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Slumber takes his walk down Victory Lane after winning the Manhattan
Of the three Triple Crown races, the undercard of the Belmont Stakes has the most prestigious races on its undercard. This year, the 90,000+ fans and media who crammed Belmont Park on Saturday hoping to witness history were also treated to 9 stakes (8 graded) which preceded the main event including five Grade 1 events. Under the bright sun and temperatures in the mid 70's the main track was fast and the two turf courses were listed as good after overnight rain at the historic Long Island oval.
Slumber leads down the stretch
6-1 War Dancer dueled for the lead with 19-1 Legendary through fractions of 24.97, 50.34, 1:14.52, and 1:36.61 over the good course. Entering the lane, Legendary gained the lead but 14-1 Slumbe, 8th early, came out 4 wide for room and easily passed the pacesetters to win by 2 3/4 lengths over late-running favorite Big Blue Kitten in 2:01.23. It was a head back to Legendary third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 7 Slumber Ortiz Jr. 30.20 12.40 8.60 5 Big Blue Kitten Bravo 5.10 3.80 6 Legendary Prado 9.70 Winning Time: 2:01.23 $2 Exacta 7-5 146.00 $2 Trifecta 7-5-6 1,646.00 $2 Superfecta 7-5-6-3 15,526.00
Left: Slumber in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "He likes the clear, but we went too wide that day. Chad made a smart move and put some blinkers on. We gave it a chance and saved the ground and he was there when I called for him. He ran pretty good. The blinkers helped a lot." Trainer Chad Brown added, "I thought Irad got beautiful position early, and really he was moving so comfortable halfway through the race he just needed a hole. He was a winner every step really."
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Big Blue Kitten returns after the race. Trainer Chad Brown said, "Big Blue Kitten didn't get the greatest of trips. He was out of position a little early, and then they went so slow. He was too far back, and they really weren't going to come back. The way the race set up, you needed to be midpack or better to really have any chance to win, and there just was no pace."
The $1.25 million NYRA.com Metropolitan Handicap (G1) featured a field of 10 older horses going 1 mile around 1 turn of the main track. Last year's Belmont (G1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) winner Tonalist was sent off as the 8-5 favorite over 7-2 Bayern, winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), and 11-2 Wicked Strong, 3rd in the Excelsior (G3) last out.
6-1 Private Zone set the pace of 22.42, 44.92, and 1:08.74 while pressed by Bayern down the backstretch. 7-1 Honor Code, last for the first 5/8, came out 6 wide for room and rallied past the pacesetters to win going away by 3 3/4 lengths over late-running Tonalist in 1:33.18. It was another 2 lengths back to Private Zone third while Bayern faded to last.
Full results chart
Left: Honor Code in the winner's circle. Trainer Shug McGaughey, celebrating his first Met Mile win, said, "I was a little concerned with how far back we were, but he kicked today and the speed came back to him. I saw the fractions, but I was also watching Tonalist because I knew if he kicks that [the speed] will come back to him, too. We just kicked harder today. It means a lot to win the Met Mile. It's a race I've held in high esteem for a long time. I've just been beat in it a couple times. This is a big thrill for me."
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Tonalist returns after the race. Jockey John Velazquez said, "I thought we had a good trip, perfect trip. We were where we like to be. He settled OK -- got a little bit strong on the backstretch, so I put him right behind other horses and he settled -- and when I made my move (Honor Code) was faster than me."
A field of 10 older fillies and mares went 1 mile on the Widener turf course in the $700,000 Longines Just a Game Stakes (G1). Jenny Wiley (G1) winner Ball Dancing was sent off as the 3-1 favorite over last year's winner 4-1 Coffee Clique and 9-2 Tepin, winner of the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2).
Coffee Clique and 7-1 Discreet Marq contested the early pace through fractions of 24.87, 49.44, and 1:12.57 whle stalked by Tepin. Discreet Marq continued to lead to the 1/8 pole but Tepin came through late to win by 1/2 a length over 7-1 Filimbi in 1:35.65. It was another 3/4 length back to Discreet Marq third.
Full results chart
Left: Tepin in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Mark Casse said, "We didn't think there was a lot of speed in there. My biggest concern was I thought the turf was pretty soft. So I wasn't sure how she would handle that, but she'll rate. We're excited, we're going to go to Saratoga for the first time in a long time. When you win a Grade 1 in front of a Belmont Day Stakes crowd, it's pretty exciting." Jockey Julien Leparoux added, "I let the two horses in front just go ahead and then settled in third on the outside in the clear. Every time I asked her she was going, and she fought to the end. She kept digging and digging. On this kind of ground it was a little soft, so they don't show as much kick but she's got a big heart.
