The Belmont Park meeting is winding down, with just nine racing days left before we get a four day break and Saratoga opens its doors for a 40-day meeting that gets underway on July 20.
There are just four graded stakes left on the calendar, with the Fourth of July feature being the $150,000 Poker Handicap (G3) for three-year-olds and upward who will go one mile on the turf course.
Coming up on Saturday we have the $150,000 Victory Ride (G3) for three-year-old fillies going six furlongs, and the $350,000 Suburban Handicap (G2) for three-year-olds and upward going nine furlongs.
The final graded stake of the meeting is the $600,000 Man O’ War (G1) for three-year-olds and upward going 1 3/8 miles on the grass on July 14.
The Poker Handicap drew a field of ten plus two main track only runners, although the field size may be whittled down by post time.
Queen’splatekitten, Monument Hill, Boots Ahead, and El Commodore are also entered in Wednesday’s $100,000 Red Bank (G3) at Monmouth Park.
Also on Wednesday’s holiday card is the $90,000 Endear, a 1 1/16 mile race for fillies and mares restricted to runners that have not won an open stake in 2012.
The race drew a field of seven including the favored coupled entry of Happy Ticket and Tiz the Argument for trainer Rick Dutrow.
With just two weeks left in the meeting, Ramon Dominguez is on top of the jockey standings and is well on his way to another title with 62 wins, with Javier Castellano, who picked up four wins on Sunday second with 48.
They are followed by Jose Lezcano (31), Cornelio Velasquez (30), and Rosie Napravnik (29).
Newcomer Joel Rosario now has four wins from 23 mounts and figures to pick up momentum over the last couple of weeks of the meeting and should have an impact at Saratoga.
On the frigid side is Jose Espinoza, who has just one win from his 95 mounts.
Rick Dutrow tops the trainer’s standings with 23 winners from 84 starters (27%), with Christophe Clement second with 17 winners (all in turf races) from his 68 starters (25%).
Next in line is Rudy Rodriguez with 16 wins, and Chad Brown and David Jacobson with 15 winners each.
The chilliest barn on the grounds belongs to Randi Persaud, who is winless from 67 starters, and Carlos Martin, who has just one win from 41 starters.
Michael Dempsey provides his selections for Belmont Park each racing day. Mike’s Best Plays Report is available each weekend, with his strongest plays and selections including the top stakes races.
Let’s head out to Belmont Park for Wednesday’s featured race of the day:
Belmont Park Race 9 The $150,000 Poker Handicap G3 (Post time 5:06 ET)
9 Right One 3-1
1 Compliance Officer 5-2
3 Queen’splatekitten 6-1
6 Clear Attempt 6-1
Right One stretches out from the seven furlong Jaipur (G3) on June 8 where the gelding came with a good five wide rally to close for the runner up spot, beaten ¾ of a length to Upgrade. The gelding makes his third start since coming back off a five month layoff and the extra furlong here should suit. He is a two time winner over the grass here and checked in third in this race last year after winning the Island Sun at today’s distance. The Clement barn has been on a roll on turf at this meeting, winning with 17 of 59 starters over the lawn including the New York Stakes (G2) last weekend with Mystical Star. It looks as if there will be enough pace to set things up for him, but four of these are cross entered in the Red Bank (G3) at Monmouth Park, so we need to keep an eye on where those four runners end up.
Compliance Officer has won seven of eight starts since the Bruce Brown barn claimed this guy for just $25,000 last May where the gelding ran fourth in a state bred second level optional claimer. He reeled off five straight for the new connections including three New York bred stakes. The streak ended when he was overmatched in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). He came back in the Claiming Crown and took the Emerald at Fair Grounds, and then got a 5 ½ month vacation. His return race on May 27 winning the state bred Kingston was impressive, and he has now won half of his 14 starts over the Belmont Park turf.
Queen’splatekitten is one of four in this race that are cross-entered in the Red Bank at Monmouth Park. The Todd Pletcher trainee is coming off a fourth place finish over the polytrack at Woodbine in the Eclipse (G3). The colt pressed the early pace, was taken back to stalk and then finished evenly, beaten 6 ½ lengths. The winner Hunter’s Bay came back to win the Dominion Day Stakes (G3) in his next outing at Woodbine on July 1. The colt makes his third start off the bench and while he is just 1 for 5 on turf he has landed in the exacta in all five trips including runner up finishes in the Saranac (G2) and Palm Beach (G3). The barn is 35% winners (with a +ROI) moving runners from the fake stuff to turf. He fits here with his best if he sticks in New York and does not make the trip to Jersey.
WIN: Right One to win at 2-1 or better.
EXACTA: 1,9 / 1,3,6,9
TRIFECTA: 1,9 / 1,3,6,9 / 1,3,4,6,9