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Submitted by John DaSilva on Friday, July 6, 2018 at 4:43 PM

Belmont Graded Stakes Preview,
John DaSilva

I’ve been waiting weeks for the development of the 5 Graded Stakes races that comprise Belmont’s STARS & STRIPES DAY” lineup for this Saturday.

On Wednesday these races filled and they are everything both a racing fan and especially a handicapper and bettor could hope for.

First off, there will not be close to an unmatched overwhelming favorite in any of the five races. Each race has multiple entrants who will be seen in the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs on Friday, November 2 and Saturday, November 3rd.


From the top 3-year old Turf marathon boys and girls in the 10 furlong Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes and Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes respectively to the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes which features the return to racing of Mendelssohn, the UAE Derby winner who fell on hard times in the Kentucky Derby and the likes of Derby expatriates Noble Indy and Firenze Fire plus a quartet of strong late-season developers, some of the best sophomores in racing are all assembled at Belmont on Saturday.

In the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes, Catholic Boy and Analyze It, who ran one-two by a neck in the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge here 5 weeks ago will renew that rivalry. Each of those two will be stretching out after their front running ding-dong battle and will be challenged to prove their stamina.

Also exiting the Pennine Ridge will be Channel Cat, a dedicated late closer who should appreciate the extra furlong from the Pennine Ridge. There appears to be more than enough pace to assist this longshot son of English Channel.

In addition to Catholic Boy and Analyze It, pace should come from Encumbered, who in his 2018 debut reversed his juvenile form and battled on the front end in the Pennsylvania Mile in his last.

Also exiting the Penn Mile are Maraud, who battled for that lead before fading a bit late and the dominant winner of the race, Hawkish, who is maturing quickly and though he has never been further than a mile in his four career starts has shown terrific tactical speed and has the bloodline (Artie Schiller) for the distance.

Also contributing to a great pool spread in the win-place-show and exotic pools are a pair of first time North American shippers from Europe. Aiden O’Brien sends over Hunting Horn, the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes winner at Ascot just 16 days ago. From France comes Kingstar, the winner of the 1 5/16ths mile Prix de Champerrel on June 2.

And if that is not enough, trainer Keith Desormeaux returns My Boy Jack, the Southwest Stakes and Lexington Stakes winner who was a sneaky good 5th in the Kentucky Derby in his last race, to the turf, where he began his career.

This race might be our biggest score opportunity of the day.

In the filly division of the 10 furlong turf stakes, the Belmont Oaks Invitational, the field is so competitive that the Morning Line Maker has listed the favorite, Significant Form at 7-2.

To highlight this point about competitiveness, every filly in the field has either won or been placed in a Graded or Group race. That includes a Group 1, a Grade 2 and 6 combined Group and Grade 3 Winners.

Significant Form was the 4-5 beaten favorite in the Grade 3 Wonder Again Stakes at 9 furlongs over this same Inner Turf Course 4 weeks ago and caught 5 wide might have been best.

Back to attempt topping her again will be La Signare, who will be making her third NA start after going wire-to-wire in the Wonder Again.

Hoping to follow in La Signare’s successful hoof steps will be a pair of first time stateside starters. Chipolata, who was second and third in a pair of handicaps in France, traveling 11 and 10 furlongs respectively in her last two will make her first start in the U.S. from the barn of Christophe Clement. The other visitor is Aiden O’Brien’s Camelot filly Athena who was a solid 3rd in the 10 furlong Group 1 Juddmonte Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh in her most recent.

Not to plan on playing a supporting role is Capla Temptress, who made a visit to the states as a juvenile to win the Group 1 Natalma Stakes at Woodbine before a troubled 5 wide stretch run in the BC Juvenile Filly Turf. She will make her second 3-year old start after a less than a length beaten 4th in a Group 1 test in France in mid-May.

The remaining NA contingent will not make it any easier. The Quality Road filly Paved has won 3 of her last 4, each at 9 furlongs, including the Grade 2 Honeymoon at Santa Anita 4 weeks ago and her blood lines and tactical speed should play well at 10 panels.

Scat Daddy filly Toinette has won her last three, including the Grade 3 Edgewood at Churchill Downs in her most recent and should handle the distance.

The Graham Motion trained filly Thewayiam has 4 wins and a pair of seconds from 7 starts since coming from Europe last year and has fired late in those 6 wins or placings, a pair of them Grade 3 triumphs.

Fatale Bere will look to rebound to the form that found her in the winner’s circle in the Grade 3 Providencia Stakes two back, while Mighty Scarlet hails from the Chad Brown barn and has every reason to improve off her late run third place effort in the Grade 3 Wonder Again in just her third career start last out.

As I mentioned, the Morning Line maker installed the favorite at 7-2 for this one and I would not be surprised to see the favorite go off at the high side of 4-1.

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In the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes, Aiden O’Brien has returned with Mendelssohn and more than one disappointed Kentucky Derby bettor will be looking for retribution.

By now the horror story of the start and easing as the third betting favorite behind Justify and (the unexpected) My Boy Jack has been exhausted.

Mendelssohn, on his UAE Derby performance form is the colt to beat, so it remains to be seen if he recoups a North American career.

Also looking to move up during the second half of their 3-year old campaigns are Kentucky Derby expatriates Noble Indy, who was as awful in the Belmont Stakes as he was in the Kentucky Derby and Firenze Fire, the Grade 1 Champagne winner over this surface as a juvenile but who has struggles as a sophomore. He has worked well for his return and no trainer on the grounds is hotter than Jason Service at the meet…48% winners from 31 starters heading into Thursday’s racing.

Aiden O’Brien will also have Mendelssohn’s uncoupled stable mate Seahenge entered in the Dwyer. The son of Scat daddy was well beaten by Mendelssohn in the UAE Derby and was up the track in the Pat Day Mile on Kentucky Derby Day.

Seven Trumpets will try Graded opponents again after a solid third level allowance win at Churchill in his most recent. The well-regarded Tapit colt Rugbyman looks to be sitting on a huge effort while last out maiden winner Fixedincome Larry has to be considered the outsider but comes from the very capable barn of Jeremiah Englehart.

These three sophomore races could not be more intriguing or competitive and will be run as part of the 5 Graded Stakes races which comprise Belmont Park’s annual STARS & STRIPES DAY.

The lineup is completed by the Grade 2 Suburban Stakes, which features 11 of the leading older stakes division horses and the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship which is a Breeders’ Cup Win-And-You-Are-In Challenge Race.


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