Belmont Stakes

Belmont Park Notes: Epicharis Breezes, Songbird Confirmed for Ogden Phipps

Katsumi Saito

ELMONT, NY – Carrot Farm’s UAE Derby runner-up Epicharis is one step closer to his bid in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 10, emerging from his Wednesday breeze in good order, according to trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara.

The Japanese-bred colt by Gold Allure, a son of the legendary 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Sunday Silence, was moved on Thursday to the quarantine barn at the JRA Miho Training Center to begin his week-long isolation in Japan before shipping to North America. Epicharis is scheduled to arrive at Belmont Park on June 1, a roughly 24-hour trip from Miho, located in the Ibaraki Prefecture.

On Wednesday, Epicharis worked 5 furlongs over the uphill woodchip course in 1:05.2 under assistant trainer Masaaki Minamida at the Miho Training Center. The horse was caught in splits of :12.6, :36.8 , and :50.7, Hagiwara said.

“I am pleased with his work,” Hagiwara said. “He looks fine and he moved sharply. He has been doing well. Considering the long trip to Belmont via Anchorage and Chicago, I will give him one more timed work in Japan at the same course on Sunday, and the last one will be at Belmont on Tuesday or Wednesday the week of the race.”

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Epicharis was undefeated as a 2-year-old in his homeland, winning his first three starts in Japan by a combined 25 lengths. As a 3-year-old, Epicharis stamped himself as a legitimate Triple Crown contender with a 3/4-length victory in the Hyacinth at Tokyo in February and suffered the only loss of his budding career with a hard-fought second to Thunder Snow in the UAE Derby at Meydan Racecourse on March 25.

A start in the Belmont Stakes will make Epicharis eligible for NYRA’s $1 million bonus offered to any Japan-based winner of New York’s most prestigious race. Introduced for the 2017 Triple Crown season, the entire $1 million bonus would be awarded to the winning Japanese horse’s connections in addition to the $800,000 winner’s share of the purse for the last and longest leg of the Triple Crown.

Additionally, Japanese wagering on the 1 1/2-mile “Test of the Champion” has received final regulatory approval, making the 2017 Belmont Stakes the first U.S. Triple Crown event available for pari-mutuel wagering in Japan. Japanese wagering on the Belmont Stakes will be conducted through a separate, non-comingled pool. Post time for the Belmont Stakes is scheduled for 6:37 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 10 (7:37 a.m. JST on Sunday, June 11).

Songbird Confirmed for Grade 1 Ogden Phipps

Fox Hill Farm’s Songbird is on target to make her 2017 debut in the Grade 1, $750,000 Ogden Phipps on the Belmont Stakes undercard on Saturday, June 10.

The Ogden Phipps, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff on November 3rd at Del Mar, will mark Songbird’s first start since finishing a hard-fought second in the Distaff last fall. Songbird, a 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, went 11-for-11 through her juvenile and sophomore seasons before suffering the first defeat of her career at the hands of three-time champion Beholder.

The star filly has been working regularly at Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s Santa Anita base since returning from a winter freshening at the end of January. Most recently, she worked 6 furlongs early Thursday morning under her regular jockey, Hall of Famer Mike Smith. The pair covered the distance in 1:13.80, the fastest of six at the distance.

“She went very well and galloped out well, so we’re very pleased,” said Hollendorfer. “Mike Smith was up and he’s very happy with the way she’s coming along. She’s bigger than last year, she’s put on weight, looks good. She’s been training the same, she doesn’t act any different that way. We’re looking to try to have a good campaign with her.”

Memorial Day at Belmont Park

A full promotional schedule will complement the live racing card on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29th, at Belmont Park. In addition to nine stakes for New York-breds worth at least $125,000 apiece, there will be family-fun activities, the presentation of the Mike Venezia Memorial Award, and the chance to participate in the Memorial Day mystery voucher program.

The Venezia, awarded to the jockey who exemplifies extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship, will be presented to Kendrick Carmouche following the third race. The award, established in 1989, is named in honor of jockey Mike Venezia, who died as a result of injuries he suffered in a spill in 1988 at Belmont Park. Venezia, a Brooklyn native, won more than 2,300 races during his 25-year career.

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Carmouche, 33, was selected as the 2017 winner through an online fan vote hosted on NYRA.com. The Vinton, Louisiana native has amassed more than 2,900 victories in his career and established himself as one of the top riders on the New York Racing Association circuit. In 2016, he piloted 124 winners at NYRA tracks, totaling over $8.2 million in purse earnings.

For the mystery voucher program, fans who are eligible can bring a voucher (either printed out or on your smartphone device) to the special promotion booth located on the first floor of Belmont Park on May 29 to see if they won $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 or $1,000. Fans must register prior at mysteryvouchers.com/belmontpark/register.aspx.

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