Belmont Spring/Summer Meet Starts April 28

Belmont Park 54-Day Spring/Summer Meet Filled with 62 Stakes Races and Many Activities

Racing returns to Belmont Park April 28 for its 54-day Spring/Summer meet. The three-day opening weekend is highlighted by the $100,000 Affirmed Success for New York-bred sprinters on Friday followed by a pair of turf stakes in the $150,000 Elusive Quality on Saturday, April 29, and the $150,000 License Fee on Sunday, April 30.

The three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will begin on Thursday, June 8 and conclude on Saturday, June 10 with 18 stakes races contested over the course of the Festival. Highlighting the Racing Festival is the 149th running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes. The Belmont Stakes Draw scheduled for Wednesday, June 7 at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan.

A total of 62 stakes races are scheduled during the Belmont Spring/Summer meet.

In addition, Belmont Park’s 2017 spring/summer meet activities include:

  • Dates: Friday, April 28 through Sunday, July 16
  • First Post Time: 1:30 p.m. EDT, gates open at 11:30 a.m. – except Kentucky Derby and Preakness Day, the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival and “Party at the Park” twilight racing.

Kentucky Derby Day:

  • Saturday, May 6 – College Day; commemorative Triple Crown clock giveaway; “Boot, Scoot, & Derby”; and family fun activities

Belmont Stakes Racing Festival:

  • Wednesday, June 7, Belmont Stakes Draw – Rockefeller Center in Manhattan
  • Thursday, June 8-live racing begins with
  • Friday, June 9 – food trucks, Taste NY, and live entertainment; live-money high-roller handicapping tournament (Day 1)
  • Saturday, June 10, Belmont Stakes Day – food trucks, strolling performers, parachuters in the infield, and color guard presentation; jockey autograph signing, and live entertainment; live-money high-roller handicapping tournament (Day 2)

Stars & Stripes Racing Festival:

  • Saturday, July 8 – food trucks; giveaway

“Party at the Park” twilight racing:

  • Dates: Fridays, June 2, June 16, June 23, June 30 and July 7
  • First Post Time: 3:05 p.m. EDT

Breakfast at Belmont:

  • Mother’s Day weekend – Saturday, May 13 and Sunday, May 14
  • Memorial Day weekend & Big Apple Showcase – Saturday, May 27 – Monday, May 29
  • Father’s Day weekend – Saturday, June 17 and Sunday, June 18
  • Stars & Stripes Festival weekend – Saturday, July 8 and Sunday, July 9
  • Time: 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
  • Admission and parking are free.

Stonetastic Takes Pumpkin Pie Stakes

Heavy Favorite Stonetastic Wires the Field in the Pumpkin Pie at Belmont

Stonetastic went wire-to-wire Sunday to win the $100,000 Pumpkin Pie Stakes at Belmont. The heavy 1-2 favorite showed the way in the six furlong sprint with fast fractions of 22.04 and 45.03 for the half mile, and then edge away and added to the margin to finish in a hand ride in 109.51.

Ridden by jockey Paco Lopez, the gorgeous gray 5-year-old mare by Mizzen Mast won for the eighth time and picked up $60,000 to increase her earnings to $876,062 in 21 starts. Stonetastic paid $3.10 to win and finished nearly 3-lengths in front of Saharan, who was second by a neck over Disco Chick.

Stonetastic, a multiple Grade 2 winner owned by Stoneway Farm, has finished first of second in seven of her last eight races. She is due to be bred next year.

“Now it’s a matter of trying to figure out if we race her one more time or not,” trainer Kelly Breen said. “We wanted her to go out a winner and now we’ll talk it over and see what we want to do.”

If Stonetastic races again, it could be in either the $125,000 Garland of Roses at Aqueduct on Dec. 10 or the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 17, according to Breen.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Breen said. “It’s getting to the end of a career of a really nice, talented filly. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Belmont’s 38-day Fall Meet concluded Sunday. The Pumpkin Pie Stakes and $100,000 Chelsey Flower for 2-year-old fillies on the turf were the final two stakes races of the meet. British-bred Create a Dream was the favorite in the Chelsey Flower and picked up her first North American stakes win in her second stateside start for trainer Chad Brown.

Royal Posse Slops Through to Win Empire Classic at Belmont

Royal Posse Wins Biggest Race on Empire Showcase Day  

Saturday was a big day at Belmont, which featured eight New York-bred stakes races. Heavy rains caused a number of scratches, but 53 horses still ran in those eight races and Royal Posse won the richest race; the $300,000 Empire Classic Handicap.

