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Aaron previews the 2023 Man O’ War Stakes (G1) from Belmont Park, then gives his top picks & long shots. World traveller Warren Point invades the New York turf course for trainer Charlie Appleby, the same connections that put Ottoman Fleet into the Fort Marcy Stakes (G2) winner’s circle last week. Will yet another Godolphin homebred capture more American success? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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Trainer Charlie Appleby will look to continue a strong run of stateside form when he sends out Godolphin’s British homebred Warren Point in Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Man o’ War, an 11-furlong inner turf test for older horses, at Belmont Park.
The Man o’ War is slated as Race 5 on Saturday’s lucrative 11-race card, which also features the Grade 3, $200,000 Peter Pan in Race 6 and the Grade 3, $175,000 Runhappy in Race 9. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.
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Appleby, based in Newmarket, England, sent out Ottoman Fleet to an impressive score in last weekend’s Grade 2 Fort Marcy here. He has previously won graded races in New York with Althiqa [2021 Grade 1 Just a Game; 2021 Grade 1 Diana], Nations Pride [2022 Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational, 2022 Grade 3 Jockey Club Derby Invitational], and With The Moonlight [2022 Grade 3 Saratoga Oaks Invitational].
Warren Point will be piloted by Frankie Dettori from post 2 carrying a co-field high 122 pounds. He launched his 4-year-old campaign on February 3 with a three-length score in the 10-furlong Royal Crown Prince Cup at Bahrain while racing off a four-month layoff.
The Dubawi gelding returned two weeks later to finish a close second in the 12-furlong Group 1 HH The Amir Trophy at Doha, landing a half-length back of the victorious Russian Emperor. Under jockey William Buick, Warren Point jostled with rivals through the early stages as In The Night and Broome set the tempo. Warren Point, in need of racing room as the field turned for home, was switched to the outside and came with a run but could not reel in the early move of Russian Emperor. Broome, who finished fifth, exited that event to win the Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan Racecourse.
Appleby said he was pleased with the determination shown by Warren Point in his first top-flight test.
“I was delighted with the run,” Appleby said. “It was a big step up from that race in Bahrain to the Group 1 standard. I was disappointed we didn’t get our head in front, but it was a bit of a messy affair. The positives we took out of the race is that he’s a horse that deserves to be campaigning at that level.”
The improving bay is out of the Dubai Destination mare Gaterie, who is a half-sister to multiple Group 2-winner Dartmouth. Warren Point won 4-of-6 sophomore starts in England, completing his 2022 campaign in October with a prominent score traveling 12 furlongs over the Kempton Park synthetic.
Appleby said he is hopeful Warren Point will enjoy a stalking trip under Dettori, who guided both Nations Pride and With The Moonlight to runner-up efforts in Grade 1s here last year in the Belmont Derby Invitational and Belmont Oaks Invitational, respectively.
“He’s a horse that can latch on. I’m happy for him to take the lead, but he is versatile,” Appleby said. “If you pop him in front, he’ll prick his ears and go. But I’d rather give him a target than for him to be the target.”
Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, Morris Bailey, Wonder Stables and Michael J. Caruso’s multiple graded-stakes placed Soldier Rising [post 6, Jose Ortiz, 118 pounds] will look to make the grade in his seasonal debut for trainer Christophe Clement.
The 5-year-old Frankel gelding boasts a consistent record of 15-4-5-3 for purse earnings of $722,497, including a pair of optional-claiming scores last year in New York. The late-running bay has endured troubled trips in his stakes outings, closing from last-of-10 and 11 lengths off the pace to miss by a length to stablemate Gufo when a wide third in the Grade 1 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer in August at Saratoga. He followed with a similar back-of-the-pack move in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational in October at Belmont at the Big A, steadying at the sixteenth pole and settling for fourth.
Soldier Rising, last seen finishing off-the-board in the Grade 2 Red Smith in November at Aqueduct, wintered at Payson Park in Florida and shipped up to New York on Friday.
“He’s doing great,” said Clement, who won this event in 2009-10 with Gio Ponti. “He needs a bit more racing luck, but he’s done well otherwise. We’ll take them on.”
John D. Gunther’s lightly-raced Kentucky homebred Howe Street [post 5, Flavien Prat, 118 pounds] faltered as the favorite when sixth in his stakes debut last out in the 12-furlong Grade 2 Elkhorn on April 22 over good going at Keeneland.
