by Ryan Martin
Stakes action at Belmont Park gets started on Opening Day, Friday April 26, when eight New York-breds will assemble for the $100,000 Affirmed Success over the main track.
Making his 2019 debut in the six-furlong sprint is Pat On the Back, who won the Empire Classic over the Belmont Park main track two starts back. Trained by Jeremiah Englehart, the son of Congrats last raced in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on December 2 at Aqueduct, where he finished fifth beaten 3 ¾ lengths to Patternrecognition.
Pat On the Back, owned by Harold Lerner, AWC Stables and Nehoc Stables, will seek to notch his sixth career stakes victory and first in the Affirmed Success, where he was second last year. Under the tutelage of former conditioner Kenny McPeek, Pat On the Back won the Aspirant at Finger Lakes and Sleepy Hollow over the Belmont dirt as a juvenile and won Finger Lakes' Ontario County at three.
Pat On the Back was transferred to Englehart following a runner-up effort in last year's edition of the Affirmed Success. In a quintet of starts for his current trainer, he has won two stakes events. In addition to the Empire Classic, he won the Saginaw on July 13 at Belmont Park.
"We were trying to find the right race," Englehart said. "He's been training well and showing signs that he's ready to get going again. I was happy with the year he had last year so we figured we'd bring him back in the same race we started in last year. When Kenny [McPeek] had him, he was running well all over. When he was sent to me, it was a pretty easy transition."
Pat On the Back will be ridden by Dylan Davis from post 4.
Looking for a repeat triumph in the Affirmed Success is Michael Dubb's Eye Luv Lulu, who has recorded 11 wins in 50 starts and defeated Pat On the Back by three-quarters of a length in last year's edition. His following start was a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship behind Limousine Liberal and Whitmore.
Never worse than fourth in 11 starts for trainer Jason Servis, the 8-year-old gelded son of Pollard's Vision was victorious in his 2019 debut when defeating allowance company on January 5 over a sloppy main track at Aqueduct. His last start came on February 18, where he was third in the Hollie Hughes at Aqueduct.
Eye Luv Lulu will emerge from post 6 under jockey Jose Lezcano.
Syndergaard will go for his first stakes victory since a runaway triumph in the Funny Cide in 2016. Trained by John Terranova, the son of Majesticperfection was Grade 1-placed as a 2-year-old when finishing a nose behind Practical Joke in the 2016 Champagne at Belmont Park. His last win took place four starts back when he defeated allowance company going six furlongs over the main track at Aqueduct.
Junior Alvarado will guide Syndergaard from post 8.
Rounding out the field are Bavaro (post 1, Rajiv Maragh), Celtic Chaos (post 2, Eric Cancel), Runaway Lute (post 3, Javier Castellano), Sudden Surprise (post 5, Manny Franco) and Tribecca (post 7, Kendrick Carmouche).
The Affirmed Success is slated as Race 8 on Friday's nine-race card. First post is 1:30 p.m.