Belmont Stakes Day is here, two weeks late thanks to a worldwide pandemic that has halted most sports, and we have five supporting stakes to go along with the first jewel of the Triple Crown of 2020.
The $1 million Belmont Stakes sees a reduction in distance from 1 1/2 miles to 1 1/8 miles. The Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs will now be run on Sept. 5 while the Preakness Stakes (G1) will close out the Triple Crown in 2020 on Oct. 5.
The Belmont will be show on NBC during a three-hour telecast that starts at 3:00 ET. In addition, Fox Sports will be broadcasting the races on Saturday. FS1 will cover the action from Belmont Park and Churchill Downs from 11:30 to 2:00 ET and FS2 will broadcast the races from 2:00 to 3:00 and 6:00 to 7:00 ET.
Here is a quick look at the supporting stakes action on the Belmont Park card on Saturday:
The Woody Stephens (G1)
The race drew a compact field of five and the race has been carded as the second of 12 races. The Steve Asmussen trainee Echo Town is the 9-5 morning line favorite for the seven furlong sprint for three-year-olds.
The colt has won three of his five starts, taking a $100,000 optional claimer for non-winners of three at Churchill Downs in his last outing on May 25. Asmussen also will saddle Shoplifted (8-1), who was fifth in the Oaklawn Stakes in the slop in his last outing.
“Echo Town came in Tuesday in good shape. He’s got a lot of weight on him and looks really good,” said assistant trainer Toby Sheets. “Shoplifted has been here and he’s been training beautifully. I think he’s got a really good shot.”
The Pennine Ridge (G2)
A field of seven three-year-olds go one mile on the turf and if you are looking for the Chad Brown trainee there isn’t one.
The Christophe Clement trained Decorated Invader is the 6-5 morning line favorite. The colt won the Cutler Bay at Gulfstream Park on March 28 in his last start.
“Decorated Invader is doing great. He’s had two very nice breezes at Belmont with Joel [Rosario] aboard and he couldn’t be doing better,” Clement said. “I think he’s a top class horse and the distance should be perfect for him.
Among his foes are English Channel runner up Proven Strategies (3-1) and Rushaway winner Vanzzy (12-1).
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The Wonder Again (G3)
Three-year-old fillies go one mile on the turf and this race drew a disappointing short field of five. The Todd Pletcher trained Sweet Melania (7-5) makes her first start since a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).
She has been prepping at Palm Beach Downs in Florida for her return. “I gave her a little time off and this seemed like a good launching spot,” said Pletcher. “She’s done well. She’s grown and filled out a little bit. She’s an easy filly to train and it seems like she’s maintained her form from last fall.”
Highland Glory (2-1) was the runner up in the Honey Ryder in her last outing and Selflessly (5-2) will likely take some betting action as she makes her first start since running fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf for the Chad Brown barn. She won the Ms Grillo (G2) over the Belmont Park turf last September.
The Acorn (G1)
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert ships in Gamine (1-1) for the Acorn which drew a field of seven three-year-old fillies that will travel one mile on the main track. The filly is perfect in two starts, breaking her maiden at Santa Anita and then a win over $100,000 optional claimers at Oaklawn Park.
Perfect Albi (5-1) is making her first start since running fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) for trainer Mark Casse. She won the Adirondack (G2) and the Spinaway (G1) at Saratoga last summer.
“She’s been ready to run for about three months,” Casse said. “She’s always been very, very professional. If anything, she’s a little better work horse than she was. Last year, if you wanted to give some confidence to another horse you’d just work them with her because she’d let anybody beat her – except when they run in the afternoon. This year and recently, she’s been a little more aggressive in her works.”
The Jaipur (G1)
This race is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) this fall at Keeneland and drew a field of eight that will go six furlongs on the inner turf course.
The nine-year-old Pure Sensation (5-2) makes his first start since running fifth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita. The Christophe Clement trainee was third in the 2018 Jaipur and won it in 2016.
Stubbins (3-1) ships in from the west coast for trainer Doug O’Neill. The colt was a close up third in the Daytona (G3) on May 23 in his first start of 2020.
I will have my selections and analysis for the Belmont Stakes Day card available by Friday afternoon.