Right: Eighth place finisher and beaten favorite Ball Dancing in the post parade. The Chad Brown trainee has a record of 4 wins, 3 seconds, and 0 thirds in 10 starts, earning $719,282 for owners William S. Farish and Steve Mooney.
The first Grade 1 stakes on the card was the $1 million Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1) featuring a field of 6 older fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles around 1 turn of the main track. Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) and Apple Blossom (G1) winner Untapable was sent off as the 7-10 favorite over 2-1 Wedding Toast, winner of the Ruffian (G2), and 6-1 Princess Violet, winner of the Madison (G1).
Jockey Jose Lezcano sent Wedding Toast to the lead and she set fractions of 23.64, 46.62, and 1:10.28 while stalked by Princess Violet. Turning for home, Wedding Toast began to draw off. Untapable, 5th early, attempted to rally but to no avail as Wedding Toast cruised past the post 5 lengths in front in 1:40.21. It was a head back from Untapable to 16-1 House Rules third.
Full results chart
Left: Wedding Toast in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said, "Jose (Lezcano) made a great decision to go to the lead. I told him we were hoping to be laying third. He said, 'I'll cover up and we'll be laying third.' There didn't look like there was a lot of pace so he made a great decision when the gates opened. You have to make decisions. We can talk about it on paper, but it worked out great. They let her go easy and that was the difference. He deserves a lot of credit.
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Untapable returns after the race. Trainer Steve Asmussen said, "She didn't get away from there with a clean lead, the other mare did. I definitely thought she'd be in a better position early. There was a little dead wood between the winner and where she was, she wheeled out to go at her, but that filly took off and ran really fast to the wire."
The $750,000 Acorn Stakes (G1) features top 3-year-old fillies going 1 mile on the main track. Gazelle (G2) winner Condo Commando was sent off as the 3-1 favorite in the field of 12 off her 9th place finish in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Eight Belles (G3) winner Promise Me Silver was the 7-2 second choice over 11-2 Shook Up, second in the Kentucky Oaks.
Promise Me Silver set the early pace of 22.89 and 45.42 while stalked by 8-1 Miss Ella. On the far turn 30-1 By the Moon moved up to gain the lead through 3/4 in 1:09.67. 7-1 Curalina, 5th early, came out 4 wide for room and got up to win by a neck in 1:35.13. It was 3/4 length back to late-running 16-1 Wonder Gal third, while favorite Condo Commando was 9th.
Full results chart
Left: Curalina in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said, "We felt like she was one of our best 2-year-old fillies last year, unfortunately she had some baby stuff that she needed some time off for. She came back and ran impressively in both starts, we came here with the Acorn in mind and then she made it an easy decision by how well she trained. She got a horrible start. She got sandwiched from both sides. I thought she lost all chance right there. If you watch the head on replay, it was a pretty remarkable effort."
Right: Ninth place finisher and beaten favorite Condo Commando returns after the race. The Rudy Rodriguez trainee has a record of 5 wins, 0 seconds, and 0 thirds in 8 starts, earning $758,600 for owners Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables, and the Elkstone Group.
The first graded stakes on Belmont Day was the $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (G2) with 6 three-year-olds sprinting 7 furlongs on the main track. Competitive Edge, undefeated in 4 starts including the Pat Day Mile (G3) was sent off as the 2-5 favorite over 5-1 Two Weeks Off, 3rd in the Peter Pan (G2), and 8-1 Ready for Rye. third in the Bay Shore (G3)
Ready for Rye set the pace of 22.22 and 45.04 while stalked by 11-1 Cinco Charlie. At the top of the lane, Cinco Charlie moved up to take the lead through 3/4 in 1:08.87, but 10-1 March, 3rd early, put in his challenge and outfinished Cinco Charlie by a nose in 1:21.37. It was a long 5 1/2 lengtsh back to Ready for Rye third, while Competitive Edge was last.
Full results chart
Left: March in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Chad Brown said, "He's a come-from-behind sprinter and he runs really well fresh. He came off a layoff in the Bay Shore, and he ran so well we figured 'You know, let's just give him another layoff into the big race.' When it came up tough, we were really just hoping to grab a piece of it, and like races often can on big racing days, when they broke, everything changed. We were in a great spot, and our horse showed up."