Trained by Jorge Abreu, the 4-year-old Honor Code colt finished second to eventual graded-stakes placed Bay Street Money on debut last April at the Big A. He returned nine months later to take a pair of turf tilts at Gulfstream Park, graduating at one mile in January and following with an impressive 4 1/4-length score on March 5 traveling 11 furlongs.
Last out, Howe Street, with Flavien Prat aboard for the first time, stalked from fifth in a three-wide position and advanced to third into the final turn but failed to fire down the lane and finished 5 1/2-lengths back of the victorious returning rival Verstappen, who was a head better than fellow Man o’ War combatant Red Knight.
Abreu said Howe Street will race without blinkers for the first time on Saturday.
“He was too keyed up with the blinkers on him,” Abreu said. “Flavien said for the mile and a half, he should be relaxed a little bit more. He didn’t run a bad race, he just got tired the last eighth of a mile. He’s a very lightly-raced horse and has kept good company. We’ll give him another shot.”
Howe Street, out of the Street Sense mare Street Rumor, is a half-brother to graded-stakes placed Conviction Trade.
2023 Preakness Stakes
Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, R. A. Hill Stable and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s multiple Grade 1-winning multimillionaire Channel Maker [post 3, Joel Rosario, 122 pounds] won this event in 2019 in his lone attempt.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the evergreen 9-year-old English Channel gelding boasts a record of 51-9-6-5 for purse earnings in excess of $3.7 million. Bred in Ontario by Tall Oaks Farm, Channel Maker has amassed an impressive list of honors, including a Sovereign Award as Canada’s Champion 3-Year-Old Colt in 2017 and an Eclipse Award as the 2020 Champion Turf Male.
In addition to the 2019 Grade 1 Man o’ War, his graded wins include the Grade 2 Bowling Green , Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational [2018, 2020], Grade 1 Sword Dancer , and Grade 2 Elkhorn .
He enters from a pair of off-the-board efforts in the McKnight and Elkhorn, but returns to the familiar Belmont turf where he was won 4-of-12 starts.
Trainer Mike Maker will be represented by a pair of contenders in multiple graded-stakes winning New York-bred Red Knight [post 1, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 122 pounds] and graded-stakes winner Value Engineering [post 8, Manny Franco, 122 pounds].
Trinity Farm’s millionaire homebred Red Knight, a 9-year-old Pure Prize gelding, banked more than $400,000 last year with wins in the Colonial Cup at Colonial Downs and Grade 2 Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs. He opened his current campaign with a rallying effort in the Grade 3 William L. McKnight in January at Gulfstream Park, closing from last-of-11 to win by one length over next-out Grade 2 Mac Diarmida-winner and stablemate Value Engineering.
Red Knight, who has won 4-of-10 starts over the Belmont turf, enters from a narrow head defeat to fellow Man o’ War combatant Verstappen in the Grade 2 Elkhorn on April 22 at Keeneland.
Michael Hui and Phil Forte’s Value Engineering was purchased for $35,000 in November at the Keeneland Horses of Racing Age Sale. The former Chad Brown trainee was subsequently transferred to Maker and has since posted a record of 4-2-1-0, including a win in the 13-furlong H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Handicap in December.
The 7-year-old Lemon Drop Kid gelding followed with a runner-up effort in the Grade 3 William L. McKnight before making the grade with a close stalking performance in the 11-furlong Grade 2 Mac Diarmida in March. Last out, he finished a distant eighth in the Elkhorn.
Andrew Farm, For the People Racing Stable and Windmill Manor Farm’s Verstappen [post 4, Declan Cannon, 122 pounds] made the grade last out in the aforementioned Grade 2 Elkhorn for trainer Brendan Walsh.
The 4-year-old War Front gelding, a $325,000 purchase at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, has won 2-of-3 starts this year. The late bloomer registered a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure with a runner-up effort to Wolfie’s Dynaghost in the nine-furlong Kentucky Cup Classic in March while competing on the Turfway Park synthetic.
Rounding out the field is the multiple graded-stakes placed Strong Tide [post 7, Florent Geroux, 118 pounds] for trainer Michael Lauer. The 6-year-old English Channel bay finished third in the Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup here traveling two miles in June.
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