Donk to saddle Thin White Duke and Yes and Yes in G3 Belmont Turf Sprint
by Keith McCalmont
Trainer David Donk will saddle a solid one-two punch with Thin White Duke and Yes and Yes in a loaded 12-horse field for Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Belmont Turf Sprint at six furlongs over the outer turf course, at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
The 7th running of the Belmont Turf Sprint for 3-year-olds and up is slated for Race 9 on a stacked card that includes the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodward for 3-year-olds and up going nine furlongs in Race 7; the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne in Race 10, a one-turn mile for juveniles which offers a "Win and You're In" berth to the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile in November at Keeneland; and the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2, $200,000 Miss Grillo for 2-year-old fillies in Race 8 affording a "Win and You're In" berth to the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Thin White Duke, bred and co-owned by Phil Gleaves with Steven Crist, Ken deRegt and Bryan Hilliard, garnered a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure two starts back when closing to finish third in the Grade 3 Troy on August 5 at Saratoga Race Course.
The 4-year-old New York-bred son of Dominus was last-of-7 as multiple group/graded stakes winner True Valour set splits of 21.93 seconds and 44.25 in the 5 1/2-furlong dash over firm turf. Golden Pal, a dual Breeders’ Cup winner in turf sprints, got the jump turning for home and bested True Valour by a head in a final time of 1:00.92 with Thin White Duke rallying five-wide down the lane to finish just a neck back.
Thin White Duke followed last out with a similarly dramatic rally to post a nose score in the listed 5 1/2-furlong Lucky Coin, arriving in the nick of time under Hall of Famer John Velazquez to best returning rival Dancing Buck.
Donk said the extra half-furlong may benefit Thin White Duke, who captured a 1 1/16-mile state-bred optional claimer in April in his lone start over the Big A turf.
“It shouldn't hurt him,” Donk said. “He got over the course OK here in the spring. It was a two-turn race but he felt good over the grass. Duke ran extremely well at Saratoga in his last couple starts sprinting. He seems to be doing well and it's the right spot for him.”
The versatile gelding was initially conditioned by Gleaves, who retired from training at the end of last year. Under Gleaves’ tutelage, he notched main track sprint scores as a juvenile in the Funny Cide at Saratoga and Aspirant at Finger Lakes.
Thin White Duke has focused on turf racing in 7-of-8 starts for Donk, traveling as far as nine furlongs when fourth in an open allowance tilt in June at Belmont. Donk said the team opted to focus on sprinting heading into the Saratoga meet.
“At Belmont, you can run a mile and a mile and a sixteenth almost one turn,” Donk said. “We had a decision if two turns would be a little far for him - even though he ran well at Aqueduct - or should we try him at five-and-a-half [furlongs]. We tried the five-and-a-half and he ran well doing it. It looks like that could be his niche.”
The stakes-placed Sidney’s Candy gelding Yes and Yes, also bred by Gleaves and co-owned with Joseph Straus, Jr. and Hugh Fitzsimons, finished an even fifth in the Troy ahead of a trip to Colonial Downs last out where he was elevated to second in the 5 1/2-furlong Da Hoss.
The 6-year-old Kentucky-bred boasts a record of 25-5-5-4 for purse earnings of $355,680. He also joined Donk’s stable from Gleaves for his current campaign, posting a three-race win streak in Belmont turf sprints to start the season.
“Saratoga rattled him with the crowd - too many people,” Donk said. “He's an interesting horse. He loves Belmont and loves that course. Phil told me he's never really run well at Saratoga at any point over the grass. We took him to Colonial and he was way back - they really outran him early- but he finished up well. He's a contender here.”
Yes and Yes breezed three-eighths in 37.47 Sunday over the Belmont dirt training track.
“It went well. He's a good work horse and he’s doing well,” Donk said. “Six to seven-eighths suits him best. It will be interesting to run him here and see if he can excel over this course.”
