The day before the Belmont Stakes featured two stakes races, contested under sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70's. Just 5,474 paying fans were in attendance, all of which should be part of the 100,000+ expected on Saturday for the Belmont Stakes and its rich undercard.
The $250,000 True North Stakes (G2) featured a field of 7 older horses (after 2 scratches) sprinting 7 furlongs on the main track. Bakken, winner of his first two starts before disappointing 5th in the Malibu (G1) at Santa Anita, was sent off as the 2-1 favorite over 5-2 Dads Caps, winner of the Carter Handicap (G1), and 3-1 Salutos Amigos, winner of his last three in allowance company.
Down the stretch in the True North.
6-1 Marriedtothemusic set early fractions of 22.13 and 44.44 while pressed by Bakken to his outside. Entering the stretch, 9-1 Palace, 5th early, came out 3 wide for room and gained a short lead on Bakken at the 1/8 pole through 5/8 in 56.10. In late stretch, Palace pulled away to win by 3/4 lengths in 1:08.29. It was another length back to Salutos Amigos third.
Left: Palace in the winner's circle. Jockey Jose Ortiz said, "I knew there was a lot of pace in the race, and I knew he had a chance to win because he can close, and that's what happened. He broke very sharp and was in perfect position. When I asked him to go, he went. A good horse, a lot of class. Linda did a tremendous job with him."
Right: Palace in the post parade. Winning trainer Linda Rice said, "He just didn't care for the (Aqueduct) inner track so I took him to Maryland for the General George. He bled through the Lasix and ran really a subpar effort for him, so I turned him out for 60 days, and he came back great. He was barely fit enough to run, but he trained very well coming into the race. The race looked like it had a lot of speed and it set up well for him, and he really likes Belmont. This horse will press early or he can settle; he's a gem to ride."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Bakken returns after the race. Jockey Javier Castellano said, "I had a beautiful trip; I was just second-best today. We hooked up with the winner at the top of the stretch, and he just showed a little more today."
Right: Third place finisher Salutos Amigos in the paddock before the race. The 3-1 third choice raced in 6th early under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., then came out to rally late to finish third beaten 1 3/4 lengths. He improved his record to 4 wins, 1 second, and 3 third in 18 starts, earning $240,806 for co-owner and trainer David Jacobson and co-owner Southern Equine Stable.
The last race of the card was the inaugural running of the $200,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational, contested at 2 miles around 3 turns of the Widener Turf Course. Draw Two was sent off as the lukewarm 3-1 favorite in the field of 11, winner of an allowance at Keeneland last out. In to challenge him included 7-2 second choice Twilight Eclipse, 12th in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) after winning the Mac Diarmida (G2), and 11-2 third choice Charming Kitten, 4th in the Dixie (G2).
40-1 Comes the Dream, 8-1 Mambo Man, and Twilight Eclipse battled for the lead through fractions of 52.57, 1:43.94, 2:09.28, and 2:33.48 over the course rated "good". On the far turn, Twilight Eclipse took over the lead through 1 3/4 in 2:57.49. However, he tired in the stretch as Charming Kitten, 5th early, came out 4 wide and outfinished 11-1 Irish Mission by 1 length in 3:21.52. It was just a nose back to late-running 26-1 Reflecting third, while favorite Draw Two failed to rally and finished 9th.
Full results chart
Left: Charming Kitten in the winner's circle with trainer Todd Pletcher at his hip. Winning owner-breeder Ken Ramsey said, "I've got the sire, and a rising tide raises all ships, you know? So that makes all the rest of them worth something, and it increases the distance factor - I mean, two miles, that's good advertising. We may have a grinder there today, but he got the job done. That's the first two-mile winner for the sire."
Right: Charming Kitten in the post parade. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "It worked out perfect. He broke really well and got into a really nice position, and he was tugging me along the whole way around. He was going well the whole way around and when we got to the half-mile pole, I tried to move a little bit and put him in the clear. He was tugging me so long that when I went to ride him, it took him an eighth of a mile to get back into the race. Finally, when he got down the lane he started running again, so it worked out good."
Left: Second place finisher Irish Mission returns after the race. Trainer Christophe Clement said, "She ran well. She needs a little bit farther."
