Poker Headlines Trio of Stakes on Independence Day Card at Belmont Park

A trio of stakes is on tap on the Independence Day card at Belmont Park on Thursday highlighted by the $150,000 Poker (G3) for three-year-olds and upward going one mile on turf.

The holiday stakes action gets underway in the fourth race when a field of nine will head to the gate in the $100,000 Eventail.

The eighth race on the card is the $100,000 Fairy Garden for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the turf which drew a field of eight with seven set to go. Dinner’s Out is likely to scratch after racing at Parx on July 2.

The turf course was labeled as “good” for Wednesday’s card with three of the races washed off the turf and moved to the main track. The weather is looking better for Thursday but there still figures to be some give to the turf course.

Here is a quick look at my top two contenders in each of the three stakes for Thursday afternoon:


The $100,000 Eventail

Discreet Marq is coming off a gate to wire win in the Sands Point (G2) in her first go off a four month layoff. She is a two time stakes winner and she fits well here as she takes on state breds for the first time since her maiden win last summer at the Spa. She just needs to avoid getting hooked up in an early speed duel as there are a couple of foes in here capable of running with her early.

Moonlit Sonnet was bumped coming out of the gate and she lost her footing, was outrun early and made a good late run to finish in the runner up spot last out against state bred Alw-1 optional claimers. The winner Pure Amour came back to beat starter optional claimers in her next outing on June 20. She will be closer to the pace here with a better break and still appears to have plenty of upside.


The $100,000 Fairy Garden

Future Generation won two of her four starts last year after coming in from overseas and landing with the Clement barn. The mare was a Group 3 winner in Ireland and won the Serena’s Cat over the turf here last fall. She looks as if she can jump out and be on the lead here off the bench or can sit just off the pace. The barn is 30% winners (with a +ROI with runners coming back off a +180 day layoff. She was only beaten four lengths in the Matriarch (G1) in her last start and this looks like a good spot for her return.

Samitar has won just one of her six starts since arriving in the U.S. and it seems like we are backing this filly each time out without much success. In her win in the Garden City (G1) last fall she went off at 4-5. She came up short last out at 6-5 in the Gallorette (G3) at Pimlico where she stumbled coming out of the gate, stalked the early pace and did not have any punch left late in a fourth place finish. She ran into Centre Court and Dayatthespa in her three previous starts and there are none as talented as those two in this spot.


The $150,000 Poker (G3)

Data Link was a solid second last out in the Makers 46 (G1) at Keeneland, beaten a length by Wise Dan, who came back to win the Firecracker Handicap (G2) in his next start last Saturday night at Churchill Downs. The fourth place finisher Skyring also won next out, taking the Dixie (G2) in his next outing on May 18 at Pimlico. He won the Canadian Turf (G3) and Citation (G3) in his two previous starts. He gets class relief here dropping into a Grade 3 and is going to be very tough to beat here as the chalk.

Howe Great was fourth in the Dixie and I thought he had a shot of winning that race at 8-1. The colt came with a good four wide bid to get into the mix but did not have enough punch left in the stretch. He makes his first start here for Richard Mettee, who takes over from Graham Motion for Team Valor. He should get a good trip sitting just off what likely is going to be a sharp early pace.


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