Royal Posse wins Empire Classic
Royal Posse wins Empire Classic

Rain fell throughout the day creating a sloppy track. Following the second race, the jockeys met with management to voice concerns about the condition of the track. But the track maintenance crew went over the surface before the Iroquois Stakes. The jockeys rode that race and then agreed to ride the remainder of the card.

Royal Posse was the day’s biggest winner, hitting his stride in the slop down the stretch to win by 3 ½ lengths. Off at 3-1 odds, he paid $7.90 to win with race favorite Governor Malibu closing hard to finish second. Royal Posse has now finished first or second in 13 straight races since being claimed by trainer Rudy Rodguez for owner Michael Dubb. He’s won seven of those starts and picked up $180,000 for winning the Empire Classic.

He’s a very, very game horse,” Rodriguez said. “When I see him close to the pace I was like ‘wow.’ He wants to run all day. You got to give a lot of credit to Irad, because he didn’t take him back.”

Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. teamed with Rodriguez to win the $250,000 Maid Of The Mist for 2-year-old fillies with Bonita Springs, the 6-5 favorite. She won by 5 1/4 lengths.

The program, billed as Empire Showcase Day, saw New York-breds take center stage with the following additional results.

Bar of Gold was the dominant winner of the day, taking the $250,000 Empire Distaff by 18 lengths as the 4/5 favorite. She paid $3.70 to win, improving to 5 for 5 against New York breds, all on wet tracks.

  • Pat On the Back pulled a 20-1 upset in the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow 2-year-olds, returning $43.20 to win.
  • Brother O’Connell edged Tapitation by a neck in the $200,000 Mohawk. He paid $11.20 to win.
  • Old Harbor, sixth in the race last year, rebounded to take the $200,000 Ticonderoga for fillies and mares. She paid $7.80 to win.
  • Quezon, the 1/5 favorite, took the $150,000 Iroquois for filly and mare sprinters by 5 1/4 lengths, paying $2.50 to win.
  • Breakin the Fever beat 2/5 choice Weekend Hideaway by a half-length in the $150,000 Hudson for sprinters, paying $8.30 to win.

 

Arella Rockstar Upsets in Matron

Arella Rockstar Rewards Bettors and Owner in Winning Matron at Belmont

Arella Rockstar turned more heads and gained a stronger following with Sunday’s $200,000 Matron (G3) win at Belmont Park. The juvenile filly also rewarded her long shot betting backers and owner in her second win in two starts.

Arella Rockstar pressed the pace early and hit the front in the lane and battled to the wire with the favorite, Cherry Lodge, before prevailing by 3/4 length. Spirituality was up for third. Arella Rockstar, a daughter of Astrology, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.68 with Luis Saez up and returned $27.20 to win at 12-1 odds in the field of five.

“That filly ran so big,” Saez said. “When I got on, I was thinking, ‘Man, she’s all right.’ When she broke from the gate, she was running. She never gave up.”

Owner Bob Edwards and trainer Rudy Rodriguez purchased the 2-year-old filly Arella Rockstar for $50,000 out of the 10th race at Saratoga Aug. 31. She won that day, and her stakes victory Sunday was part of four wins for trainer Rudy Rodriguez, who leads Chad Brown in the trainer standings 22-19 with two weeks remaining in the Belmont fall meet.

“I think she has a lot of guts. She’s a fighter,” said Rodriguez. “It looked like Cherry Lodge had her beat, but she had another gear. She looked good.” He continued, “We just wanted to take a chance and find a race for this filly,” said Rodriguez. “Once she broke her maiden, I didn’t want to ship her out of town I wanted to keep her home.”

Edwards is in his first year owning Thoroughbreds, and calls his recent run “beginners luck.” He races under the name e Five Racing Thoroughbreds, and two weeks ago won the Grade 3 Miss Grillo with New Money Honey, who is headed to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. “It’s a total team effort,” he said in crediting his trainers, blood stock agent and entire racing team.

Bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall, out of the Old Fashioned mare Story Untold, Arella Rockstar has $150,000 in earnings from her two victories.

