ELMONT, N.Y. – Before 3-year-olds face the demands of racing a mile and a half in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, older horses will tackle the same distance in Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational.
The Brooklyn, which will be run as the fourth race on the 13-race card, features an evenly matched field of 10. The 3-1 morning-line favorite is Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds and Black Swan Stable’s Kid Cruz, who is two-for-three this year, including a victory in the Grade 3 Excelsior at a mile and a quarter.
Kid Cruz, who will be ridden by Jose Ortiz, has shown a fondness for Belmont Park where, as a 3-year-old, he won the 2014 Easy Goer Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard and followed with a gutsy score in the Grade 3 Dwyer.
Kid Cruz, who figures to be prominent in the early running of this marathon test, drew post 7.
Among Kid Cruz’ rivals is a pair of runners from trainer Jimmy Jerkens’ barn, Shaman Ghost, the second choice at 4-1, and Securitiz, who is 8-1. The former enters the Brooklyn off a third-place finish in an optional claimer at Belmont last month in which he was making his first start for Jerkens. Last year, the Stronach Stables homebred, a son of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Ghostzapper, won the prestigious Queen’s Plate at a mile and a quarter.
“A mile and a half is a little different than a mile and a quarter,” Jerkens said, “but looking at his past performances, he should be able to handle it as good as anybody.”
Joel Rosario rides Shaman Ghost who drew post 4.
Securitiz finished a strong second in the 1 3/8-mile Flat Out Stakes, the local prep for the Brooklyn on May 15. Although the son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow had the lead turning for home and relinquished it when passed by the eventual winner and Brooklyn rival, Turco Bravo, Jerkens said the colt didn’t throw in the towel.
“He was gaining steadily at the very end,” Jerkens said. “I think he will give a good account of himself on Saturday.”
Centennial Farm’s Securitiz, who drew post 10 for the long run into the first turn, will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.
Trainer Rick Violette Jr. will be represented by My Meadowview Farm’s Samraat. The last, and only time, Samraat was seen running in a mile-and-a-half race was the 2014 Belmont Stakes. The New York-bred finished sixth, beaten four lengths. More recently, the son of Noble Causeway was second in the Grade 3 Westchester at a flat mile. That race marked his second start following a 13-month layoff to heal a cannon bone injury that was diagnosed after the Belmont Stakes.
“We took it easy on him in his first start back in April when he was third, but the Westchester was an important race, performance-wise, for him,” Violette said. “The Westchester was won by a loose-on-the-lead horse [Anchor Down]. Samraat ran a really good race and his numbers improved. The Brooklyn seemed like a really good spot to step things up for him. The third time off a layoff is a lot of people’s good betting angle.”
Hall of Famer Mike Smith, in town to ride Suddenbreakingnews in the Belmont Stakes, has the mount aboard Samraat from post 2.
Shadwell Stable’s Elnaawi’s effort in the Flat Out, a fifth-place finish after racing in Dubai in February, left trainer Kiaran McLaughlin disappointed.
“I guess I would say that sometimes he is hard to figure out for us, and maybe for the rider as well,” McLaughlin said. “We’re really happy to have Julien [Leparoux] back on him for this race because he has run really well with Julien before. He’s won on him, finished second and was third in the [Grade 1] Donn [Handicap]. Julien seems to have his number. If he runs those type of races, he will be right there.”
The field is completed by Neck ‘n Neck, the winner of the Grade 3 Greenwood Cup at the Brooklyn distance in 2015; Catholic Cowboy, who was fourth in the Flat Out; Doyouknowsomething, fourth in Keeneland’s Grade 3 Ben Ali; and Waymond Boyd, who is making his stakes debut.