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Data Link Puts on Game Face for July 4 Poker

By Jenny Kellner | 06/30/2013 02:48 PM ET
Data Link
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

Multiple graded stakes winner Data Link looks for his second victory of 2013 on Thursday when he heads a field of seven turf horses going a mile in the Grade 3, $150,000 Poker, the Independence Day feature at Belmont Park.

Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey for Stuart S. Janney, III, who teamed earlier this year to take the Kentucky Derby with Orb, Data Link opened his 5-year-old campaign with an easy, come-from-behind triumph in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream Park.  He next ran into reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan at Keeneland Race Course, finishing second by a length on April 12 as he attempted to defend his title in the Grade 1 Makers 46 Mile.

The 5-year-old son of War Front tuned up for the Poker with a three-furlong move in 35.11 over Belmont’s inner turf course. At 6-5 on the morning line, he will leave from post position 4 with Javier Castellano aboard.

New York-bred stalwart King Kreesa, front-running winner of the Kingston last time out, returns to open company in search of his first graded stakes victory. The 4-year-old King Cugat gelding has been close in four previous graded stakes starts, finishing third in the Grade 3 Appleton at Gulfstream and the Grade 3 Fort Marcy at Belmont this year, and second by a half-length in the Grade 1 Jamaica and fourth in the Grade 3 Saranac last year.

Irad Ortiz, Jr. has the return call on King Kreesa, 4-1 on the morning line. The pair will leave from post position 6.

Drawing directly inside King Kreesa is fellow New York-bred Lubash, most recently third in the Kingston. The 6-year-old son of Freud is 1-1-1 from three starts in 2013, having also finished second in the Dave overnight stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack and winning the Grade 3 Fort Marcy on May 4.

Jose Lezcano, Jr. will ride the Christophe Clement trainee, 5-1 on the morning line, from post position 5.

Dogwood Stable’s Big Screen returns to turf for the first time in more than a year. Disqualified to second after a bumpy stretch run in the off-the-turf Jaipur on June 7, the 4-year-old Speightstown colt has been effective at a mile this year with a pair of victories at the distance, including a 9 ¼-length romp at Aqueduct that earned him a lifetime-best 110 Beyer Speed Figure.

At 6-1 on the morning line, Big Screen will leave from post position 2 with Luis Saez in the irons.

Rounding out the field are Upgrade, most recently third in the Grade 2 Connaught Cup at Woodbine; Shkspeare Shaliyah, fifth in the Three Coins Up on June 14 at Belmont, and Howe Great, fourth in the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico Race Course last time out. Politicallycorrect was entered main track only.

The field for the Grade 3, $150,000 Poker:








Upgrade (KY)

J R. Velazquez


M Nihei



Big Screen (KY)

L Saez


T Albertrani



Shkspeare Shaliyah (FL)

R Maragh


D Shivmangal



Data Link (KY)

J Castellano


C R. McGaughey III



Lubash (NY)

J Lezcano


C Clement



King Kreesa (NY)

I Ortiz, Jr.


J C. Englehart



Howe Great (KY)

J Rosario


R C. Mettee



Politicallycorrect (KY) (MTO)

J Rosario


W A. Ward