Creator Wins Belmont Stakes in Photo Finish

Creator Closes From the Clouds to Win Belmont by a Nose

The play of the day was on the gray colt in the 148th Belmont Stakes Saturday, as Creator ‘closed from the clouds’ to win a photo finish over Destin. Actually, three gray horses finished 1-2-3 with Lani also closing hard for third. But it was trainer Steve Asmussen’s colt Creator, the son of Tapit, who split rivals in midlane to make steady progress on the leader Destin and nip him by a nose in Creator Belmont Nose 3 picthe final jump at the finish. It was the fourth time the Belmont was decided by a nose — the closest possible margin of victory.

“Today was perfect for us by inches,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, who will be inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame this summer at Saratoga. “Being the victor of the Belmont Stakes will look good on that plaque.”

Destin’s trainer Todd Pletcher called it a “tough beat” after Destin was the lone horse among the leaders to hold up down the stretch in the grueling 1.5 mile Belmont. He shook free and emerged with the lead at the eighth pole and dug in with determination before getting nipped at the finish line.

On a hot and sticky day at Belmont Park with the track rated fast, Creator, ridden by new jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., was sent off at 16-1 in the Belmont after finishing 13th in the Kentucky Derby and skipping the Preakness. With Ortiz urging him on Creator made his move into contention as they turned for home and then squeezed and split through horses before chasing down Destin in the final strides.

Creator returned $34.80, $14.60 and $9.40. Destin returned $9.40 and $6.20 and Lani paid $6.60. The $2 exact paid $269 and the $2 trifeca hit for $2,751.

The two race day favorites, Exaggerator at 7-5 and Suddenbreakingnews at 5-1 did not factor finishing 11th and 9th respectively.

“By the time we got to the eight pole, he was stepping on his tongue,” said Exaggerator’s jockey Kent Desormeaux, who said neither the track surface nor the traffic could be blamed. “I couldn’t have dreamt of a smoother ride.”

On one of racing’s biggest race days in the biggest race, Creator closed from the clouds and won the Belmont Stakes just before a heavy rainstorm broke over the track, bringing the Triple Crown season to a soggy close.

 

Exaggerator Looks Best at Belmont

Preakness Winner Exaggerator Poised for Another Big Run at Belmont

The 148th running of the Belmont Stakes is set for Saturday, and Preakness winner Exaggerator is the one to beat as the race favorite. Many fans and bettors are going to line up on the Curlin colt, who has shown a big closing kick along with sharp speed in a number of Grade 1 races including the Preakness, Santa Anita Derby and second place finish in the Kentucky Derby.

While just three of the last 15 Belmont Stakes favorites have crossed the finish line first, including last year’s Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, it’s clear that Exaggerator looks best as we near the starting gate Saturday.

His trainer, Keith Desormeaux says the dark bay colt is ready to run a big race at Belmont.

“You couldn’t get him any better than he is now. He’s very sound, he’s very fresh. He seems very confident,” Desormeaux told reporters after Exaggerator’s walk on a sunny but blustery cool Thursday at Belmont Park.

“I talk about his antics and his energy all the time but it’s controlled energy. It’s not nervous. He’s very confident and he should be sitting on a huge race.”

Desormeaux was unconcerned about starting so far outside in the one-lap race despite the short run to the first turn.

The starting gate is positioned at the finish line for the Belmont just three-sixteenths of a mile from the clubhouse turn.

“Just because it’s a little shorter run into the first turn here, it seems it would be a disadvantage to be on the outside,” Desormeaux acknowledged.

“If I had a speed horse, I’d be worried. But Exaggerator breaks, drops the bit and relaxes so he should have plenty of opportunity to drop in closer to the rail going into that first turn.”

Desormeaux’s optimism is further fueled by confidence in his jockey, Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux, the trainer’s younger brother who won the 2009 Belmont aboard Summer Bird among seven Triple Crown race victories.

“The more experienced, the more tactical hands you can have has got to be for the better, and I think I’ve got a pretty good jockey,” Keith Desormeaux said.

In addition, Exaggerator posted the highest Beyer Speed Figure (103) of any horse in the final Kentucky Derby prep races with his win in the Santa Anita Derby. He came out of the Derby in good shape and the won the Preakness on quick turnaround posting the best Beyer (101) in that race. If speed and stamina are key strengths to winning the grueling 1.5 mile Belmont, then Exaggerator looks best to Hall of Fame Jockey Gary Stevens as well.

“I think Exaggerator will win it (Belmont),” Stevens said. “It takes speed and stamina to win it. Speed is always dangerous in any race but you got to have stamina and you’ve got to have a patient ride.”

