The holiday weekend at Belmont Park gets underway on Saturday with eight fillies and mares going long on the turf in the $200,000 Sheepshead Bay (G2) at 1 3/8 miles on the turf.
The race is one of five graded stakes carded over the next three days, with Monday’s Memorial Day card featuring the $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap (G1), $400,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap (G1), the Acorn (G1) and the $200,000 Sands Point (G2).
There is rain in the forecast for Friday into Saturday morning which likely will leave the turf course less than firm for the Sheepshead Bay. That likelihood should not pose a problem for Hessonite, the 5-2 morning line favorite for trainer David Donk.
The New York bred is coming off a victory in the Beaguay (G3) in her last outing on May 4, which was off a 6 ½ month layoff.
Monday’s Metropolitan Handicap is for older runners and a strong field is expected including Flat Out, who is perfect in four starts over the Belmont Park surface. He won the Westchester last month at Belmont Park.
Among the foes he is likely to face include Mark Valeski, Cross Traffic, Discreet Dancer, Fed Biz, Fort Loudon, Handsome Mike, Sahara Sky and Swagger Jack.
Among the fillies and mares pointing toward the Ogden Phipps include the talented Believe You Can, Joyful Victory, Centring, Disposablepleasure, and Tiz Miz Sue.
To purchase my Best Plays Report and my full card reports for Churchill Downs and Belmont Park for Saturday click here.
Let’s head out to Belmont Park for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Belmont Park Race 8 The Sheepshead Bay (G2) Post time 4:45 ET
1 Starformer 7-2
5 Hessonite 5-2
6 Strathnaver 4-1
7 Mystical Star 5-1
Starformer is coming off a fifth place finish in the 1 ½ mile Orchid (G3) at Gulfstream Park, beaten 3 ½ lengths for the top spot. The winner Regalo Miss came back to run a good second in the Bewitch (G3) in her next outing on April 25 at Keeneland. The mare won her two previous starts, taking the Long Island Handicap (G3) and The Very One (G3), both over turf with some give to it which we likely will see again today. The Bill Mott trainee is perfect in three starts at today’s distance and is reunited with Edgar Prado who was aboard her for all four of her starts since coming to the U.S.
Hessonite has done most of her damage facing New York breds but is coming off one of her career best efforts winning the Beaugay (G3) for her first graded stakes win. The mare won last out despite coming back off a 6 ½ month layoff. She loves the Belmont Park turf course, winning five of nine trips with a couple of seconds. The question mark is the distance as most of her wins have come at 1 1/16 miles. She was fifth in the 1 ¼ mile Flower Bowl (G1) last September but had a rough trip that day. The mare figures to move forward second off the bench and has shown she can handle ground less than firm.
Strathnaver is perfect in two starts since arriving in the U.S. and landing with the Graham Motion barn. The filly beat Alw-1 optional claimers two back in her U.S. debut off a four month break, and then won the Bewitch (G3) last out despite a tough post, a seven wide rally, and drifting inward in the final furlong. The filly makes her third start off the layoff here and the cut back here to 1 3/8 miles should suit. Unlike ore Euro shippers she does not seem to have much experience over yielding or soft turf.
WIN: Starfomer to win at 5-2 or better.
EXACTA: 1,5 / 1,5,6,7
TRIFECTA: 1,5 / 1,5,6,7 / 1,2,5,6,7