The John Kimmel trained Mr. Buff is looking to defend his title in Saturday’s $175,000 Empire Classic Handicap at Belmont Park, one of eight stakes on Empire Showcase Day.
The gelding is the 5-2 second choice on the morning line and faces seven foes in the 1 1/8-mile test on the main track, one of eight stakes on Empire Showcase Day for the best the New York breeding industry has to offer.
The Kimmel trainee checked in fifth in the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga in his last outing. The winner Improbable returned to win the Awesome Again (G1) and the runner up By My Standards came back to win the Alysheba (G2) in his next start.
“He’s giving me every indication that he’s doing well,” said Kimmel. “He’s training well and breezing well. Junior gets on him for all his breezes and says he feels terrific. I can’t say anything negative about the way he’s coming into the race.
“He’s had a nice little break,” added Kimmel. “There weren’t any New York-bred races for him at the Saratoga meet and this was the first restricted race he was eligible for that he fit.”
His main rival is Funny Guy, who is stretching out to a route after a runner up finish in the Vosburgh (G2) at six furlongs in his last outing. The John Terranova trainee is the 2-1 morning line favorite.
2020 Commentator Stakes Replay
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez picks up the call on the colt, who beat Mr. Buff in the state bred Commentator back in June going a one turn mile.
First post for the 11-race card at Belmont Park is 12:00 ET. There are eight stakes among the 11 races on the card with purses that total $1.4 million. FS2 will broadcast the entire card from noon to 6:00 ET.
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Let’s head out to Belmont Park for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Belmont Park Race 10 The Empire Classic Handicap 5:05 ET
2 Mr. Buff 5-2
3 Funny Guy 2-1
5 Bankit 6-1
4 Chestertown 10-1
The defending champion of this race is looking to bounce back off double digit losses in his last two starts. He was fifth beaten 15 ¼ lengths last out in the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga and two back was fifth beaten 12 ½ lengths in the Suburban (G2) over the main track here. He will appreciate the return to the state bred ranks where he has won in five of his last six starts. He did run second to Funny Guy in the state bred Commentator three back here at a mile. That effort was off nearly a four-month break. His three starts before that effort produced triple digit Beyers. He is going to face some pace pressure here but has shown he is not a need to lead runner. He looks ready to bounce back with a better effort here off nearly a three-month break.
This colt is stretching back out to a route after a solid effort last out in a runner up finish in the Vosburgh (G2) at six furlongs as the beaten favorite. He has won his last three starts against New York breds including a victory in the Albany last summer at the Spa at nine furlongs. The Terranova trainee should benefit from having a solid early pace in front of him. The colt has landed in the exacta in 10 of his 14 career starts. The barn is 23% winners (with a +ROI) moving runners from sprint to route.
The Asmussen trainee was outrun early and made up some ground late in a seventh-place finish in the Ack Ack (G3) at Churchill Downs going a one turn mile, beaten three lengths. He finished behind our top two picks in the state bred Commentator back in June, a race that produced his career top speed fig. He is 0 for 3 at nine furlongs, the best effort a head loss in the 2019 Albany, beaten by Funny Guy. He reunites with Irad who was aboard for his effort in the Commentator and he owns solid late pace numbers. If the early pace implodes this guy should be picking it up late.
WIN: Mr. Buff to win at 2-1 or better.
EXACTA: 2 / 3,4,5 and 2,3 / 2,3,5