With one weekend remaining before the final leg of racing’s Triple Crown at Belmont Park next Saturday afternoon, with a modest field anticipated based on the current probable starters. Preakness winner War of Will attempts to become the 11th horse to complete a Preakness-Belmont double since 1940 and the 19th in history.
The current probable starters for the Belmont S. include the following:
Probable contenders for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes
Probable: Everfast (Dale Romans), Intrepid Heart (Todd Pletcher), Master Fencer (Koichi Tsunoda), Sir Winston (Mark Casse), Spinoff (Todd Pletcher), Tacitus (Bill Mott), Tax (Danny Gargan), War of Will (Mark Casse). Possible: Joevia (Greg Sacco)
[UPDATE: Bourbon War has been added to the field by trainer Mark Hennig]
Let’s take a spin around the horn to see what’s cooking around and about the racetrack.
- Fort Erie debuted their 2019 season on Tuesday afternoon with an opening day card that resulted in betting handle of $1.2 million, an 11 percent increase over last year. Despite a rainy start and cooler temperatures for the season opener at the 122-year-old track, an excellent crowd swarmed to the border oval for racing.
- Racing fans at Fort Erie noticed a lot of updates to the venue, including a brand-new infield screen and televisions broadcasting a new high-definition signal. Freshly painted grandstand seating, paddock, clubhouse and dining room were among the many improvements, as well as new flooring and furniture in the Turfside Dining Room, and new patio furniture at the Tiki Bar. The next live racing day will be Tuesday, June 4 at 4:20 p.m. Sunday racing begins on June 9 at 1:20 p.m.
- After suffering a heartbreaking loss by less than a length to undefeated Digital Age in the Grade 2 American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, rising three-year-old grass star A Thread of Blue will seek to resume his speedy dominance Saturday in the 7th running of the Grade 2, $500,000 Penn Mile at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course. Post time is 7:50 p.m. EDT for the Penn Mile.
- In addition to the Penn Mile, Penn National’s biggest day includes the $200,000 Penn Oaks; $100,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup, $100,000 Penn Ladies Dash and the $100,000 Susquehanna Stakes. The Governor’s Cup, a five-furlong turf sprint that attracted multiple graded stakes winner Pure Sensation.
- Churchill Downs will run the 31st Aristides Stakes, a six-furlong sprint with a purse of $125,000 that will feature Hot Springs Stakes runner-up Share the Upside. Post Time for the Aristides (Race 10) is 10:42 p.m. EDT on Saturday evening.
- The complete Aristides field from the rail out (with jockeys and trainers): Crow (Tyler Gaffalione, Ben Colebrook); Control Stake (Miguel Mena, Greg Foley); Share the Upside (Santana, Asmussen); Zipp On By (Edgar Morales, Rey Hernandez); Petrov (Jack Gilligan, Ron Moquett); Wilbo (Lanerie, Hartman); and Kowboy Karma (Gabriel Saez, Larry Jones).
- The Belmont Stakes undercard is shaping up to be another big day highlighted by an appearance by Bricks and Mortar in the $1 million Manhattan H. where he will take on Channel Maker.
- The loaded $1.2 million Met Mile probables include Coal Front (Todd Pletcher); Firenze Fire (Jason Servis); Mitole (Steve Asmussen); McKinzie (Bob Baffert); Promises Fulfilled (Dale Romans); and Thunder Snow (Saeed bin Suroor).
- The $700,000 Ogden Phipps probables are Come Dancing (Carlos Martin), Electric Forest (Brown), Escape Clause (Don Schnell), Midnight Bisou (Steve Asmussen), Pacific Wind (Brown)
- The one-mile $700,000 Acorn has attracted Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress (Amoss); Bell's the One (Neil Pessin), Cookie Dough (McLaughlin), Guarana (Chad Brown), Jeltrin (Alexis Delgado), Proud Emma (Peter Miller); and Queen of Beas (Jorge Abreu).
- It looks like War of Will will be the only horse to complete the Triple Crown cycle of races this year.
- Looks like the misstep that Master Fencer took on Wednesday morning won’t stop him from competing next Saturday, all systems go for the Japanese invader.
- The Belmont S. post position draw is scheduled for next Tuesday evening June 4 at Citi Field preceding the Mets-Giants baseball game. This is the second straight year the draw will be held at the major league venue.
The News will have Belmont coverage starting next Tuesday 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.