New York-breds will take center stage on the Memorial Day holiday slate Monday at Belmont Park as the New York Racing Association hosts its annual Big Apple Showcase Day, featuring an 11-race all New York-bred card, including six stakes races worth $900,000 in purses, highlighted by the $200,000 Commentator and $200,000 Critical Eye.
Harold Lerner, AWC Stables and Nehoc Stables’ Pat On the Back will look to go one better in the Commentator after finishing second, by a nose, to millionaire Diversify in last year’s running of the one-turn mile on Big Sandy for 3-year-olds and up. The Congrats chestnut, bred by Sugar Maple Farm, enjoyed a solid 2018 winning twice and placing three times in seven starts, led by wins in the Saginaw and Empire Classic at Belmont Park.
The 5-year-old Pat On the Back arrives at Monday’s test from a convincing 1 1/4-length score in the six-furlong Affirmed Success. He boasts a perfect in-the-money record of 4-3-2 from nine starts at Belmont.
Trained by Jeremiah Englehart, Pat On the Back will look to best millionaire Giant Expectations to capture the 2019 renewal of the Commentator. Dylan Davis has the call from post 7.
Exline-Border Racing, Gatto Racing, and Garrett Zubok’s Giant Expectations arrives at the Commentator from a fifth in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap, contested at nine furlongs over a sloppy main track.
Trained by Peter Eurton, the 6-year-old Frost Giant chestnut, bred by Sunrise Stables, boasts a record of 4-3-4 from 20 starts with purse earnings in excess of $1.25 million. In 2017, Giant Expectations notched a pair of Grade 2 wins taking the Pat O’Brien at Del Mar at seven furlongs and the 1 1/16-mile San Antonio at Santa Anita.
Winless in four starts in 2018, he finished third in the Grade 3 Ack Ack at Churchill Downs ahead of a rallying fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile to close out the campaign. He returns to the Empire State for the first time since June 2017.
Giant Expectations, with blinkers added, will depart from post 5 under Jose Ortiz.
Completing the field for the Commentator, slated as Race 10, are Honor Up [Manny Franco, post 1], Syndergaard [Luis Saez, post 2], Control Group [Javier Castellano, post 3], Mr. Buff [Junior Alvarado, post 4], and Haul Anchor [Kendrick Carmouche, post 6].
Still There Tops Critical Eye
Grade 1-placed Still There will look to get back on track after a seven-month layoff when she takes on a field of seven in Race 7, the $200,000 Critical Eye for New York-bred fillies and mares over the Belmont Park main track.
Owned by P T and K Stable, the 5-year-old daughter of Union Rags last raced in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom last September at Belmont where she finished fourth. In her prior start for trainer Dane Kobiskie, Still There was second behind Marley’s Freedom in the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga. She has won three of her six career starts, one of which took place in an open company stakes race in Laurel Park’s Twixt last July.
“I was going to run her on Derby Day in the [Grade 1] Humana Distaff, and we were right on schedule for the race, but she got a little sick and set us back about five days. The Critical Eye looks like a good spot,” Kobiskie said. “She’s a very serious horse. She had some trouble in the race at Saratoga and still ran great. I wanted to give her the winter off, she was getting a little weary but she’s doing great. She’s been at Belmont since about Monday and she’s ready to run.”
Jockey Corey Lanerie has the mount aboard Still There, who will emerge from post 3.
Midnight Disguise races back against New York-bred company after missing the board in a pair of stakes at Aqueduct.
Trained by Linda Rice, the daughter of Midnight Lute, out of Thin Disguise, is a half-sister to last year’s Critical Eye winner Holiday Disguise. Midnight Disguise has won five of 10 career starts and captured the Bouwerie last year in her lone effort at Belmont. Jose Ortiz has the call from post 2.
Completing the field are Starlight Mission [post 1, Ruben Silvera], Kathryn the Wise [post 4, Irad Ortiz, Jr.], Indy’s Lady [post 5, Luis Saez], Frostie Anne [post 6, Javier Castellano], Bonita Bianca [post 7, Manny Franco].
Seven Go in Bouwerie
Kicking off the day’s stakes action is the $125,000 Bouwerie for 3-year-old New York-bred fillies going seven furlongs carded as Race 4 and attracting a field of seven.
Making her first start since finishing fifth in the Grade 2 Gazelle on April 6 at Aqueduct Racetrack is Espresso Shot for NY Final Furlong Racing Stable, Maspeth Stables and Parkland Thoroughbreds and conditioner Jorge Abreu.
The Mission Impazible filly broke her maiden in her second start before going on to win the East View on December 29 at Aqueduct. She kicked off her 3-year-old campaign with a victory in the Busher on March 9.
With Jose Ortiz aboard, the pair will leave from post 7.
Entering for conditioner Linda Rice and Beach Haven Thoroughbreds is Newly Minted. A daughter of Central Banker she is unbeaten in two starts after impressively winning her debut by 5 ¾ lengths and following up with a 7 ½ length win last out on April 20 in the New York Stallion Stakes Series Park Avenue on April 20 at Aqueduct.
