Aidan O’Brien’s Stars & Stripes Racing Festival triumvirate are scheduled to arrive in New York on Tuesday, July 4.
Grade 3 Gallinule victor Homesman and Guineas trial winner Whitecliffsofdover are on target for Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.2 million Belmont Derby, while Naas Oaks heroine Key To My Heart will take aim at the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Oaks, both for 3-year-olds at 1 ¼ miles on the inner turf, for the champion European trainer.
Homesman, a late-developing Kentucky-bred by War Front, boasts two wins and two seconds from six starts since his October debut, including a hard-fought head victory in the Gallinule on May 28 at Curragh. Homesman was most recently fifth in the 1 ½-mile King George V on June 22 at Royal Ascot, checking in 4 ½ lengths behind the talented Atty Persse.
Whitecliffsofdover, also by War Front, will be looking to stretch out beyond a mile for the first time in his seven-race career. A $1.15 million yearling purchase, Whitecliffsofdover boasts a pair of victories at seven furlongs, including a 2 ¾-length gate-to-wire score in the bet365 European Free Handicap at Newmarket Racecourse in April.
Key To My Heart will be making her first start outside of her native Ireland in the Oaks. The speedy Galileo filly is exiting a 2 ¾-length win in the 1 ¼-mile Naas Oaks on June 28.
O’Brien’s runners are expected to land at John F. Kennedy International Airport at 10:30 a.m. and arrive at Belmont’s Barn 5 in the early afternoon, where they will complete their isolation and quarantine, a process usually lasting between 36-48 hours, while under the care of O’Brien’s traveling assistant T.J. Comerford.
Stars & Stripes Racing Festival Probables
Grade 1, $1.2 million Belmont Derby
Probable: Arklow (Brad Cox);Big Score (Tim Yakeen); Called to the Bar (Pia Brandt); Frostmourne (Christophe Clement); Good Samaritan (Bill Mott); Homesman (Aidan O’Brien); Makarios (Nick Zito); Oscar Performance (Brian Lynch); Senior Investment (Kenny McPeek); Ticonderoga (Chad Brown); Whitecliffsofdover (O’Brien); Yoshida (Mott)
Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Oaks
Probable: Beau Recall (Simon Callaghan); Coasted (Leah Gyarmati); Daddys Lil Darling (McPeek); Dynatail (Michael Dini); Fifty Five (C. Brown) Grizzel (Michael Doyle); Journey Home (Graham Motion); Key To My Heart (O’Brien); New Money Honey (C. Brown); Sistercharlie (C. Brown); Uni (C. Brown); Violet Blue (Jimmy Toner)
Grade 2, $750,000 Suburban
Probable: Follow Me Crev (Vladimir Cerin); Keen Ice (Todd Pletcher); Matt King Coal (Linda Rice); Shaman Ghost (Jimmy Jerkens); Sunny Ridge (Jason Servis); Watershed (Kiaran McLaughlin)
Grade 2, $350,000 Belmont Sprint Championship
“Win and You’re In” TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint Division
Probable: Awesome Slew (Mark Casse); Cadeyrn (Jeremiah Englehart); Fellowship (Kenneth Decker); Green Gratto (Gaston Grant); Mind Your Biscuits (Chad Summers); Stallwalkin’ Dude (David Jacobson); Tommy Macho (Pletcher); Unified (Jerkens)
Grade 3, $400,000 Dwyer
Probable: Battalion Runner (Pletcher); Guiseppe the Great (Zito); Practical Joke (C. Brown); True Timber (McLaughlin)
Possible: Petrov (Ron Moquett); Tale of Silence (Barclay Tagg)
Road to the Breeders’ Cup Package
Get Michael’s Best Plays Report each Saturday which will include all of the U.S. based Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” races from now to October and Michael Dempsey’s 2-Day Breeders’ Cup Report.
Michael’s two-day Breeders’ Cup Report includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for every race on the two-day championship event from Del Mar on Nov. 3-4.