by NYRA Press Office
West Coast-based Hot Rod Charlie and Rock Your World, along with a number of talented stablemates, arrived in New York last night to begin final preparations for Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.
The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival runs from Thursday, June 3 through Saturday, June 5, and is headlined by the 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes. The festival will encompass 17 total stakes, including eight Grade 1s on Belmont Stakes Day, capped by the "Test of the Champion" for 3-year-olds in the 1 1/2-mile final leg of the Triple Crown.
Trainer Doug O’Neill shipped Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, Strauss Bros Racing and Gainesway Thoroughbreds’ Hot Rod Charlie along with McShane Racing’s Stubbins, a contender for the Grade 1, $400,000 Jackpocket Jaipur. Also along for the trip is the popular Hall of Famer Lava Man, a multiple Grade 1-winner with more than $5.2 million in purse earnings now employed as a pony.
The trio arrived on the grounds at Belmont Park just before 8 p.m. Eastern on a wet Saturday evening.
O’Neill said all three have settled in well, in particular Hot Rod Charlie, who finished a strong third last out in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
“They all look in good shape. It's a big hurdle cleared,” said O’Neill. “I think he's [Hot Rod Charlie] put on weight. He looks phenomenal. He's training well and doing well.”
A dark bay son of Oxbow, Hot Rod Charlie closed out his 2-year-old campaign with a closing second to Belmont Stakes-rival Essential Quality in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on November 6 at Keeneland.
Bred in Kentucky by Edward A. Cox, Hot Rod Charlie launched his sophomore season with a third in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis, just a neck behind eventual Kentucky Derby-winner Medina Spirit in the 1 1/16-mile test on January 30 at Santa Anita.
He followed with a two-length score in the 1 3/16-mile Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 20 ahead of his Derby effort.
On Friday, Hot Rod Charlie breezed five-eighths in 1:00.40 in company during an afternoon workout on the Santa Anita main track, easily pulling away from his workmate in a strong gallop out.
O’Neill said the breeze is an indication of a horse developing an understanding of his role.
“I think early on in his career he was more comfortable as a pack horse and running with the group. He'd never get tired, but he just kept hanging with the other horses,” said O’Neill. “Recently, he's very comfortable separating himself from other horses and I think that's a great trait that he's added and it's necessary to win big races. That's what I saw when he pulled away from his work mate.”
Flavien Prat, who piloted Belmont Stakes-rival Rombauer to victory in the Grade 1 Preakness, has chosen to ride Hot Rod Charlie on Saturday. O’Neill said he’s delighted to have retained Prat’s services for the grueling 1 1/2-mile event.
“Generally, the pace is a lot slower going 12 furlongs but that's where having Prat helps. Not only is he a phenomenal rider, but he's riding with so much confidence right now, and he has so much confidence in this colt,” said O’Neill. “If he breaks clean, he should be forwardly placed. If they're flying, he'll back off it. If not, he should be pretty close the whole way around.”
O’Neill said Hot Rod Charlie will likely jog on the training track on Monday before some light gallops on the main track later in the week.
Stubbins, a 5-year-old son of Morning Line, boasts a record of 14-4-2-3 with purse earnings of $528,051. The dark bay finished a prominent fourth to returning rival Oleksandra in last year’s Jaipur, a Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In event offering a berth in the Grade 1 Turf Sprint.
Stubbins will make his seasonal debut off a trio of sharp works at Santa Anita, including a six-furlong effort in 1:14.80 Friday on the main track.
“He's fresh and he's been working well,” said O’Neill. “He'll probably jog the whole week to keep him fresh and happy.”
The 20-year-old Lava Man was calm, cool and collected Sunday morning taking in his new surroundings.
“He's such a cool horse. He really seems to like it here,” said O’Neill.
Also arriving on Saturday evening was a trio of Belmont Stakes Racing Festival contenders conditioned by John Sadler led by Hronis Racing and David Michael Talla’s Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby-winner Rock Your World, who will look to make amends after a tough break from the gate last out when 17th in the Kentucky Derby.