With Jose Lezcano up, the pair will leave from post 2.
Rounding out the field is Wadadli Princess [Kendrick Carmouche, Post 1]; Elegant Zip [Dylan Davis, Post 4]; Behind the Couch [Junior Alvarado, Post 3]; Cash Offer [Luis Saez; Post 5] ; and Pat’s No Fool [Javier Castellano, Post 6].
Fifty Five Headlines Mount Vernon
In Race 5, Peter Brant’s Fifty Five will seek her sixth stakes triumph in the $125,000 Mount Vernon against 11 other New York-bred fillies and mares going one mile over the Widener turf course.
Never off the board in her last eight career starts, the Chad Brown-trained bay daughter of Get Stormy has won her last three career outings. She made her first start in six months last time out when defeating open company in the Plenty of Grace at Aqueduct.
Fifty Five ended her 2018 campaign with two stakes wins over the inner turf at Belmont against state-breds in the John Hettinger on September 23 and the Ticonderoga on October 20. Fifty Five won a graded stakes event at age three when taking the Grade 3 Florida Oaks while conditioned by Thomas Bush. She has won four of her eight starts over the turf at Belmont. She will break from the rail and receives the riding services of Javier Castellano.
Brown also sends out Lovely La La – a 4-year-old daughter of Uncle Mo who finished second last time out against New York-breds in an allowance event over a yielding Belmont turf course. A winner of two career starts, Lovely La La broke her maiden second time out last June at Belmont and two starts later defeated winners going wire-to-wire over a yielding turf at Belmont. Jockey Jose Lezcano has the mount from post 7.
Completing the field are Vip Nation [post 2, Mike Luzzi], Kreesie [post 3, Jose Ortiz], Jc’s Shooting Star [post 4, Manny Franco], Lady Joan [post 5, Luis Saez], Munchkin Money [post 6, Junior Alvarado], Wegetsdamunnys [post 8, Joel Rosario], Wish Upon [post 9, Rajiv Maragh], War Canoe [post 10, Dylan Davis], Vortex Road [post 11, Kendrick Carmouche].
Oak Bluff Stables homebred Therapist will look to keep his perfect 4-for-4 record on the Belmont turf intact in the $125,000 Kingston, a one-mile test for 3-year-olds and upward on the Widener course slated as Race 8.
Trained by Christophe Clement, the 4-year-old Freud chestnut arrives at the Kingston from a rallying score in the Elusive Quality over a yielding Belmont green. His other scores on the Belmont turf include his graduation day in July 2017; the 2017 Awad at a mile; and the NYSSS Spectacular Bid last June.
Eric Cancel has the return engagement from post 2.
To win the Kingston, Therapist will have to topple the Chad Brown-trained Offering Plan who has captured the past two editions of the Kingston. The 7-year-old Spring At Last horse was a rallying third in his seasonal debut in a Keeneland turf allowance. An eight-time winner from 24 starts with purse earnings of $766,573, Offering Plan will depart from post 3 under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.
Completing the field are Rapt [Manny Franco, post 1], Gucci Factor [Jose Ortiz, post 4], Appealing Briefs [Jose Lezcano, post 5], and Mo Maverick [Luis Saez, post 6].
Mike Lee Draws Ten
In Race 9, the $125,000 Mike Lee for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, Frosted Ice is set to make his second start of the year following a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Bachelor at Oaklawn Park on April 27.
Trained by Ron Moquett for owners Rialto Racing Stable, the son of Bellamy Road closed out his juvenile year with back-to-back wins including a victory in the Bertram F. Bongard on September 21 at Saratoga Race Course.
“We were happy to get that race over with [Bachelor] so now it’s time to move on and try to win another stake with him,” said Moquett. “I’m pretty pumped to get him back going again. We did everything to allow him to grow, mature and develop to get him ready for some of the races up in New York.”
With Luis Saez up, Frosted Ice will leave from post 2.
Gastas Stables, R.A. Hill Stable and Swick Stable’s Funny Guy will also look to win his second consecutive stake after winning the New York Stallion Stakes Series Times Square on April 20 on an off track at the Big A for which he earned an 87 Beyer Speed Figure.
With Rajiv Maragh in the irons, Funny Guy will leave from post 4.
Stone Breaker for owner Roddy Valente and trainer Gary Gullo will look to win his fourth consecutive victory after most recently capturing a first level allowance race on April 6 at Aqueduct.
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano will be aboard with the pair breaking from post 10.
Rounding out the field is Red Zinger [Eric Cancel, Post 9]; Le General [Jose Lezcano, Post 3]; Bankit [Ricardo Santana, Jr., Post 8]; Just Right [Manny Franco, Post 1]; Blindwillie McTell [Jose Ortiz, Post 6]; Durkin’s Call [Junior Alvarado, Post 5]; Fleet Warrior [Mike Luzzi, Post 7].
First post time on Holiday Monday’s 11-race Big Apple Showcase Day card is 1:30 p.m.