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Post Time: Kelso highlights rivals on Super Saturday

The only Grade 2 on a card filled with five Grade 1 races may prove to be the best race of the day on Super Saturday at Belmont Park. The $400,000 Kelso Handicap, a one turn mile that will qualify the winner for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita Park will serve as a rematch between two highly regarded foes.

On Memorial Day in the Met Mile, Shackleford (2-1) held off a charging Caleb’s Posse and To Honor and Serve (7-5) finished third in the hotly contested race.  The two rivals have taken different paths since that day in May to meet again on Saturday.

To Honor and Serve was beaten badly in the Suburban at Belmont in July, but came back to win the Grade 1 Woodward avenging his loss to Mucho Macho Man in July, out finishing him in late stretch. Trainer Bill Mott said he disliked the torrid heat on Suburban day and the weather has a big impact on his horse.

“He was fourth, beaten [7 ½ lengths] or so in the Suburban,” said Mott. “But that’s the reason we skipped the Whitney and gave him a little rest until earlier September in the hopes that the weather was cooling off a bit. And he seems to be doing well. I mean, he’s bounced back since then, since the Woodward, and I think part of it is because he does better in the cool weather. He feels good and eats better, and he actually seems as though he’s put on a little weight to me. In the last 10 days he looks like he’s filled back out a little bit.”

Shackleford had a longer layoff, and disappointed in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt at the Spa and then decided not to run later in the meet in the Forego after a cough sent him to the sidelines until this weekend. His work tab shows three solid breezes at Churchill Downs and trainer Dale Romans feels he is ready to roll.

 “[The September 23 breeze] was as good of a work as he’s ever had, and we did the right thing by skipping the Forego,” said Romans, who trains the chestnut 4-year-old colt. “We’re looking for a big effort from him.”  He also benefits from having top New York rider Ramon Dominguez in the irons on the former Preakness champion.

One telling handicapping sign is that Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez rode both Shackleford and To Honor and Serve in their respective last races, but has opted to ride To Honor and Serve in the Kelso.

Trainer Richard Dutrow sends out four horses, including James Marvin winner Pacific Ocean (12-1) and Trickmeister (8-1), a horse still looking for his first graded stakes victory.  To Honor and Serve’s only loss in four one-turn mile starts was in the Met Mile to Shackleford, winning the other three, all graded stakes.

One horse that I think might crack the board is Tapizar (6-1) for top trainer Steve Asmussen with Corey Nakatani up. He will be cutting back to the mile distance for the first time in five races and is a Grade 2 winner. I also think Jersey Town could bounce back after sporting a few decent workouts subsequent to his decent finish in the Forego.

Post Time Outlook: 1 – To Honor and Serve; 2- Tapizar; and 3 – Shackleford

Super Saturday Notes

* Friday’s card was cancelled on Thursday based on weather reports of heavy rain to protect the main track and turf course for Saturday’s big card.

* The Pick-6 will feature a $96,841 carryover into Saturday after no one hit the sequence for the second straight day on Thursday.

* The only graded stakes not in the Pick 6 sequence is the Grade 1, $400,000 Beldame Invitational. The Beldame, the fifth race on the card, will serve as the fifth meeting between Royal Delta and It’s Tricky.


The field for the Grade 2, $400,000 Kelso Handicap:









Isn't He Perfect

M Luzzi


R Dutrow



Golddigger's Boy

J Lezcano


R Preciado



Jersey Town



B Tagg




C Nakatani


S Asmussen



To Honor and Serve

J Velazquez


W Mott




R Dominguez


D L Romans



Gallant Fields

J Rosario


R Dutrow



Pacific Ocean

W Garcia


R Dutrow




C Velasquez


R Dutrow



Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at and tweets @EquiSpace.

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