Met Mile a Magnificent Race

Met Mile Field Loaded for Saturday’s Super Stakes Card at Belmont

A huge weekend of racing is set for the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, and the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap is loaded with a talented field. The one-turn ‘Met Mile’ event on the main track is part of a nine graded stakes race card Saturday, June 11 that includes the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.

The ‘Met Mile’ is also a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup dirt mile November 5 at Santa Anita.

Heading the strong 13-horse field as favorite is Frosted, who finished second in last year’s Belmont Stakes following a fourth in the Kentucky Derby and a win in the Wood Memorial. Frosted won this year’s Al Maktoum Challenge in Dubai at Meydan in February. He’s one of two Grade I winners in the field along with Noble Bird, who wired the field by 11-lengths in winning the Grade 3 Pimlico Special May 20. The son of 2004 Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone seems to be “putting it all together” says his Belmont-based assistant trainer Randi Melton.

“Frosted couldn’t be doing any better. This race could be a little short for him, but we’re excited about it and I think there will be a lot of pace,” said trainer Kairan McLaughlin.

Also running for McLaughlin is Tamarkuz, who finished fourth in last year’s Met Mile and has not won since March, 2015 in the Godolphin Mile at Meydan.  Marking is getting respect in the betting market for McLaughlin despite not yet winning a stakes race and moving up in class. Ami’s Flatter is 2-for-3 this year after winning the Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland in April, but is also facing his strongest test yet.

Anchor Down will try to make it two in a row for trainer Todd Pletcher after winning a Grade II race here May 7. Also contending for Pletcher is Stanford and Blofeld, who “are horses that can adapt to different running styles depending upon the pace of the race.” Blofeld closed late at 9-1 odds to beat Stanford in the Gulfstream Park Handicap March 5. Stanford has improved as a 4-year old and won the Charlestown Classic wire-to-wire at 3-1 odds over favorite Donworth, who finished third. Donworth is a very big horse with tactical speed and now offered at a much bigger price.

Another long shot to keep an eye on is highly-rated and locally-stabled Upstart, who has nearly $1.5 million in earnings and is training very well with blinkers added and should be stalking the leaders. He won the Razorback Stakes (G3) in March and then had a disappointing trip in the Oaklawn Handicap in April, Finishing fifth just behind Blofeld.  

Met Mile, Race 9, Saturday, June 11 at Belmont Park

Post Position, Rider and Odds:

  1. El Kabeir, Manny Franco, 30-1
  2. Blofeld, John Velazquez, 10-1
  3. Donworth, Mario Gutierrez, 20-1
  4. Noble Bird, Julien Leparoux, 9-2
  5. Frosted, Joel Rosario, 7-2
  6. Upstart, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 20-1
  7. Stanford, Javier Castellano, 5-1
  8. Ami’s Flatter, Martin Garcia, 6-1
  9. Sloane Avenue, Florent Guroux, 15-1
  10. Tamarkuz, Luis Saez, 20-1
  11. Calbulator, Junior Alvarado, 10-1
  12. Anchor Down, Jose Ortiz, 12-1
  13. Marking, Jose Lezcano, 8-1

 

 

John Velazquez Fined; Jose Lezcano Not

The New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) has levied a fine of $500 to jockey John Velazquez in relation to a July 4th incident in which the jockey misused his riding crop on his horse Tonalist during the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont. Belmont1The jockey was accused by a racing steward of inappropriately whipping his horse. The allegation was supported by a state hearing officer deeming “substantial evidence” to find Velazquez guilty. The NYSGC voted 5-0 in favor of handing down the fine.

The lawyer representing Velazquez, Andrew Mollica, argued its common practice for riding crops to come into contact accidentally with the head or ear of a horse during the course of a race. “Our contention is it happens in every race. Why do you pick this one out?” Mollica wondered.

Mollica was awaiting access to the final report from the hearing officer, insisting Velazquez didn’t mean to “make contact with Tonalist’s head or ears.”

In a separate case regarding another one of Mollica’s clients, jockey Jose Lezcano was cleared of any wrongdoing stemming from a steward’s claim accusing him of violating two rules of striking his horse, Flag On the Play, with goggles during a race at Belmont on June 11.

In the case of Lezcano, Mollica declared victory, saying the ruling in favor of his client was “a great win because jockeys need to know what the rules are and aren’t. In this case there was no rule.”

According to Mollica, Lezcano’s riding crop was dropped during the midst of the race so he used goggles in order to urge his horse, a practice which other jockeys have used and weren’t fined for.