Looking for Hard Love in Belmont Derby

Belmont Derby

A field of nine will line up in the $1 million Belmont Derby (G1) at Belmont Park. (Photo credit: Photo © George Zilberman | Dreamstime.com).

A field of nine line up in Saturday’s $1 million Belmont Derby (G1) with Hard Love looking like the best option to beating the imposing Euro invader Bolshoi Ballet.

The Belmont Derby is the first leg of the Turf Triple series for colts that will continue with the $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational (G1) on Aug. 7 and the $1 million Jockey Club Derby on September 18 back at Belmont Park.

Trainer Aiden O’Brien ships in Bolshoi Ballet, who is looking to rebound off a seventh-place finish in the Epsom Derby (G1) in his last outing as the beaten favorite. The colt came out of the race with a cut on his right hind leg.

“He’s been training well since the Derby,” said O’Brien’s assistant T.J. Comerford. “Once he has good to firm ground, that makes a difference. I suppose the race wasn’t ideal that day at Epsom. The ground may have gone against him.”

Ryan Moore is in to ride the colt as well as Santa Barbara, who is the even money favorite on the morning line for the $700,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1).

2021 Epsom Derby Replay

The New York area got more than two inches of rain Thursday night into Friday. The races were taken of the turf on Friday. There will be about 20 hours without rain, but the turf should still have plenty of give to it.

The Jonathan Thomas trained Hard Love appears to have the best shot of beating the favorite. The ridgling won the Woodhaven off the bench two back and after scratching out of the Pennine Ridge (G3) which was moved to the main track, he prepped for today by beating Alw-2 optional claimers on June 5.

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Thomas won the 2018 Belmont Derby with Catholic Boy.

“He’s done nothing wrong up to this point,” Thomas added. “Catholic Boy was more of a flashy horse in the morning. Turf, dirt, whatever, he always breezed sharply. He was a much more aggressive horse training in the morning. This one seems to be more laid back and is not a dirt horse. They have some similarities, but let’s just hope that the biggest similarity they have is winning the Belmont Derby.”

Let’s head out to Belmont Park for Saturday’s featured race of the day:

Belmont Park

Belmont Park Race 9 The Belmont Derby Inv. G1 5:12 ET

6 Hard Love   5-2

2 Bolshoi Ballet   7-5

4 Sainthood   10-1

5 Du Jour   9-2

Hard Love

The Thomas trainee has won three of his four career starts, last out a hard fought head win over Alw-2 optional claimers going 1 1/8 miles over the grass here. He went there after being pointed toward the Pennine Ridge (G3) on May 29, but that race was washed off the turf. He earned career top speed figure in the effort. He came off a 4 ½ month break two back to win the Woodhaven at Aqueduct going 1 1/16 miles. The runner up It’s a Gamble exited that race to win the off the turf Jersey Derby at Monmouth Park in his next outing. The $200,000 Ocala purchase has the pedigree to handle 1 ¼ miles. He is by Kitten’s Joy out of a Rock Hard Ten mare, this her first foal to race. He handled ground with give to it in the Central Park last November where he ran second in his stakes debut. He looks as if he still has some upside and has the best shot of beating the chalk in here.

Bolshoi Ballet

This colt is looking to rebound off a seventh-place finish in the Epson Derby (G1) where he was the beaten favorite. He had a foe run up on him and he came out of the race with a cut to his right hind leg. The third place finisher Hurricane Lane came back to win the Irish Derby (G1) in his next outing on June 26. The O’Brien trainee won his two previous starts, both over good ground at 1 ¼ miles—the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial (G3) and the Ballysax Stakes (G3), both of those trips coming at Leopardstown. His connections have noted they prefer firmer ground for this colt which they will not get today. O’Brien, one of the top trainers in the world has won with just 2 of 26 starters on the New York circuit dating back just over five years. He won this race in 2016 with Deauville. Ryan Moore is in to ride and this colt figures to rebound but seems likely to get overbet by horseplayers assuming the less than firm ground will suit him.


The Pletcher trainee won the off the turf Pennine Ride (G3) last out and now makes his turf debut. The barn is 25% winners (with a +ROI) moving runners from dirt to turf. He broke his maiden on a fast dirt surface at Fair Grounds and ran well on the Tapeta at Turfway Park in a runner up finish in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) before an 11th in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He is bred to like turf, by Mshawish out of a stakes placed Lemon Drop Kid mare. The colt has breezed well over the turf and is going to be a decent price in this spot.


WIN: Hard Love to win at 5-2 or better.

EXACTA: 6 / 2,4,5 and 2,6 / 2,4,6


NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll

No. Horse Points
1 Flightline 351
2 Life Is Good 306
3 Olympiad 292
4 Jackie's Warrior 282
5 Clairiere 142
5 Country Grammer 142
7 Epicenter 121
8 Regal Glory 89
9 Nest 87
10 Hot Rod Charlie 48
As of August 1, 2022

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