He was joined on the journey by Hronis Racing and Lane’s End Racing’s multiple graded stakes winner Flagstaff, who is pointed to Friday’s Grade 2, $300,000 True North; and Woodford Racing’s Campaign, who will start in the Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn presented by Northwell Health on Belmont Stakes Day.
Sadler’s travelling assistant Enrique Miranda said the trio are in good order.
“Everybody has settled in really well,” said Miranda. “Rock Your World will head out to the track tomorrow. Today, we just walked him a little bit and tomorrow they'll all begin training.”
For information and details on Belmont Stakes Racing Festival hospitality offerings, ticket packages and pricing, visit BelmontStakes.com. For full terms and conditions, visit https://www.belmontstakes.com/tickets.
For comprehensive information on health and safety protocols in effect for the Belmont Park spring/summer meet, please visit: https://www.nyra.com/belmont/visit/plan-your-visit.
Mischevious Alex and Drain the Clock breeze for G1 engagements at Belmont Stakes Racing Festival
Trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. breezed Mischevious Alex and Drain the Clock Sunday at Gulfstream Park in preparation for starts at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.
Cash is King and LC Racing’s Mischevious Alex worked a half-mile in company in 48.72 seconds on the fast main track in his final breeze for Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap.
Slam Dunk Racing, Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables and Michael Nentwig’s Drain the Clock also worked a half-mile in company in 48.68.
Joseph, Jr. said the breeze was easier by design for both after working the two talented colts head-and-head on May 23 through five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.81 on the Gulfstream main track.
“We didn't want either of them to overdo anything so we paired them with lesser workmates today,” said Joseph, Jr. “The last time they worked together they went head and head the whole way.”
Joseph, Jr. said Mischevious Alex is coming into the Met Mile, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, in top form following his impressive score in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap on April 3 at the Big A that garnered a career-best 109 Beyer.
“They caught him in 48 and change and he got the last quarter in 23 and 1, so it went well,” said Joseph, Jr. “He's in good form. We're hoping he can run a race as good as last time. If he does, I think we're going over there with a good chance.”
Drain the Clock, who has won 5-of-7 starts, is targeting the Grade 1, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by Nassau Country Industrial Development Agency, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomores.
Joseph, Jr. said the Maclean’s Music chestnut, who matched a career-best 86 Beyer last out winning the Grade 3 Bay Shore on April 3 at the Big A, is in good order.
“He’s plenty fit,” said Joseph, Jr. “He looked good working and he is coming into the race in good form at a distance that he's been successful. He'll have to run his career best, but we feel like he's sitting on his career best.”
Joseph, Jr. will also be represented at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival by Sweet Bye and Bye in Thursday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Intercontinental, a seven-furlong Widener turf sprint for older fillies and mares; and by Queen Nekia in the Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps at 1 1/16-miles on Big Sandy for older fillies and mares which offers a Breeders’ Cup "Win and You’re In" berth to the Distaff.
Joseph, Jr. said the colts will fly to New York on Wednesday, while the mares will begin their journey by van later today.
The Florida-based conditioner, who has stalls at Belmont for the first time, has three wins and three thirds from nine starts at the Belmont spring/summer meet. He praised assistant trainer Sabine Langvad for the strong early showing.
“Our horses have been in good form and running good. Even the ones that didn't win have performed credibly,” said Joseph, Jr. “Sabine works hard and has a lot of passion for what she does.”
Sainthood G1 Belmont Derby bound; Happy Saver points to G2 Suburban
The Grade 2, $200,000 Pennine Ridge did not end up being the turf debut that Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher had in mind for Sainthood when inclement weather forced the nine-furlong test onto the main track. Nevertheless, Sainthood recorded his first graded stakes triumph, registering a career-best 86 Beyer Speed Figure.
Since finishing 11th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby earlier this month, Pletcher breezed the Mshawish colt twice on grass. His anticipated turf debut will come in his next start however, as Sainthood is targeting the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational on July 10, first leg of the Turf Triple series.
Owned by WinStar Farm and CHC, Sainthood broke his maiden over the main track at Fair Grounds Race Course en route to a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks on March 20 over the all-weather surface at Turfway Park.
