- Belmont Stakes hopeful Commanding Curve arrives at Belmont
- Beholder ships in, ready for G1 Ogden Phipps
- Goldencents arrives in Belmont, targeting G1 Met Mile
- Kid Cruz breezes six furlongs in 1:14.53, still possible for Belmont Stakes
- Grade 1's on Belmont Stakes undercard taking shape
Belmont Stakes hopeful Commanding Curve arrived in Elmont, N.Y. early in the afternoon on Thursday and appears in great shape for the June 7, 1 ½-mile "Test of the Champion."
"Everything was good [with shipping in]," said the colt's trainer, Dallas Stewart. "He's really an easy horse to be around and can do a lot of things. With every track he's been to, he's handled it well, so Belmont should be no different."
Commanding Curve has not raced since finishing second in the Kentucky Derby, when he was beaten 1 ¾ lengths by California Chrome. The son of Master Command will get an opportunity to work over the Belmont main track on Sunday, going either four or five furlongs, according to Stewart.
The champion 3-year-old filly of 2013, Beholder, arrived at Belmont Park on Thursday. The daughter of Henny Hughes concluded her Eclipse Award-winning season with a win in the Breeders' Cup Distaff and is pointing towards the Grade 1, $1 million Ogden Phipps on Belmont Stakes Day. She has raced just once in 2014, taking the Santa Lucia by 5 ¼ lengths on April 20 at Santa Anita Park.
"She shipped in great shape," said Beholder's trainer, Dick Mandella. "My good friend Tom Bush is taking care of her. She went to the track to have a nice gallop [Friday morning] and will do the same tomorrow. We'll give her a breeze at some point next week."
The Ogden Phipps is shaping up to be one of the most talented races on the Belmont Stakes undercard, as Princess of Sylmar and Close Hatches are likely to join Beholder in the starting gate. When asked why the talented filly is shipping east to face such a salty field, Mandella said, "a million dollars."
Breeders' Cup Mile winner Goldencents was also among the talented band of horses to ship into Belmont Park on Thursday. The 4-year-old colt is targeting the Grade 1, $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap.
"He shipped in great," said Doug O'Neill, trainer of Goldencents. "He jogged today and will gallop tomorrow. As we stand right now, he won't have a work, we're just going to gallop him into the race."
Goldencents has not raced since finishing seventh in the 2013 edition of the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap, but O'Neill is confident his trainee is ready to face the star-studded Met Mile lineup.
"We couldn't be happier with his condition," said O'Neill. "[The Met Mile] is a perfect layout for him and obviously the purse is huge; we're really excited."
Kid Cruz remains possible for the Belmont Stakes after breezing six furlongs in 1:14.53 on Friday morning for trainer Linda Rice. The Lemon Drop Kid colt was claimed for $50,000 in November 2013, and won a pair of stakes races in Maryland earlier this year before finishing eighth in the Preakness.
"He worked well," said Rice. "Typically I work him in company; he's the type of horse that's always trained better in company. He worked six furlongs in 1:14 and 3/5. It was OK; we're going to see how he does out of the breeze and then decide if we're going to go on to the Belmont, probably by Sunday."
The Grade 1, $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap - a one-mile affair traditionally run on Memorial Day - is shaping up to be a phenomenal race, headlined by last year's Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice.
Palace Malice, trained by Todd Pletcher for Cot Campbell's Dogwood Stable, has won all three of his starts in 2014. The son of Curlin commenced his year in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, which he won by a head, and followed that victory up with wins in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap and Grade 3 Westchester.
Breeders' Cup Mile winner Goldencents is likely to join Palace Malice in the starting gate for the Met Mile. The 4-year-old colt is unraced since a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap. In 2013, the son of Into Mischief captured the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, and was among the favorites for the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby. He was also plagued by a string of runner-up finishes - including seconds in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby, Grade 2 Pat O'Brien, and Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship - before breaking through in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
The star-studded field is also likely to include Broadway Empire, Capo Bastone, Central Banker, Clearly Now, Declan's Warrior, Moreno, Normandy Invasion, Romansh, Shakin It Up and Vyjack.
The Grade 1, $1 million Ogden Phipps is likely to feature three finalists from the 2013 Eclipse Award's 3-Year-Old Filly division, including the winner, Beholder.
