A field of eight will line up in the $1 Million Jockey Club Derby Invitational at Belmont Park on Saturday with a free ticket to the Breeders’ Cup up for grabs.
The Jockey Club Derby is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) which will be held at Del Mar on Nov. 6.
Half the field among these three-year-olds have done most of their running overseas including the 2-1 morning line favorite Yibir, who makes his U.S. debut for trainer Charlie Appleby. The gelding won the Sky Bet Great Voltigeur Stakes (G2) in his last outing on Aug. 18 at York. Jamie Spencer ships in for his first ride on the gelding.
Appleby has won a pair of G1 races on the New York circuit this year, with Althiqa and Summer Romance running one-two in both the Just a Game in June at Belmont Park and the Diana in July at Saratoga.
Yibir has shown steady improvement since being gelded and is proven at the 1 ½ mile distance.
“We’ve always thought he had that type of talent in him,” assistant trainer Chris Connett said. “He’s just a bit of a character hence why he’s been gelded. He has phenomenal talent and when things fall right for him, he can be any kind of horse.”
Bolshoi Ballet is the 5-2 second choice on the mooring line. After winning the Belmont Derby (G1) in his U.S. debut he checked in fourth in the Saratoga Derby in his last outing for trainer Aiden O’Brien.
The colt was being pointed toward the Prix Niel (G2) at Longchamp but was scratched and routed back to the U.S.
Bolshoi Ballet Wins Belmont Derby
“He was in France on Sunday, but we didn’t run him so we decided to bring him here. I think the wider turns suit him well,” O’Brien’s assistant T.J. Comerford said. “He’s won here two starts back and seemed to go around here over a shorter distance. His last start was a good experience for him. He’s won here and has form here, so that’s always a big help.”
The race is one of four Breeders’ Cup Challenge races on tap on Saturday. The $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile (G1) is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Mile. At Churchill Downs the $300,000 Iroquois (G3) and Pocahontas (G3) winners will earn starting spots in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies.
Let’s head out to Belmont Park for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Belmont Park Race 10 The Jockey Club Derby Inv. 5:45 ET
3 Tokyo Gold 8-1
4 Soldier Rising 5-2
2 Yibir 2-1
8 Bolshoi Ballet 5-2
This colt made his U.S. debut last out in the Belmont Derby (G1) over good ground going 1 ¼ miles. He was taken back to trail the field, got no pace to run at as they went slow and he came with a good late rally to finish in the runner up spot behind Bolshoi Ballet, beaten 1 ¼ lengths for the top spot. The winner came back to run fourth in the Saratoga Derby (G1) and is in here. The eighth-place finisher Safe Conduct came back to win the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine in his next start on Aug. 22. He should get a more honest pace here and he looks capable of handling the extra ground on the stretch out to 1 ½ miles. The colt should move forward with a race in the states under his belt and Johnny V. sticks. Among the top four here this guy is going to end up offering the best value for the top spot.
The gelding made his U.S. debut in the Saratoga Derby where he came with a good late run to finish in the runner up spot going 1 3/16 miles on firm ground. It was his first start off a three-month break and his first in graded stakes company. He won two of four starts for Andre Fabre in France, a maiden and an allowance race. A nice pedigree on this guy, by Frankel out of the stakes winner Sahrawi. He has a win at today’s distance at Chantilly and earned a solid number in his U.S. debut.
Sent out by Charlie Appleby, a barn that has already won a pair of G1 turf races in New York this year with Althiqa. This gelding is coming in off a victory in the Great Voltigeur (G2) at York going 1 ½ miles on good ground. It was his fourth win in 10 career starts. While Manny Franco and Mike Smith rode the barn’s two winners here in New York, today he imports Jamie Spencer for the ride, who seems to find a way to lose on just about every mount when he makes a trip to the U.S. Not a fan. The gelding came from out of it last out but did show some tactical speed in earlier races.