by Najja Thompson
The first Saturday racing card of the 2019 Belmont Park spring/summer meet will be highlighted by the $125,000 Elusive Quality for 4-year-olds and up going seven furlongs on the Widener turf course.
Entering for Oak Bluff Stables and trainer Christophe Clement is Therapist. The 4-year-old New York-bred son of Freud will make his 2019 racing debut after spending the winter in Florida at Payson Park. With six wins from 10 career starts and a perfect 3-for-3 on the Belmont turf, Clement said he is hoping Therapist's training heading into the race, and affinity for the turf course, will translate to the start of a successful campaign.
"It's his first start of the year and it looks like a very deep race, but he's been training well. We also chose this spot because it also sets up well for the $125,000 Kingston for New York-breds [May 27], so we'll see how we do here to start," said Clement.
With Eric Cancel named to ride, Therapist will depart from post 5.
Big Handsome, in search of his first victory since May of 2017, enters for trainer Tony Dutrow and owners Team D, Head of Plains Partners and ERJ Racing.
The 5-year-old Street Boss horse showed promise as a 3-year-old in 2017 winning the Paradise Creek and finishing second by a neck in the Allied Forces at Belmont, along with a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame at Saratoga Race Course.
As a 4-year-old, he raced twice finishing eighth in the Grade 2 Shakertown at Keeneland and second in an optional claiming race at Laurel Park in June. Returning to finish second in an optional claiming race at 5 ½ furlongs on March 9 at Fair Grounds, Big Handsome has posted an impressive record of two wins a pair of second-place finishes from five starts at Belmont.
Dutrow said he is confident big Handsome is primed to give a top effort on Saturday.
"We feel as though he ran well last time out and just ran out of real estate," said Dutrow. "He's now 5-years old and he's grown into his own over the past year and become a very professional horse. We feel as though he's set up to run his best effort. Every one of his races at Belmont, no matter the distance, he's run exceptionally well and we're confident on how he's looked in the mornings coming into this race."
Big Handsome will leave from post 6 with Manny Franco aboard.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott will saddle Krampus for owner William Schettine. The 5-year-old homebred son of Shakespeare is set to cut back for the Elusive Quality following a seventh-place finish in the Grade 3 Appleton at a mile at Gulfstream Park. After kicking off his year with a fifth-place finish in the El Prado at Gulfstream, he won the Grade 3 Canadian Turf, matching a career best with a 96 Beyer Speed Figure on March 2.
Krampus, 2-for-2 at Belmont, will leave from post 4 with jockey Jose Lezcano in the irons.
Making his North American debut for owner and trainer Conor Murphy is Irish-bred Emmaus. The 5-year-old son of Invincible Spirit, previously trained by Roger Varian, has three wins from five starts at the distance and will make his first start since finishing second by a neck in the Racing UK E.B.F. Stallions Guisborough on October 6 at Redcar.
Emmaus will leave from post 3 with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Also entered is Abiding Star for trainer Ned Allard and owner Stonehedge LLC.; V.I.P. Code for trainer Ed Coletti, Jr. and owner Jeffrey Nielsen; and Fixed Point for trainer Phil Serpe and WellSpring Stables.
The Elusive Quality is named after the two-time graded stakes winner and prolific stallion campaigned by Hall of Famer Bill Mott. The winner of Belmont Park's Grade 3 Jaipur and Grade 3 Poker Handicap in 1998 stood at Darley following his racing career and produced 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones, 2008 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Raven's Pass as well as multiple Grade 1 winner Quality Road.
The Elusive Quality is slated as Race 9 on Saturday's 10-race card. First post is 1:30 p.m.