by Najja Thompson and Brian Bohl
Making his first start since winning the Grade 2 Jaipur on June 9, multiple graded stakes winner Disco Partner will headline a field of seven in the $150,000 Forbidden Apple at one mile on the Widener Turf Course on Saturday at Belmont Park.
A 6-year-old homebred son of Disco Rico for owner Patricia A. Generazio, Disco Partner made his 2018 debut in the Grade 2 Shakertown on April 7 at Keeneland, where he finished third. Returning in the Garde 2 Jaipur, he came from off the pace, traveling six-wide to win by one length and register a field-high 105 Beyer Speed Figure.
"We gave him a few easy weeks after the Jaipur and he had a very good work last Sunday on the turf," said Christophe Lorieul, assistant to trainer Christophe Clement. "We were very happy with that and he came out of it in good order. Going back to a mile we'll see what happens. As long as the turf is firm he should appreciate the going. The distance I'm not sure is a question mark for any reason. From five and half [furlongs] to a mile he's been good. As long as the ground is firm we should be okay."
Winner of the 2017 edition of the Forbidden Apple, Disco Partner will be reunited with regular rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. as the pair leave from post 2.
Meet-leading trainer Chad Brown entered Projected for Juddmonte Farms and Offering Plan for owners Michael Dubb and Nantucket Thoroughbred Partners.
Set to make his third start of the year in the Forbidden Apple, Projected kicked off his season with a second-place finish in the Danger's Hour on April 8 at Belmont and returned to finish a respectable third in the Grade 2 Monmouth on May 26 at Monmouth Park.
Entering off back-to-back wins in an allowance race on April 8 at Keeneland and most recently capturing the Kingston on May 28, the 6-year-old Spring At Last horse has an impressive four wins from nine starts at Belmont with a pair of second place finishes and two third-place finishes.
Projected will depart from post 7 with Joel Rosario aboard, Offering Plan will leave from post 3 with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.
Gainesway Stable and trainer Todd Pletcher will enter Blind Ambition. Looking to rebound from a seventh-place finish in the Jaipur, the 4-year-old son of Tapit has two wins from three starts at Belmont including an impressive victory in the Elusive Quality on April 28.
"His last breeze, his energy levels were good," said Byron Hughes, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. "He seems to like the Belmont turf course so we're looking to give him one last shot on it before Saratoga. He ran well getting to the lead in the Elusive Quality. Johnny did a great job with him there so we're hoping for a similar result."
Drawing post 5, Blind Ambition will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
Rounding out the field are Voodoo Song for trainer Linda Rice and owner Barry Schwartz entering off a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Poker on June 17 at Belmont; Mr Havercamp for owners Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry and trainer Catherine Phillips and Pocket Change for trainer Jason Servis and owners Gary and Mary West.
In Race 3, Barry Schwartz's La Fuerza will look to start his career 2-for-2 when he makes his first stakes appearance in the fifth running of the $100,000 Rockville Centre for state-bred juveniles.
La Fuerza overcame a push at the start to win his first race on June 22 at Belmont. Despite Bronx Bomber veering right out of the gate to bump him, the Flatter colt was undeterred, gaining ground around the turn and accelerating past the field to win the 5 ½ furlong sprint by 7 ¾ lengths for trainer Todd Pletcher.
"He ran well first time out after getting pinched at the start," said Pletcher assistant Byron Hughes. "He ran well and won and came out of it in good shape. This is a good spot for him before Saratoga."
La Fuerza drew post 2 and will have the services of jockey Manny Franco for the first time. Hughes said he will also be looking for a cleaner break.
"In his first start he got pinched back, so he obviously came from out of it that day," he said. "But he's never had any gate issues before. He seems in the mornings like he's a talented horse."
NRB Racing Stable's Hushion was also making his first start in that race last month. He led the field until La Fuerza went by him from the outside heading into the upper stretch.
Hushion, owned and bred by Bruce Brown, earned runner-up status by 10 lengths over Bozzini. The Lumber Guy gelding will also be making the jump in class, drawing the rail with Mike Luzzi in the irons.
Ice Win Stable's What the Luck led a seven-horse field gate-to-wire to win his debut on April 19 at Aqueduct Racetrack. The Wesley Ward trainee, who was victorious at 4 ½ furlongs, will stretch out to the Rockville Centre distance of six furlongs, breaking from post 4 with Dylan Davis aboard.
Bustin Mach Four finished third in his first start on June 1 at Belmont. Following that effort in the maiden special weight, the Bustin Stones colt, trained by Michelle Nevin, will exit from the outside post with Luis Saez on the saddle.
Red Zinger will be making his first start, drawing post 3 for trainer Gary Contessa. Joel Rosario will ride.