This Weekend in Thoroughbred Racing: 19-21 June
152nd Belmont Stakes Highlights Big Weekend of Racing
Due to COVID 19, the mighty Belmont Stakes, dubbed “The Test of Champions”, run over the biggest oval in North America and at a grueling mile and half, has been reduced to a mile and an eighth and changed from last in the Triple Crown series to first. However, the almost unrecognizable 152nd running of the classic race will still be the feature attraction in a weekend of racing that is loaded with big races and extraordinary talent.
The action heats up as early as race: 2 on the Saturday’s program, the Woody Stephens Stakes. In a recurring theme across the country, a short field of five will go post ward in what appears to be a two horse race between No Parole, who has won 4 for his 5 starts by wide margins, and impressive Gotham Stakes winner Mischievous Alex.
After a pair of $150,000 turf Stake races, our focus turns to the prestigious Grade: 1 Acorn Stakes for three year old fillies, carded as race: 8 on the program
The one mile contest is loaded with talent from just about every corner of the country. Led by $1.8 million Fasig-Tipton May purchase Gamine, who ships in from California and could be any kind. The big bay filly won her 6 ½ furlong debut by a half dozen lengths before passing her “distance” test last time out. Albeit it tiring at the end, she held sway to win by a neck. The Into Mischief filly should have got a lot out of that race and has worked well since.
Other contenders in the Acorn, which figures to be a barn-burner, include Lucrezia, who valiantly chased the streaking Swiss Skydiver at Gulfstream Park in Florida last time out, the well bred Casual (Curlin out of the speedy Graded Stakes winner Lady Tak), who is unbeaten in two starts at Churchill Downs in Kentucky and Grade: 1 winner Perfect Alibi, who twice chased 2019 two year old champion filly British Idiom and wasn’t embarrassed by her by any stretch either time.
Race: 9 is very competitive turf race, the Jaipur Stakes at one mile. The gray nine year old veteran Pure Sensation aims to prove he’s not done yet, the absolutely gorgeous but enigmatic Hidden Scroll and the mare taking on the “boys”, Oleksandra top the field of eight.
Albeit the Belmont Stakes lost even more luster with the defections of Nadal, a 1,300 lb, Graded Stakes winning monstrosity (injury), the super speedy Charlatan (injury) and Maxfield, who could be better than all of them (injury), Tiz the Law, a handsome bay colt with a crucifix blaze running down his face, will lead the field of 10.
Tiz the Law, a no doubt about it winner of the prestigious Grade: 1 Champagne Stakes on this oval last year, should be a heavy favorite come post time. The son of Constitution will break from post eight under regular rider Manny Franco.
“He does everything you ask him to, he’s very happy and content,” trainer Barclay Tagg said. “He likes this track, so I’m glad to be back here.”
Other contenders include the stretch running Sole Volante, winner of the Grade: 3 Sam F. Davis S. and a come-from-behind winner vs. optional claimers going a one-turn mile at Gulfstream Just 10 days ago.
“I think he really needed that race,” said co-owner Andie Biancone, who also serves as an assistant to her father, trainer Patrick Biancone. “Fitness, wise–he really just improved since that race and he came out super fresh and happy. We were just like, ‘You know what? Let’s go. Let’s take a shot at it.’ He’s a pleasure to be around and we love him.”
Max Player, winner of the Withers Stakes going 1 1/8 miles when last seen at the Big A Feb. 1. “It would be great to win the Belmont or any Triple Crown race for any trainer,” said Linda Rice, seeking to become the first female trainer to win a Triple Crown race.
Three-time Belmont Stakes winning trainer Todd Pletcher will lead a pair over in Dr Post and Farmington Road both by Quality Road. The lightly raced Dr Post was an eye catching winner of the Unbridled Stakes at Gulfstream Apr. 25 while the late running Farmington Road enters off a fourth place finish behind Nadal in the Grade: 1 Arkansas Derby.
Due to COVID 19, Woodbine Mohawk Park, which was schedule to run the $1 million North American Cup sponsored by Pepsi, was forced to reschedule from this weekend to August 29th.
Not only did they have to cancel the 37th edition of Canada’s richest Standardbred race, but they also had to cancel the $450,000 Fan Hanover Pace for three year old fillies, the $330,000 Roses are Red Pace for three year olds and up fillies and mares and a pair of $250,000 races including the Armbro Flight and Goodtime Trots as well as a night of live music, interactive activities and food and drink specials.
That said, there are still tracks open with several big races and race cards scheduled Saturday.
Race: 7 at Hawthorne Park on Saturday is the $43,300 Violet Pace for three year olds fillies. The race is spearheaded by Fox Valley Exploit, who is 1 for 1 this year and paced the fastest qualifying time (1:54.4) of the nine entered.
The Meadowlands in New Jersey has an eye popping 18 race card on Saturday night, so there is plenty to do there to keep you busy.
Northfield Park in Ohio also has a big card. It consist of 16 races with 5 being The Buckeye Stallion Series 3 year old fillies.
On Sunday at Tioga Downs in upstate New York, there is triple header action in the $175,000 Roll With Joe Pace for three year old and up pacers, The 1st leg of the $100,000 New York Stallion series and the 1st leg of the $75,000 Gradutate for four year old pacers.
Around the Ovals
**** Trotters and pacers make their long-awaited return to action at Harrah’s Philadelphia this Sunday afternoon (June 21), with eight fast-class pacers lining up for the $14,400 seventh race featured event.
Starting from the rail is veteran gelding Ideal Jimmy, who returns to racing with Lasix and coming off two impressive qualifiers at the Wingate Farms Spa training center, on Monday finishing in 1:54.3
Trainer Chris Ryder, who trained last year’s 3-year-old champion Bettor’s Wish, has a a pair of sophomores to keep an eye on as they both come here off 2020 winning debutsin Moneyman Hill in the third race and Barrage Hanover in the 14th and final contest.
**** At The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in Wednesday qualifying races, an impressive freshman was the pacing colt Mullinax, a son of American Ideal out of the million-dollar-winning mare Up Front Kellie Jo. He paced his last half in :58.1 to roll pacesetter Thanos by a half-length in a 1:58.3 mile for trainer Mark Ford.