With $7.5 million in purse money available over 10 stakes races on Belmont Stakes Day, the card is much more than just a lead up to the end of the Triple Crown season. With almost all of the major divisions in the game represented over six Grade-1 races, two Grade-2 races and a Grade-3 race, the Belmont Stakes day card has become the summer version of the Breeders’ Cup on the east coast.
The Belmont Stakes day on Saturday, June 11 will include the following races:
Nominations are due on Saturday, May 26, and the fields will start to come together over the next couple weeks. Some connections have already said that they will be pointing some of their top horses to the stakes races on the day. It’s going to be a great day of racing, so it’s never too early to start preparing!
Below is an overview of the two Grade-1 races for older males on the card: the Metropolitan Handicap (“Met Mile”) on the dirt and the Manhattan on the turf. The top contenders and a “Horse to Watch” that may provide good value for each race are analyzed below:
Grade-1 Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap
The Met Mile will bring together one of the best fields of older male dirt horses in the United States so far this year. Multiple graded stakes winner Frosted returns from a disappointing fifth in the Dubai World Cup and cuts back to a mile here. Frosted hasn’t run a race at this short of a distance since his maiden breaking win at a mile in October 2014. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin believes that a fast pace will play into Frosted’s closing style and that the return from Dubai is not a concern.
Also coming out of the McLaughlin barn, top prospect Marking is a likely Met Mile entry and is also returning from Dubai after a disappointing fourth in the Godolphin Mile. Second to super-horse Runhappy in the Grade-1 Malibu in December, Marking’s winter in Dubai was a roller-coaster where he had gate issues and was heated up before all three of his races in the desert. A return to the larger U.S. gates with a starter may be the remedy for his issues, though, and McLaughlin has said that he is working him in the gate.
Noble Bird is being pointed to the Met Mile by trainer Mark Casse after his blow-out win in the Grade-2 Pimlico Special on May 20. Unlike his disappointing Grade-2 Alysheba run on the Kentucky Oaks undercard, jockey Julien Leparoux let Noble Bird use his early speed in the Pimlico Special and he was uncatchable against a questionable field. Casse has said that Noble Bird can either stalk or set the pace if no early speed comes to fruition in the race.
Trainer Todd Pletcher may entering multiple horses with Stanford, Mshawish and Anchor Down as possible entries. Stanford scratched out of the aforementioned Pimlico Special to focus on a Met Mile try and may be packing early speed in this field. Stanford took the field gate-to-wire in his recent Grade-2 Charles Town Classic win, so be looking for a similar trip here.
Mshawish is another returning from the Dubai World Cup, where he finished sixth. The Dubai World Cup may have been too far for him and the cut-back to the mile may do the trick. Mshawish had won the Grade-1 Donn Handicap before his trip overseas. Anchor Down comes out of a win in the local prep Grade-3 Westchester at Belmont Park, but he got away setting a slow pace in the slop that day, so that race may not be as strong as it looks on paper.
Other possibles for the Met Mile include Calculator, Kobe’s Back, Catalina Red, Red Vine and Speightster.
Met Mile Horse to Watch: Upstart is an intriguing possible entry after blazing a 46 second flat four-furlong bullet workout at Belmont on May 21. Trainer Rick Violette added blinkers for the workout and has said Upstart will run in the Met Mile with the hood. Upstart never got good position in the Grade-2 Oaklawn Handicap and finished fifth, so the blinkers are being used to try to assure him forward placement. The mile distance has always been thought to be Upstart’s best distance and this can be a huge race for him coming in as his third race of the year.
Grade-1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan
The kings of the American turf will face off in this early summer showdown. Trainer Buff Bradley (with a heavy heart after losing his father recently) will point Grade-1 winner Divisidero to the Manhattan. After getting up by a neck over World Approval in the final stages of the Grade-1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day, Divisidero will try to get the same type of closing trip stretching out the extra 1/8 of a mile here.
Trainer Chad Brown is always loaded in big turf races and may be entering up to four horses in here. Grade-1 and Group 1 winner Flintshire will be making his debut for the Brown barn focusing on an American campaign looking for firmer turf than in Europe. His last race in the United States was probably the most dominating turf performance of 2015 as he demolished a Grade-1 field in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga last summer.
German-bred Wake Forest won the local prep for the Manhattan in the Grade-1 Man o’ War Stakes on May 14. Jockey John Velazquez sat back early with Wake Forest and it didn’t look like he’d find space to run at the top of the stretch. Once Velazquez produced him from the rail for an outside run, though, Wake Forest showed possibly the best late kick of the year on the turf to win by ¾ of a length over stalblemate Money Multiplier.
The 2015 Manhattan winner Slumber may be looking to defend his title for the Brown barn after returning to get third in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic off a long layoff. Additionally, the now 8-year old multiple Grade-1 winner Big Blue Kitten had a troubled trip in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic finishing fifth and may look to return in here for Brown. Big Blue Kitten placed second in the Manhattan last year.
Manhattan Horse to Watch: Ironicus returned an impressive winner on May 7 at Belmont in the Grade-3 Fort Marcy after being off 8 months after taking the Grade-2 Bernard Baruch on closing weekend at Saratoga. Trainer Shug McGaughey usually doesn’t have a horse fully cranked off this type of lay-off and he should be even better second off the layoff, if he goes in the Manhattan.
Look for more previews of the Grade-1 undercard races on RacingDudes.com in the next couple of weeks as we lead up to the Belmont Stakes on June 11. Also, the Belmont Stakes Guide will be available soon from RacingDudes.com and Guaranteed Tip Sheet highlighting all 10 Stakes races on Belmont Stakes day, so there is more to come as we approach one of the biggest race days of the year!
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