Thin White Duke will exit post 7 under Jose Ortiz while Yes and Yes will emerge from post 5 under Dylan Davis.
Pantofel Stable, Wachtel Stable and Jerry Zaro’s Chewing Gum [post 11, Jose Lezcano] returns to the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational for the third consecutive year after finishing second to Wet Your Whistle in 2020 and third last year to Arrest Me Red.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the 7-year-old Candy Ride bay made the grade on New Year’s Day with a nose score over Beer Can Man in the Grade 2 Joe Hernandez traveling 6 1/2-furlongs out of the chute at Santa Anita Park.
Chewing Gum, who finished second to stablemate Casa Creed in last year’s Grade 1 Jaipur at Belmont, sports a ledger of 25-4-4-8 for purse earnings of $608,563.
La Marca Stable’s Scuttlebuzz [post 12, Manny Franco] will look to get back to winning ways for trainer Rudy Rodriguez.
The 5-year-old New York-bred The Factor gelding launched a three-race turf sprint win streak in November at the Big A with an allowance score and followed one month later over the same course with an optional-claiming win. He completed the hat trick with a one-length score over Therapist in the seven-furlong Elusive Quality on June 11 at Belmont.
Scuttlebuzz, bred in the Empire State by Lawrence Goichman, has failed to hit the board in two subsequent starts, running sixth in the one-mile Grade 3 Forbidden Apple in July at the Spa and sixth last out on August 23 in an off-the-turf edition of the Parx Dash.
Michael J. Ryan and Sarah Sutherland's New York-bred Noble Emotion [post 1, Trevor McCarthy] has won 5-of-15 starts but will look to secure blacktype for the first time on Saturday.
Trained by Horacio De Paz, the 5-year-old Noble Mission gelding won an open allowance sprint last July at Saratoga and followed up that August with a close fourth-place finish in the Lucky Coin in his best stakes start to date.
Noble Emotion, bred in the Empire State by Graceville Breeding, enters from a narrow nose score in a 5 1/2-furlong open optional-claimer on August 27 over good Spa turf. Noble Emotion was away alertly from post 2 under Jose Ortiz, but took back and saved ground in third position as Ranger Fox set splits of 22.20 and 46.04 under pressure from Comedy Town. He angled out for the stretch run and collared Comedy Town in the final jumps.
"He's doing good and came out of his race in good order. He's always been a cool horse to be around," De Paz said. "That race at Saratoga was pretty impressive on his part. He's always been a speed horse that goes to the lead, but for him to take off the pace and make a run there at the end - I think that if he can learn to run that way, it will be a lot easier on him. It was nice to see him take that step forward and hopefully he can repeat against these types of horses."
Noble Emotion was on the lead in 3-of-4 previous wins, but De Paz feels the bay has improved this year, including a closing fifth in his seasonal debut in the Select in June at Monmouth Park.
"He's got these races underneath him going into this stakes and it's worth a try," De Paz said. "He's always right there, it's just a matter of getting the right trip. He learned to be tactical because he's such a good horse out of the gate. We're looking forward to Saturday."
Rounding out the field are Sonata Stable's Arzak [post 2, Irad Ortiz, Jr.], who captured the Grade 3 Jacques Cartier in May over the Woodbine Tapeta for trainer Michael Trombetta; the multiple graded-stakes placed Value Proposition [post 8, Eric Cancel] for conditioner Gedaliah Goodman; graded-stakes placed Fauci [post 9, Flavien Prat] for trainer Philip Antonacci; the Tom Morley-trained stakes winner Seven Scents [post 4, Javier Castellano]; stakes-winner Nothing Better [post 3, Jairo Rendon] for trainer Jorge Duarte, Jr.; the Michelle Nevin-trained stakes-placed Dancing Buck [post 10, Manny Franco]; and four-time winner Voodoo Zip [post 6, Joel Rosario] for trainer Christophe Clement. Greeley and Ben is entered for the main-track only.
First post on Saturday’s 11-race card is 1 p.m. Eastern.
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