophomore colts will line up in the starting gate to face him. Oddsmakers have given the best chance of beating him to Stradivari, fourth in the Preakness, but there are several longshots bred for the distance who may be flying under the radar. Suddenbreakingnews tops that list. Lani's daily training regimen of nearly four miles should have him ready for the distance as well, and the gray Japanese-trained colt has been engaging in his workouts with much more regularity than he was prior to the Kentucky Derby.
Best of luck with all your wagers.
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