Right: Last place finisher and beaten favorite Competitive Edge just past the finish line. Trainer Todd Pletcher said, "He didn't seem to fire and I have no good explanation for it. He was undefeated coming in and tasted defeat today. We'll regroup." Jockey John Velazquez added, "He didn't try very much at all. That's it. I was in tight, but it didn't really matter. I couldn't hold my position."
A field of 10 older horses contested the $300,000 Jaipur Invitational Stakes (G3) at 6 furlongs on the Widener turf. Elusive Quality Stakes winner Mosler was sent off as the 3-1 favorite over 7-2 Ageless, winner of The Very One, and 9-2 Something Extra, third in the Turf Sprint (G3) last out.
Something Extra and 5-1 fourth choice Power Alert dueled for the lead down the backstretch through fractions of 22.33 and 45.32. At the top of the stretch, Something Extra continued to lead, getting 5f in 57.14, but 11-1 Channel Marker, 4th early, came out 4 wide to win by a length in 1:09.48. I was another 1/2 length back to Ageless third. The race was marred by the breakdown of 7-1 Helwan at the 7/16 pole, requiring euthanization on the course.
Full results chart
Left: Channel Marker in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Philip Bauer said, "He broke running today and involved himself early. I was comfortable down the backside, and turning for home I knew he'd put in his rally. So we're thrilled, we're really thrilled. He likes (softer turf), I think Churchill might have been a little too hard for his liking and that's kind of what it took to get him his rhythm going. This horse is just as honest as they come, so he's a proud member of the family."
Right: Sixth place finisher and beaten favorite Mosler returns after the race. The Bill Mott trainee has a record of 4 wins, 1 second, and 0 thirds in 10 starts, earning $221,880 for owner Adele Dilschneider.
The $500,000 Brooklyn Invitational Stakes (G2) featured a field of 11 older horses (10 betting interests) going the Belmont Stakes trip of 1 1/2 miles on the main track. The Repole Stable entry of allowance winner Coach Inge and Excelsior (G3) 4th place finisher Micromanage was the 5-2 favorite. Excelsior Stakes winner Effinex was the 3-1 second choice over 7-2 V.E. Day, last year's Travers (G1) winner.
Coach Inge and 23-1 Call Me George dueled for the lead through fractions of 23.62, 49.20, 1:13.80, 1:38.80, and 2:03.21, while stalked by 4-1 fourth choice Sky Kingdom. Entering the lane, V.E. Day, 6th early, swept 4 wide to gain the lead at the 1/8 pole, but Coach Inge fought back to win by a neck in 2:27.17. It was a long 5 1/4 lengths back to Sky Kingdom third.
Full results chart
Left: Coach Inge in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said, "He came in off a very powerful allowance race and we just kind of had a feeling he'd handle the 1 1/2, so we've kind of been targeting this for awhile. It was a very legitimately run race. Plan A was we wanted to make the lead, but we were the next best thing stalking. He got into a good comfortable gallop and we were able to slow the second quarter down, that helped. Johnny (Velazquez) gave him a super ride."
Right: Second place finisher V.E. Day returns after the race. The Jimmy Jerkens trainee has a record of 4 wins, 2 seconds, and 0 thirds in 10 starts, earning $940,010 for owner Magalen O. Bryant.
The very first race on Belmont day, sent off at 11:35am, was the $150,000 WinStar Easy Goer Stakes for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles around one turn of the main track. After 2 scratches, just 3 horses faced the starter, with Louisiana Derby (G2) runner-up Stanford the 2-5 favorite over maiden winner 2-1 Japan and 9-2 Nonna's Boy off a 2nd place finish in tthe Gold Fever. Nonna's Boy was loose on the lead through fractions of 23.32, 46.42, and 1:10.42 but in the stretch, Japan ran by him to win by 1 1/4 lengths, with Stanford outfinishing Nonna's Boy by a neck for second money.
Full results chart
Japan in the winner's circle. Trainer Bill Mott said, "I said before the race he's the only horse that can upset American Pharoah. I just had him in the wrong race. It was good because they were trying to kind of tighten it up on him whenever they could in the stretch. Junior (Alvarado) got him out and got a clear run. He's just getting it together. He's a young, inexperienced, immature horse and he's just getting it together I'd say."
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