With one weekend remaining before the final leg of racing’s Triple Crown at Belmont Park next Saturday afternoon, with a fairly large sized field anticipated based on the current probable starters. For the second year in a row, we’ll have three different Classic winners in the Triple Crown series.
The current probable starters for the Belmont S. include the following:
Probable contenders for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes
Probable: Classic Empire (Mark Casse); Epicharis (Kiyoshi Hagiwara); J Boys Echo (Dale Romans); Lookin At Lee (Steve Asmussen); Meantime (Brian Lynch); Multiplier (Brendan Walsh); Senior Investment (Kenny McPeek); Tapwrit (Todd Pletcher); True Timber (Kiaran McLaughlin) and; Twisted Tom (Chad Brown)
Possible: Gormley (John Shirreffs); Irish War Cry (Graham Motion); Patch (Pletcher)
Let’s take a spin around the horn to see what’s cooking around and about the racetrack.
- Fort Erie debuted their 2017 season on Tuesday afternoon with an opening day card that resulted in betting handle of approximately $924,000 for the eight races. Last year’s opening day card handled over $1.1 million. The next live racing day will be Tuesday, June 6 at 4:20 p.m. Sunday racing begins on June 11 at 1:20 p.m.
- A quality field of 3-year-olds will run at Penn National in the $500,000 Penn Mile, a one-mile turf race which attained Grade 2 status for the current year’s race. Ontario-bred Time to Travel will try the turf for the first time for trainer Michael Matz. Javier Castellano will ride Big Score, who finished third in the American Turf on Kentucky Oaks day.
- Due to common ownership, Bonus Points, Shiraz and Prize Fight will all run as a coupled entry for wagering purposes.
- In addition to the Penn Mile, Penn National’s biggest day includes the $200,000 Penn Oaks; $150,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup and the $200,000 Mountainview Handicap. Castellano will ride Madefromlucky for trainer Todd Pletcher in the Mountainview.
- Churchill Downs will run the 29th Grade 3 Aristides Stakes, a six-furlong sprint with a purse of $100,000 that will feature the talented 5-year-old Limousine Liberal.
- The complete Aristides field from the rail out (with jockeys and morning line odds): Wabel (Ricardo Santana Jr., 15-1), Abbaa (Carlos Marquez Jr., 20-1), Union Jackson (Florent Geroux, 3-1), Wilbo (Albin Jimenez, 5-1), Recount (Chris Landeros, 5-1), The Truth Or Else (Channing Hill, 4-1), Schivarelli (Brian Hernandez Jr., 15-1) and Limousine Liberal (Corey Lanerie, 9-5). Limousine Liberal will carry 124 pounds, while all others will tote 120.
- The Belmont Stakes undercard is shaping up to be another big day highlighted by an appearance by Songbird in the Ogden Phipps.
- The $1.2 million Met Mile probables include Awesome Slew (Casse); Denman's Call (Doug O'Neill); Economic Model (C. Brown); Inside Straight (Robertino Diodoro); Mohaymen (McLaughlin); Mor Spirit(Bob Baffert); Rally Cry (Pletcher); Seymourdini (Rice); Sharp Azteca (Jorge Navarro); Solid Wager (Peter Miller); Tom's Ready (Dallas Stewart) and Tommy Macho (Pletcher). The likely favorite Connect (C. Brown), was removed from consideration after an injury suffered in his latest workout.
- The Ogden Phipps probables besides Songbird include Carina Mia (Bill Mott); Factory of Faith (Joe Sharp); Highway Star (Rodrigo Ubillo) and; Paid Up Subscriber (C. Brown).
- The one-mile Acorn has attracted Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman (Baffert); Benner Island (Cox); Florida Fabulous (Fawkes); My Miss Tapit (Pletcher); Nikki My Darling (Dominic Giglio); Salty (Casse); Sweet Loretta (Pletcher); Tequilita (Michael Matz) and; Union Strike (Ruis).
- Todd Pletcher has four of six probable entries in the $150K Tremont on Belmont Stakes Festival Friday. Could he pull off a cold tri or super?
- Mark Casse minced no words on the NTRA teleconference on Thursday asking why Cloud Computing wasn’t up for a rematch with Classic Empire after being rested six weeks for the Preakness. It looks like Classic Empire and Lookin at Lee will be the only two horses to complete the Triple Crown cycle.
- Classic Empire could be this year’s Hard Spun. A horse who runs well in all three Classic races without a win on the resume.
- Epicharis, will be eligible for NYRA's $1 million bonus offered to any Japan-based winner of New York's most prestigious race. It will be the second straight year that a horse from Japan (Lani) will contest in the Belmont. Introduced for the 2017 Triple Crown season, the entire $1 million bonus would be awarded to the winning Japanese horse's connections in addition to the $800,000 winner's share of the purse for the last and longest leg of the Triple Crown.
- Twisted Tom becomes the third Chad Brown starter in the Triple Crown series. Practical Joke finished fifth in the Derby and Cloud Computing won the Preakness.
The News will have Belmont coverage starting next Wednesday with the draw and through the weekend with undercard previews online and a Belmont preview on Saturday morning in print.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.