Competitive Belmont Stakes crowns massive racing festival at Saratoga - (2024)

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Competitive Belmont Stakes crowns massive racing festival at Saratoga - (1)

1 of 2 | Belmont Stakes favorite Sierra Leone (R) works out at Saratoga on Saturday with stablemate Domestic Product. Cognianese Photography, courtesy of NYRA

June 7 (UPI) -- Saturday's Belmont Stakes won't crown a Triple Crown champion. But the race itself and the huge, stakes-laden, three days of racing surrounding it, which kicked off Thursday, have mushroomed into one of the biggest de facto festivals of the racing year.

The Belmont Stakes is moved this year to Saratoga Springs in upstate New York because Belmont Park on Long Island is being rebuilt. The boutique venue adds to the cachet, and the New York Racing Association has gone out of its way to build on that.


Seventeen stakes races were carded from Thursday through Saturday (Sunday's stakes are for state-breds). Fourteen are graded affairs including nine Grade 1's. Three are "Win and You're In" Challenge races for November's Breeders' Cup World Championships.

There are chances for horses from age 2 on up on both dirt and turf, from 5 1/2 furlongs to 2 miles.


There's more on the agenda. Santa Anita and Churchill Downs also have graded stakes and Delaware Park and Woodbine have worthwhile races, too.

Let's skim the top.

The Belmont

If the winners of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness face off in the Belmont Stakes, they'd be the focus of attention, right? Not this year.

The morning-line favorite for Saturday's third leg of the Triple Crown at Saratoga is Sierra Leone, runner-up in the Derby. And second on the line in Mindframe, making just his third start and first in a stakes race.

Derby winner Mystik Dan is 5-1 on the morning line and Preakness victor Seize the Grey is 8-1.

Whatever the outcome, the race to the 3-year-old championship won't be decided in here, especially if Epsom Derby winner City of Troy's connections make good on their hints he might be headed to America to join the fray.


Saturday's $350,000 Grade II Suburban at Saratoga features Bendoog, Crupi, Charge It and others going 1 1/4 miles.

Nash and Who Dey are the morning-line favorites in a solid field of 11 3-year-olds entered for Sunday's $400,000 Grade III Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs.


Sunday's $100,000 Affirmed for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita has a field of five, none of whom has won above the maiden level.

Dirt Mile

Breeders' Cup Classic winner White Abarrio and Pegasus World Cup winner National Treasure star among six entered for Saturday's $1 million Grade I Metropolitan Mile (the Met Mile) at Saratoga, a "Win and You're In" for the Big Ass Fans Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.


All of the first three from the Kentucky Oaks -- Thorpedo Anna, Just FYI and Regulatory Risk -- return for Friday's $500,000 Grade I Acorn at Saratoga.

Idiomatic goes for her seventh straight win and 10th from her last 11 starts in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Ogden Phipps at Saratoga, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff. Opponents include the 2023 Kentucky Oaks winner Pretty Mischievous.

Nothing Like You stands head and shoulders above just three rivals in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita. Oaks in April, while Saturday's $100,000 Lady's Secret at Monmouth Park has a bigger, more competitive cast.


Godolphin has a pair in Saturday's $1 million Grade I Resorts World Casino Manhattan at Saratoga. So do Christophe Clement and Chad Brown, who saddle the favorite, Program Trading. Joseph Patrick O'Brien brings Al Riffa, beaten only 1/2 length in the Group 1 Prix Ganay in his last start.


The Grey Wizard came with a remarkable rush in the final sixteenth to grab victory by a head in Thursday's $250,000 Grade II Belmont Gold Cup at Saratoga. The race was a "win and you're in" Golden Ticket to the Melbourne Cup in November, but winning trainer Graham Motion didn't sound anxious to exercise the option.

Filly & Mare Turf

Godolphin, trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick have another favorite on Friday's Saratoga card -- English Rose in the $750,000 Grade I New York.

Turf Mile

Brown saddles five of the seven fillies and mares entered for Friday's $500,000 Grade I Just a Game at Saratoga. They also are the five favorites on the morning line.

Trainer Bill Mott's remarkable 8-year-old Casa Creed tops the morning line, despite facing some tough ones in Saturday's $350,000 Grade III Poker at Saratoga, going 7 furlongs on the grass.

Turf Sprint

Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Jaipur at Saratoga, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, has a dynamite cast including No Nay Mets, Arzak, Big Invasion, Cogburn and Star of Mystery.

Roses for Debra is 2-for-2 going 5 1/2 furlongs on the Saratoga greensward, enough to make her the pick in Friday's $200,000 Grade II Intercontinental for fillies and mares.


Saturday's $225,000 Mighty Beau at Churchill Downs has a field of 11, and the oddsmaker could find nothing better than Nothing Better, who's the morning-line favorite.


Bookem Danno, who just missed upsetting Forever Young in the Saudi Derby, returns with the inside draw for Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Woody Stephens at Saratoga.

Gun Pilot, a rapidly improving 4-year-old, is the even-money favorite on the morning line for Saturday's $350,000 Grade II True North at Saratoga.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Almostgone Rocket was a rocket early and long gone at the finish of Thursday's $150,000 Jersey Girl for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga. The Into Mischief miss, trained by Brad Cox, won by 6 lengths over Dubai import Manama Gold.


Studlydoright chased down pacesetting favorite Touchy and ran on to win Thursday's $150,000 Tremont at Saratoga. The Nyquist colt was one of only three in the eight-horse field with previous experience, having won his debut at Laurel Park on May 5.

Juvenile Fillies

Whatintheliteral prevailed by a head after a race-long duel with Aoraki in Thursday's $150,000 Astoria at Saratoga, and then also survived an inquiry into some contact in the stretch. Long Neck Paula, trained by Wesley Ward, was the morning-line favorite, but was a late scratch.


Around the world, around the clock

After last weekend's Epsom thrills and an exciting Wednesday evening in Tokyo, it's a relatively quiet weekend.


Ramjet easily won Wednesday evening's Tokyo Derby on the Oi Racecourse dirt and his connections immediately set their sights on a challenge to Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Forever Young in the Japan Dirt Classic in October, and then an assault on the world's big dirt-racing prizes.

The Majestic Warrior colt romped by 6 lengths in Wednesday's race despite hesitating on the stretch turn.

"He will run in the Japan Dirt Classic [a local Grade 1 on Oct. 2 at Oi] after a summer break, and I want him to match with Forever Young," trainer Shozo Sasaki said.

"If possible, next year we will be able to see him challenge the overseas big races as well. ... He has not raced seriously yet."

Hong Kong

Trainer Douglas Whyte announced Tuesday that Russian Emperor has been retired.

The 7-year-old two-time Hong Kong champion stayer, by Galileo, will be remembered for two stunning upsets -- of Golden Sixty in the 2022 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup and Romantic Warrior in the 2023 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup -- and for a victory in the 2023 H H the Amir Trophy in Qatar.


"He's been an absolute star to be around," Whyte said.

Read More

  • Meet the 10 horses running in Saturday's Belmont Stakes
  • Belmont Stakes shapes up as showdown between Derby, Preakness winners
  • No Triple Crown this year doesn't mean rest of the season will lack thrills
  • Topics
  • Animals
  • Horse Racing
  • Belmont Stakes
  • Christophe Clement
  • Chad Brown
  • Bill Mott
  • Brad Cox
  • Wesley Ward
  • Matt Winn Stakes
  • Kentucky Derby

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Competitive Belmont Stakes crowns massive racing festival at Saratoga - (2024)
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