Belmont Derby Features Competitive International Field
The Stars and Stripes Festival starts Saturday at Belmont Park, and a pair of prestigious Grade I races highlight the 6-stakes race card. The Belmont Derby got a purse increase in 2014 and this year’s race is run at 1 1/4 miles and has a $1,250,000 purse. A highly competitive, international field of 13 sophomore colts will take to the inner turf.
Aidan O’Brien is an Irish horse racing trainer in Ireland who has won 22 percent of his horses races over the past 90 days covering more than 300 races. He has a pair of fine colts in here including Deauville (4-1), who will break from the outside post and cut back to 10 furlongs following his out of the money finish at 12 furlongs last time out. First time Lasix and Deauville is bred for distance and was second by a neck going 1 ¼ miles May 12 while rallying to slow fractions. Long Island Sound (7/2) is the ‘A’ entry for O’Brien who was third last out in the Grade III Tercentary going 10 furlongs last out at Royal Ascot. Those Grade III races are closer in class to a Grade I in the U.S. The Kentucky-bred colt by War Front was an $800,000 weanling purchase and is a top contender here. Humphrey Bogart (5-1) is another European horse who finished in front of Deauville when fifth in the Investec Derby at 25-1 June 4.
The top American choices in the 13-horse field are Camelot Kitten, Beach Control, Airoforce and longshot Highland Sky. Camelot Kitten is one of three Chad Brown-trained colts running, and the kitten has won his last two races. That includes this race’s local prep June 4 in the Pennine Ridge Stakes going 1 1/8 miles as the 9/5 favorite. He somehow went off at 18-1 when he crossed the finish line first by a head May 7 at Churchill in the American Turf. Irad Ortiz Jr. stays aboard for the ride.
Camelot Kitten (5-1) has a pair of wins and three places in six starts with both wins over Belmont’s inner turf course.
He likes Belmont,” said Brown, noting the colt’s local record. “And he is undefeated with the addition of blinkers.”
American Turf runner up Beach Patrol (12-1) can turn the tables this time and was the 5-1 third choice that day. Surgical Strike (15-1) can close in here as he did to finish third in that race May 7. The circuits leading rider Jose Ortiz takes the mount with a shot to surprise. Highland Sky (8-1) continues to improve in his 3-year-old season, and he was coming fast and furious down the lane running the final 1/8 mile in 11.1 seconds to finish second to Camelot Kitten in the Pennine Ridge as the 5/2 second choice.
Airoforce (10-1) returned to his preferred surface in the American Turf on the Kentucky Derby undercard, controlling the early pace before getting reeled in late to finish fourth. In the Penn Mile, Airoforce was forced to take back early after breaking off balance before regrouping with a late charge in the stretch to finish second to stablemate Catch a Glimpse.
“He was off form at the beginning of the year, but he need the race on Derby Day and I thought he had a tough trip in the Penn Mile. I really think he’s sitting on a big one on Saturday,” said Norm Casse, head assistant to his father.
Airoforce stretches to this longer distance for the first time, but is expected to enjoy the extra ground. “He’s a horse that doesn’t run as well when he gets pressed or whenever the pace is a little hotter,” said Casse. “I think he showed a new dimension last time, that he can sit off of horses. The race, going from a mile to a mile and a quarter, the pace will be a little bit slower, he’ll be able to relax a little bit more early, and I actually think that will actually be better for him.”
NBC will provide live coverage from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm, ET. The Belmont Derby, Belmont Oaks and Suburban are slated to be broadcast live. The audio is available for free on the NYRA website, and you can bet the races online at TwinSpires.
Belmont Park — Race 8 — G1 Belmont Derby Invitational– One and one-quarter miles on Inner Turf — post time 4:38 PM ET