Right: Third place finisher Reflecting in the post parade. The 26-1 shot was last early under jockey Joel Rosario then rallied late to get third beaten just 1 length. The Shug McGaughey trainee improved his record to 3 wins, 1 second, and 4 thirds in 18 starts, earning $202,973 for owner-breeder Phipps Stable.
Ninth place finisher and beaten favorite Draw Two in the post parade. The 3-1 choice was 6th early under Edgar Prado but faded late to finish 9th beaten 18 3/4 lengths. The Graham Motion trainee has a record of 3 wins, 3 seconds, and 1 third in 11 starts, earning $219,140 for owner Dennis Narlinger.
Triple Crown quick links:
Tonalist upsets in the Belmont Stakes - He just got up to beat pacesetter Commissioner by a head with Medal Count third at Belmont Park on Saturday. Heavy favorite California Chrome had a bad start finished in a dead heat for 4th with Wicked Strong. Get the results, chart, and photos here.
True North Stakes and Belmont Gold Cup - Friday before the Belmont Stakes was headlined by the True North Stakes (G2) won by Palace along with the first running of the 2 mile Belmont Gold Cup won by Charming Kitten. Get the results, charts, and photos here.
Belmont Stakes Friday Photos - Photos from the morning works on the Friday before the 2014 Belmont Stakes, including California Chrome, Commanding Curve, Tonalist, and Ride On Curlin.
2014 Belmont Entries - A field of 11 was entered with California Chrome the favorite at 3-5 breaking form post 2. Check out the horses with post positions, morning line odds, full profiles and free past performances here.
Belmont Stakes Workout Photos - Photos from the morning works on the Saturday before the 2014 Belmont Stakes, featuring Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome in his final timed work before the big race. Also out were Commanding Curve, Tonalist, and Ride On Curlin.
Analyzing the Belmont Stakes Contenders - My annual analysis using popular angles and statistical trends to see who best matches the profile of a Belmont winner. California Chrome is not alone on top!
California Chrome romps in the Preakness (G1) - He took charge in the stretch and won by 1 1/2 lengths over late closing Ride On Curlin on Saturday at Pimlico with Social Inclusion 6 1/2 lengths farther back in third. Get the results, chart, and photos here.
Preakness Undercard Stakes Results - There were 7 other stakes on Preakness day including the Dixie (G2) won by Utley and the Gallorette Handicap (G3) won by Somali Lemonade. Get the results, charts, and photos for all 7 races here.
Stopchargingmaria wins the Black-Eyed Susan - Stopchargingmaria duelled with Vero Amore down the stretch and won by a neck in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) on Friday at Pimlico with Fortune Pearl third and favorite Sloane Square 9th. On the undercard, Revolutionary won the Pimlico Special (G3). Get the results, charts, and photos for all the stakes on the card here.
2014 Preakness Thursday Photos - Nine of the 10 Preakness entrants are at the Pimlico stakes barn and most of them went out on a foggy Thursday morning. Check out photos for each here.
2014 Preakness Entries - A field of 10 was entered on Wednesday with Derby winner California Chrome the 3-5 favorite drawing post 3. Check out the horses with post positions, morning line odds, and free past performances here.
California Chrome wins the Kentucky Derby - California Chrome stalked the pace then took the lead after a mile and drew off to win the Kentucky Derby (G1) by 1 3/4 lengths over longshot Commanding Curve and Damza. Get the results, charts, and photos here.
Analyzing the Top Derby Contenders - My annual analysis of the top contenders to try and select a winner by matching each to the profile of a Kentucky Derby winner using many of the more popular angles and statistical trends.
Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard - the points earned by contenders in these designated prep races are what will determine who gets in the Kentucky Derby and Oaks at entry time this year. Updated weekly.
Review: Triple Crown Handicapper 2014 - by Jim Mazur. Includes lots of stats for all 3 races and explains how to use a system of statistically derived negative angles to eliminate the bad picks. Revamped for 2014 to new format with additional info.
Security still tight for 2014 - if you are going to the Derby or Oaks be sure to check here to find out what you can bring in with you. The enhanced security from last year is back again so no big cameras, camcorders, big purses, or coolers. Check here to make sure you don't bring anything they will confiscate.
Kentucky Derby Future Wager - This year there were 4 pools starting in November of 2013 plus a single pool for the Oaks. Surprisingly, thie field of all other 3-year-olds was the favorite in all 4 pools.