“I talked to [WinStar Farm CEO and racing manager] Elliot Walden after the race and felt like the Belmont Derby is probably the logical place to point,” Pletcher said Sunday morning. “He still has to prove himself on turf but judging by the way he ran on synthetic and the way he breezes on the turf, he should take to it. It’s a big race and we have the option of going back to the dirt down the road, but we’ll focus on the turf for now.”
Pletcher said Wertheimer et Frere’s Happy Saver will return to graded stakes action in the Grade 2, $400,000 Suburban on July 3, a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” event for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, also trained by Pletcher, made his 4-year-old debut a winning one on Friday against salty allowance company going a one-turn mile at Belmont Park. The conquest, which garnered a 96 Beyer, kept his undefeated record intact with his previous effort taking place in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup in October.
A start in the historic 10-furlong test could result in a rematch with Group 1 Dubai World Cup winner Mystic Guide, who previously finished second to Happy Saver in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and also is targeting the Suburban.
“He came out of it in good order, I thought he ran well off the bench,” Pletcher said. “We didn’t have him fully cranked up, so being able to come back and win off the layoff off sort of a moderate work tab was good. Hopefully, he’ll move forward off that, the Suburban is on the radar. Timing wise, it's good, he’s bred to go a mile and a quarter and obviously has already won at that distance. That’s the most likely target.”
Cross Country Pick 5 registers total pool of $144K; pays $504
The Cross Country Pick 5 on Saturday, featuring graded stakes action from Belmont and Churchill Downs, tallied a total pool of $144,746, paying out $504.25 for selecting all five winners for the 50-cent wager.
Gam’s Mission kicked off the sequence – and stakes competition – with a three-quarter length victory in the Grade 3, $150,000 Regret for 3-year-old fillies in Churchill’s Race 8. Jockey Adam Beschizza tracked Gam’s Mission in fifth position in the 1 1/8-mile turf contest before a strong finish bested the favorite Spanish Loveaffair. Trainer Cherie DeVaux earned her first graded stakes win for the effort. Gam’s Mission completed the course in 1:51.02 and returned $14.20 on a $2 win wager.
Action shifted to Belmont for the second leg, which saw Doubly Blessed defeat favorite Mystic Night by 1 1/2 lengths to win a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claiming contest in Race 8. Doubly Blessed, trained by Mike Maker and ridden by Luis Saez, recorded a final time of 1:42.53 paying $8 after going off at 3-1.
Churchill, located in Louisville, Kentucky, continued with its strong Saturday card, as Fulsome won the third leg with a 3 3/4-length definitive score in the Grade 3, $150,000 Matt Winn for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the main track in Race 9. The first favorite to win in Saturday’s Cross Country Pick 5 rallied from seventh at the half-mile mark, hitting the wire in 1:42.88 under jockey Florent Geroux. The Brad Cox trainee paid $5.40.
Another favorite won Belmont’s featured race, as Sainthood, whose previous start was an 11th-place effort in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, thrived in the Grade 2, $200,000 Pennine Ridge that was moved off the turf in Race 9.
Heavy rains turned the Pennine Ridge into a one-turn 1 1/8-mile main track contest over a sloppy and sealed track, with Sainthood fending off The Reds in the stretch to win by one length against a pared-down five-horse field.
Sainthood, trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher and ridden by Joel Rosario, paid $3.80 as the 4-5 favorite with a final time of 1:50.57.
Bango posted a half-length win in the $150,000 Aristides for 4-year-olds and up sprinting six furlongs on Churchill’s main track in Race 10 to close the sequence. Bango, trained by Gregory Foley, notched a final time of 1:09.65, paying $10.60 after going off at 4-1.
The minimum bet for the multi-track, multi-race wager is 50 cents. Wagering on the Cross Country Pick 5 is also available on track, on ADW platforms, and at simulcast facilities across the country. Every week will feature a mandatory payout of the net pool.
The Cross Country Pick 5 will continue each Saturday throughout the year. For more information, visit NYRABets.com.
Andrew Fegyveresi; Pat McKenna
NYRA Press Office
NYRA Press Office