Belmont Park Notes - May 23
By NYRA Press Office | 05/23/2014 02:26 PM ET
Contingent of California Chrome challengers to breeze this weekend at Belmont
Daring Dancer to face salty bunch in $200,000 Wonder Again
Impressive debut winner Giantinthemoonlite possible for Mike Lee on May 31
Tom Durkin Twitter contest underway
Several of the horses who are slated to challenge California Chrome in the 146th running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 7 are scheduled to breeze this weekend at Belmont Park.
Robert Evans' Tonalist, a four-length winner of the Grade 2 Peter Pan on May 10 at Belmont, likely will breeze tomorrow at 6 a.m. on the main track, according to trainer Christophe Clement.
"Tomorrow or Sunday, most likely tomorrow," said Clement. "First set, only if the track is good. If not, we'll wait until the next day."
Tentatively scheduled to breeze on Sunday are Wicked Strong, Samraat, Commissioner, and Intense Holiday.
Centennial Farms' Wicked Strong won the Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial in April at Aqueduct Racetrack before finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Jerkens said Wicked Strong probably will make his next breeze on Belmont's training track.
"He'll probably go Sunday, but I don't know how far," said Jerkens. "I have to think it over, but most likely on Sunday."
Samraat, a My Meadowview Farm homebred, has finished one spot behind Wicked Strong in his past two starts, reporting home second in the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial and fifth in the Derby. He is currently based at Aqueduct, but trainer Rick Violette said he is leaning in favor of taking him to Belmont to breeze on Sunday.
WinStar Farm's Commissioner, second in the Peter Pan, and Starlight Racing's Intense Holiday, 12th in the Derby, remain on schedule for Sunday breezes, according to Byron Hughes, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher.
A sensational winner of the Grade 3 Appalachian at Keeneland, Daring Dancer is set to contest the $200,000 Wonder Again for 3-year-old fillies on Sunday at Belmont Park.
Trained by Graham Motion for Sagamore Farm, Daring Dancer is undefeated through her first three starts, including a 2 ½-length win in the Appalachian on April 17. The bay daughter of Empire Maker was bottled up in the stretch that day, but found running room late and surged to victory under jockey Alan Garcia, who will be aboard her again on Sunday.
Daring Dancer will break from post position 4 as the 9-5 morning line favorite.
The 7-2 morning line second choice, Recepta is also exiting the Grade 3 Appalachian for trainer Jimmy Toner. The Speightstown filly was a dominant winner of the Chelsea Flower on October 27 at Belmont Park in what was her first start on turf, and finished 4 ¼ lengths behind Daring Dancer in the Appalachian in her first start of 2014. She will be ridden by Junior Alvarado and the pair will break from the rail.
Party Now will go out for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. The daughter of Tiznow won an allowance at Keeneland impressively on April 6, a race that produced next-out stakes winner A Little Bit Sassy. The bay filly, who sits at 4-1 on the morning line, will be ridden by another Hall of Famer in John Velazquez and break from post position 7.
Rounding out the field are Minorette, most recently third behind Party Now in the Keeneland allowance race; Sea Queen, who captured a first-level allowance race in her last start; Lawn Party, who broke her maiden by 3 ¼ lengths on March 15 at Gulfstream Park; and Courtesan, who has two wins from five starts for trainer Christophe Clement.
Trainer Bruce Brown has high hopes for Giantinthemoonlite, who debuted a 7 ¼-length winner in a six-furlong maiden race for New York-breds on May 16.
Giantinthemoonlite, an Albert Fried homebred, is by Giant's Causeway and out of the Capote mare Moonlightandbeauty, making him a full brother to Grade 3 Excelsior Handicap winner Giant Moon and a half-brother to restricted stakes winner Moonlight Song.
Brown said Giantinthemoonlite could face winners for the first time in the $125,000 Mike Lee, one of six stakes for New York-breds on May 31, Big Apple Showcase Day at Belmont Park. The Mike Lee is a seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds.
"Stretching him out he should only get better," said Brown. "We're thinking about the Mike Lee. It's back a bit quick, but there are longer races like the Albany and the New York Derby. There are bigger and better things down the road, so I don't want to push him too much early. We'll see. [The Mike Lee] definitely isn't an easy spot, so maybe we'll get a little more seasoning into him before we go against those guys."
Even if Giantinthemoonlite skips the Mike Lee, Brown will have plenty of representation on Big Apple Showcase Day as he has 2011 New York champion turf horse Compliance Officer for the $125,000 Kingston; Readthebyline, claimed by Brown for $25,000 out of a 4 ½-length win on May 7, for the $200,000 Commentator; and Prairie Stone, who cleared the first allowance condition with a 5 ½-length score on May 8, for the $125,000 Bouwerie.
Brown, who through Thursday was third in the Belmont spring/summer meet standings with eight wins from 17 starts, hopes the momentum continues into Big Apple Showcase Day.
"A lot of my horses are turned out for the winter, and they are coming back good," said Brown. "I've been really lucky so far, and we'll try to keep it going."
In honor of track announcer Tom Durkin's announced retirement, followers of NYRA on Twitter (@TheNYRA) who suggest their favorite call using the hashtag #FavoriteDurkinCalls will be eligible to win a pair of tickets to the 2014 Belmont Stakes. A winner will be selected on Tuesday, May 27.
Calls from Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, or Saratoga Race Course races that receive more than one nomination will be uploaded to the NYRA YouTube channel (youtube.com/thenyra) and a playlist has been set-up in which fans can enjoy all of the calls: here