Nearly 100 New York-breds will gather for a unique 11-race card on Saturday at Belmont Park to celebrate the best of New York for the annual Empire Showcase Day.
In addition to eight stakes races worth $1.75 million, anchored by the $300,000 Empire Classic Handicap, Empire Showcase Day also marks the return of the critically acclaimed Belmont Park Live, airing on MSG+ and FOX Sports Ohio from 4 to 6 p.m. with live coverage and analysis of the $150,000 Hudson, the $200,000 Mohawk, and the $250,000 Empire Distaff. The NYRA Bets Late Pick 5 also returns, starting with Race 7 on the card and is available to NYRA Bets customers and horseplayers at tracks and simulcast facilities in New York.
Halloween-themed family fun day activities will also be available on Saturday in Belmont Park’s backyard including a pumpkin patch, pumpkin decorating, a Halloween maze, a hayride, a mechanical bull, carnival booths, face painting, “trick or treat” stations, and a costume contest for children.
Gates will open at 11:00 a.m., with the first race scheduled for 12:25 p.m.
Defending champion Royal Posse leads a field of nine in the Empire Classic as he looks to become the first back-to-back winner of the 1 1/8-mile race since Spite the Devil in 2004-05.
One of three entrants from trainer Rudy Rodriguez, the 6-year-old Posse gelding is still looking for his first win of 2017 with his best effort of the year coming with a third-place finish in the 1 3/8-mile Flat Out in May. Royal Posse was most recently sixth in a competitive optional claiming race behind Vulcan’s Forge and You’re to Blame at a mile on September 15. Royal Posse will be ridden by Luis Saez from the outside post.
Rodriguez will also saddle Becker’s Galaxy, who finished third in an optional-claimer October 9 after being claimed for $40,000 this summer at Saratoga, and Control Group, riding a three-race win streak this summer. Last time out, Control Group, a 3-year-old colt by Posse, bested New York-breds on August 31 at Saratoga by 2 ½ lengths in a 1 1/8-mile optional claiming race.
Expected to generate significant interest is Twisted Tom from the Chad Brown barn, looking to graduate against older horses following victories in the New York Derby and the Albany this summer. A 3-year-old chestnut gelding by Creative Cause, Twisted Tom owns six wins from nine career starts, including his 4 ½-length Albany victory on August 25 last time out.
Twisted Tom will break from post 3 with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano aboard.
Also on tap for the Empire Classic, carded as Race 5, are Albany runner-up Can You Diggit; Papa Shot, coming off a third-place finish in the Korea Cup in Seoul on September 10; last year’s runner-up Governor Malibu; 2016 Albany winner Hit It Once More; and Testosterstone, second in the Grade 3 Greenwood Cup in September at Parx.
Kicking off the day’s stakes actions is $250,000 Maid of the Mist as Race 2, featuring graded stakes winner Pure Silver, set to make her first start since a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Spinaway on September 2 at Saratoga Race Course. Trained by Todd Pletcher for Twin Creeks Racing, the Mission Impazible filly won her first three starts, including a 9 ½-length romp in the Grade 2 Adirondack on August 12 at the Spa.
Also entering are Joseph A. Gimma winner Held Accountable, Berning Rose, Cause We Are Loyal, Droselmeyr’s Smile, I Still Miss You, Miss Mystique, and Newport Breeze.
In Race 3, battle-tested fillies Quezon, Wonderment, and Absatootly are set to square off in the $150,000 Iroquois for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up. Owned by Marc Keller and trained by Bobby Ribaudo, Quezon won last year’s edition of the Iroquois and has been winless this year despite third-place showings in the Grade 3 Vagrancy and the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom.
Wonderment enters off a victory in the Artic Queen on October 2 at Finger Lakes, while Absatootly ran fourth last time out in the Gallant Boom on September 24. The three entrants will be joined by Picco Uno, Royal Inheritance, and Cozzy Spring.
Peter Brant’s Fifty Five headlines a field of nine competitors in the $200,000 Ticonderoga contested over 1 1/16 on Belmont Park’s inner turf. The 3-year-old Get Stormy filly enters off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Sands Point, the first time she didn’t hit the board in seven starts this year including a win in the Grade 3 Florida Oaks and a second in the Grade 3 Wonder Again.
Fifty Five breaks from post 5 and gets the services of Castellano for Brown, who also enters 2016 Grade 2 Lake George winner Ancient Secret with Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott entered multiple graded stakes winner Flipcup, who is looking to regain her winning form after a 16 month drought following her score in the 2016 running of the Grade 3 Arlington Matron.
Rounding out the field is Barrel of Dreams, Broken Border, Feeling Bossy, Frosty Margarita, Table for Six and Tizzelle.
In Race 6, the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow for 2-year-olds, Analyze the Odds, winner of the New York Breeders’ Futurity on September 30 at Finger Lakes, returns to Belmont for owner Mike Repole and Pletcher. With two starts at Belmont, including a third-place finish in the Rockville Centre on July 15, the Overanalyze colt will face Bertram F. Bongard runner-up Inalienable Rights, Battle Station, Big Gemmy, Bourbonfuhrme, Engineers Report, Lover’s Leap, Mr. Pete, Stoney Bennet, and We Should Talk.
Zilla Racing’s multiple stakes winner Celtic Chaos headlines a deep field of 10 competitors in the $150,000 Hudson, a 6 ½ furlong sprint over Belmont Park’s Big Sandy. Exiting a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Vosburgh on September 30 at Belmont, the 4-year-old Dublin colt will look to capture his third stakes win of the year following his win in the John Morrissey at Saratoga Race Course in July and the Affirmed Success at Belmont in April. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee will get the services of jockey Eric Cancel.
Multiple stakes winners Ostrolenka, Gold for the King, Pat On the Back, Sudden Surprise and Weekend Hideaway are entered as are Bust Another, Candid Desire, Eye Luv Lulu and T Loves a Fight.
Offering Plan is hoping a cut back in class will help the 5-year-old son of Spring At Last in the $200,000 Mohawk at 1 1/16 miles on Belmont Park’s inner turf. He enters off a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile at Keeneland on October 7 last out. Castellano gets the mount for Brown, who has also entered Nevisian Sky, who will be making his stakes debut.
Rounding out the full field of seven entrants is All Is Number, Black Tide, Cloontia, Converge, and Rapt.
The $250,000 Empire Distaff, for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, will bring down the curtain on the day’s stakes offerings as Race 10, which has attracted a field of nine led by Literata for the Rodriguez barn.
Literata, a 6-year-old mare by Read the Footnotes, posted back-to-back wins this summer, including a half-length score in the Saratoga Dew on August 14. She finished third behind Tejana and Going for Broke in an optional claiming race against open company on September 28. Literata will be ridden by Castellano from post 8.
Also entered in the Empire Distaff are half-sisters Jc’s Shooting Star and Jcs American Dream, Pride of Saratoga, Verdant Pastures