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Vinny from Real Dynasty Picks previews the 2023 Dwyer Stakes (G3) from Belmont Park, then gives his top picks & long shots. The Bob Baffert-trained Fort Bragg resurfaces in New York after scratching out of the Woody Stephens Stakes (G1) with a fever, but will the rising undefeated Brad Cox trainee Saudi Crown pose too tough of a challenge? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Dual graded stakes-placed Fort Bragg leads a compact six-horse field that includes highly-regarded Saudi Crown in Saturday’s 105th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Dwyer for sophomores going a one-turn mile at Belmont Park.
The Dwyer honors the late Mike and Phil Dwyer, whose Dwyer Bros. Stable was one of the highest-earning racing outfits of the late 19th century. Among the most prominent horses owned by the Dwyers include Hall of Fame inductees Hindoo, Ben Brush and Hanover.
The Dwyer is slated as Race 6 on Saturday’s 10-race program, which co-features the Grade 2, $250,000 John A. Nerud in Race 9. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
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Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Fort Bragg was initially slated for action in Belmont Stakes Day’s Grade 1 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun, which was won by stable mate Arabian Lion, but spiked a fever and scratched from the seven-furlong test.
The son of Tapit was previously a close second to General Jim in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile on Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby undercard on May 6, where he joined the top flight of runners down the backstretch despite breaking a step slow. He was in command around the far turn and fought General Jim in the stretch drive, but came up a neck shy of victory while earning a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure.
Fort Bragg posted a third-out maiden win at Santa Anita in November and a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity at its namesake track in December before finishing fifth in a pair of Kentucky Derby prep races this spring.
He remained at Belmont Park after being withdrawn from the Woody Stephens and has breezed twice over Big Sandy, including a five-furlong effort in 59.90 on Sunday.
Fort Bragg, who adds blinkers, is owned by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Stonestreet Stables, Robert E. Masterson, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital and Catherine Donovan.
Tom Ryan, managing partner of SF Racing, said the Dwyer was instantly discussed amongst Baffert and the ownership group after scratching from the Woody Stephens.
“Fortunately, his temperature came back down to normal very quickly,” Ryan said. “Bob’s reaction to it was the right one. He felt something was brewing and we had to do the right thing by the horse. The decision was made immediately to reroute him to the Dwyer, which we feel should suit him very well. He’s got some miles under his belt now and his run at Churchill was really a fantastic effort. He didn’t get away from the gate the way we would have liked and he still managed to finish up strongly.”
Ryan said a good effort Saturday could propel Fort Bragg to the seven-furlong Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial on August 26 at Saratoga Race Course.
“This gives us options. We can see how we do here,” Ryan said. “There will be opportunities to stretch him out down the road if we feel that’s the right thing. A race like the Allen Jerkens could be on the radar for him later in the summer if we felt like he needs a cutback.”
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Fort Bragg from post 5.
FMQ Stables Inc.’s unbeaten Saudi Crown [post 2, Javier Castellano] will see added ground for his stakes debut following two winning efforts for trainer Brad Cox.
The Always Dreaming gray colt showed stalking tactics en route to a 4 3/4-length debut score on April 16 going six furlongs at Keeneland before going gate-to-wire to defeat elders in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance five weeks later at Churchill Downs.
Bred in Kentucky by CHC Inc., Saudi Crown is out of the unraced Tapit mare New Narration and is a direct descendant of Darby Dan foundation broodmare Soaring. He was bought for $240,000 at the 2022 OBS April Sale.
Cedar Meadow’s Alternate Reality [post 4, Jackie Davis] enters off a local allowance triumph on May 27 going the Dwyer distance for trainer Chris Englehart.
The Alternation chestnut rallied in deep stretch following a six-wide move in upper stretch to get up in the final jumps to win by a head over stakes-placed Winters Lion.
Alternate Reality was a fourth-out maiden winner at 16-1 odds going seven furlongs in April at Aqueduct Racetrack after making his first three starts at three different distances.
Englehart said the seven-furlong to one-turn mile distance is the horse’s ideal ground.
“I don’t know how well his numbers will match up with the rest of the field, but we’re looking to see what we have,” Englehart said. “He’s just kind of matured into himself a bit. He seems to be progressing along and we’re trying to take it one step at a time.”
Twin Creek Racing Stables homebred Harrodsburg [post 3, Manny Franco] enters off a narrow runner-up effort at allowance level on May 6 at Belmont, where he earned a co-field best 99 Beyer for trainer Rob Atras.
The Constitution colt was slated to run in the Woody Stephens, but got loose in the paddock before being collared and walked back to the barn. On debut, he was a 2 1/4-length winner going 6 1/2 furlongs on March 26 at Aqueduct.
Winning Move Stable’s Joey Freshwater [post 6, Jose Ortiz] will strive to double up on graded conquests after capturing the Grade 3 Bay Shore on April 8 at the Big A for trainer Linda Rice three starts back.
The Jimmy Creed dark bay was claimed by Rice for $50,000 in November following a five-length score at Churchill Downs, and picked up a New Year’s Day triumph at the Big A going six furlongs against starter optional claiming company. He enters off his lone turf start in the local Paradise Creek on May 20, where he finished a distant fifth.
Completing the field is Prove Right [post 1, Joey Martinez] – a 16-time starter who seeks his first stakes triumph for trainer James Chapman, who co-owns the son of Justify with Stuart Tsujimoto.
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