ELMONT – The Belmont Stakes undercard continues to deliver one of racing’s biggest days. The card includes eight graded stakes races on tap before the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, starting with the Grade 2 Brooklyn. The Grade 1 Acorn will feature the Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Talsman (pictured). The Grade 1 Ogden Phipps includes superstar filly Songbird, winner of 11-of-12 career races.
The eight races below will lead up to the final jewel of this year’s Triple Crown season. Let’s take a look at the undercard and my top three selections of each race:
Race 3 –Grade 2 Brooklyn H. (Post Time: 12:39 p.m.)
The graded stakes portion of the card kicks off with the mile-and-a-half Brooklyn. It looks like a two-horse race between 5-Tu Brutus (2-1) and 4-Send It In (7-5). [UPDATE: Send It In scratched] Tu Brutus comes off a winning 1 3/8-mile performance in the Flat Out S. and should have no troubles with the distance. 1-Governor Malibu (8-1) ran well after a troubled trip in the Belmont last year and could surprise. 7-War Story (6-1) draws Castellano and looks third best.
Selections: 1 – Tu Brutus; 2 – Governor Malibu; 3 – War Story
Race 4 – Grade 1 Acorn (Post Time: 1:11 p.m.)
1-Union Strike (8-1) seems juicy at 8-1 odds and a pace that looks to set him up perfectly from a stalking trip. He just missed catching 5-Benner Island (6-1) in Louisville and the added distance could be the difference. 3-Abel Talsman (2-1) had a perfect setup in the Oaks at 9 furlongs, not likely to happen again. 2-Florida Fabulous could be dangerous speed on the front end. 8-Salty (4-1) had a tough trip in the Oaks and should enjoy the cutback for Mark Casse. It’s a relatively small field, but one of the more competitive races on the card.
Selections: 1 – Union Strike; 2 – Abel Talsman; 3 – Salty; 4 – Benner Island
Race 5 – Grade 1 Ogden Phipps S. (Post Time: 1:52 p.m.)
5-Songbird (1-2) is one of racing’s superstars and should handle this field. 7-Carina Mia (6-1) has finished second twice to the champ and will hope third time is the charm. 2-Paid Up Subscriber (8-1) ran a sneaky good fourth in the La Troienne at Churchill Downs and looks third best in here.
Selections: 1 – Songbird 2 – Carina Mia 3 – Paid Up Subscriber
Race 6 – Grade 3 Jaipur Invitational S. (Post Time: 2:34 p.m.)
I’m a sucker for 4-Green Mask (7-2), one of my favorite horses who rarely disappoints. 3-Pure Sensation (3-1) is the horse for the course, 2-for-2 at Belmont and the distance. 2-Disco Partner (6-1) looks like he’s sitting on a big one for Christophe Clement and retains Irad in the irons.
Selections: 1 – Green Mask; 2 – Pure Sensation; 3 – Disco Partner
Race 7 – Grade 2 Woody Stephens S. (Post Time: 3:15 p.m.)
3-Recruiting Ready (6-1) was super impressive on the Preakness undercard winning the Chick Lang and looks to be coming into his own. He steps up in class and will be challenged by Pat Day winner 7-Wild Shot (4-1) in a very competitive race. Chad Brown sends out 10-Long Haul Baby (5-1) who comes off a win in the Grade 3 Bay Shore at Aqueduct.
Selections: 1 – Recruiting Ready; 2 – Wild Shot; 3 – Long Haul Baby
Race 8 – Grade 1 Just a Game S. (Post Time: 3:58 p.m.)
Race seems fairly formful, and 1-Dickinson (5-2) comes off three straight wins including an ultra-impressive win in the G1 Jenny Wiley over the talented Lady Eli. Recently, Lady Eli came back to win the G1 Gamely at Santa Anita. 2-Roca Rojo (9-5) is the tepid favorite after winning a bob at Churchill on Derby day. Watch out for 8-Sassy Little Lila (8-1) cutting back in distance and likely on the engine for trainer Brad Cox.
Selections: 1 – Dickinson; 2 – Roca Rojo; 3 – Sassy Little Lila
Race 9 – Grade 1 Mohegan Sun Metropolitan H. (Post Time: 4:41 p.m.)
California shipper 9-Mor Spirit (5-2) has been training superbly for Bob Baffert and looks to be the part . Add Mike Smith to the mix and he’s on top of my Met Mile ticket. 8-Tom’s Ready (15-1) is a live longshot who pulled the big upset in the Woody Stephens last year at double-digit odds. Hall of Fame-elect jockey Castellano is in the irons for trainer Dallas Stewart. 5-Sharp Azteca (7-2). Jockey Paco Lopez will try and avert a Dubai bounce after a solid third in the Godophin Mile at Meydan.
Selections: 1 – Mor Spirit; 2 – Tom's Ready; 3 – Sharp Azteca
Race 10 – Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan S. (Post Time: 5:37 p.m.)
Chad Brown is looking to win his fourth straight Manhattan and enters three of the nine starters. 4-Time Tell (5-1) is a Group 2 winner in Europe and will be coming in second off the layoff, second time lasix. With turf ace Castellano aboard he’s the pick. 3-World Approval (3-1) won the paceless Dixie on Preakness day against a weak field. 7-Divisidero (4-1) is always dangerous and fits with these, although he runs his best at Churchill.
Selections: 1 – Time Tell 2 – World Approval 3 – Divisidero
Be sure to check Saturday’s print edition for my Belmont Stakes preview.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.