Beholder, trained by Dick Mandella for Spendthrift Farm, won five of seven starts in 2013, capping her year with a triumph in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. She also captured three other Grade 1's: the Las Virgenes, the Santa Anita Oaks, and the Zenyatta, and finished second in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. Beholder won the Santa Lucia by 5 ¼ lengths at Santa Anita Park to kick off her 2014 campaign.
Last year's Kentucky Oaks winner, Princess of Sylmar, is also likely to be a part of the Ogden Phipps field. The daughter of Majestic Warrior rattled off four Grade 1 wins in a row in 2013: the Kentucky Oaks, the Coaching Club American Oaks, the Alabama, and the Beldame. Her year culminated with a start in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, but she ran an uncharacteristically dull race and finished sixth.
Close Hatches, trained by Bill Mott for Juddmonte Farms, is also expected to join the fray. She won two Grade 1's in 2013: the Mother Goose and the Cotillion, and has already won two graded stakes in 2014, including a win in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom.
Classic Point and My Wandy's Girl are likely to start, as well, while Belle Gallantey and Lunar Surge are possible.
The Grade 1, $1 million Knob Creek Manhattan is shaping up to be a big field of older male turf runners, featuring 2012 Breeders' Cup Turf hero Little Mike.
Little Mike, formerly trained by Dale Romans, is now in the barn of Carlo Vaccarezza. In 2013, the son of Spanish Steps won only one race - the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational - and contested the Breeders' Cup Turf and the Longines Hong Kong Cup. He has raced only once in 2014, taking the Flying Pidgeon at Gulfstream Park by 2 ¾ lengths.
Imagining, who became a Grade 1 winner in his last start in the Man o' War, is also likely to contest the Manhattan. Trained by Shug McGaughey for Phipps Stable, the 6-year-old son of Giant's Causeway has won eight of 16 lifetime starts, and is four for six since adding blinkers in August of last year.
Seek Again, who came within a head of defeating reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan in his last start, appears set to join the field. His narrow defeat, which came in the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, was his first start in 2014, and only his second North American outing.
Also likely for the race are Amira's Prince, Finnegans Wake, Five Iron, Grandeur, Hey Leroy, Kaigun and Real Solution. Boisterous, Rookie Sensation, and Speaking of Which are possible.
The Grade 1, $750,000 Longines Just A Game is likely to boast a deep, competitive field of filly and mare turf runners.
Trained by Christophe Clement for Patricia Generazio, Discreet Marq, who worked five furlongs in 1:00.62 Friday, leads the probables for the one-mile race. The 4-year-old daughter of Discreet Cat made her 2014 debut in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley, in which she finished second behind another likely Just A Game starter, Hard Not to Like. Her 2013 campaign featured a win in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks, as well as second-place finishes in the Grade 1 Garden City and Grade 1 Matriarch.
Also exiting the Jenny Wiley and likely for the Just A Game is last year's winner, Stephanie's Kitten. The 5-year-old mare finished eighth in the Jenny Wiley in her 2014 debut; she had been off since July 27 when she finished third in the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga Race Course.
The runner-up from last year's Just A Game, Better Lucky, is probable to enter the starting gate again this year. Trained by Tom Albertrani for Godolphin Stable, the 5-year-old Ghostzapper mare has won a pair of Grade 1's in her career: the 2013 edition of the First Lady and the 2012 edition of the Matriarch.
Others likely for the Just A Game are Coffee Clique, Dame Marie, Filimbi, Hard Not to Like, Somali Lemonade, Strathnaver and Waterway Run. Ready Signal and Unlimited Budget are possible.
The Grade 1, $750,000 TVG Acorn is likely to feature the second and third-place finishers from the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.
My Miss Sophia, who finished second behind Untapable in the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks, is set to turn back to a mile in the Acorn. The last time the daughter of Unbridled's song went a mile, she took a maiden race at Gulfstream Park by 11 lengths.
Unbridled Forever, third-place finisher in the Kentucky Oaks, has shown an affinity for one-turn racing. The daughter of Unbridled Song broke her maiden by 5 ¼ lengths at Churchill Downs, running seven furlongs in an eye-catching 1:21.91 seconds.
The field is also likely to include Aqua Regia, Artemis Agrotera, Fashion Plate, Fifyshadesofgold, House Rules, Lady Paradime, Our Amazing Rose, Sweet Reason, Sweet Whiskey and Vero Amore. La Madrina, Risque Reality, and She's a Tiger are possible.