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Belmont At The Big A Picks | Man O’ War Stakes 2024
Nations Pride (NYRA)

Belmont At The Big A Picks | Man O’ War Stakes 2024

Godolphin’s Irish homebred Nations Pride returns to Aqueduct Racetrack in search of his sixth graded/group stakes score in Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Man o’ War, a 1 3/8-mile inner turf test for older horses, at the Belmont at the Big A meet.

The Man o’ War is slated as Race 7 on Saturday’s 11-race card at Belmont at the Big A, which co-features the Grade 3, $175,000 Beaugay in Race 2, the Grade 3, $175,000 Runhappy in Race 4, and the Grade 3, $200,000 Peter Pan in Race 6. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.   

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Trained by Charlie Appleby, the world-traveling Nations Pride has won a graded or group event in four countries, including a pair of scores as a sophomore in the Empire State when capturing the Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational at Saratoga Race Course and the Grade 3 Jockey Club Derby Invitational at Belmont at the Big A in his most recent New York outing.

Nations Pride arrived in New York on April 28 and has worked three times over the Belmont Park dirt training track, including a half-mile in 49.89 seconds Wednesday, and 50 flat on Saturday under the watchful eye of traveling assistant Christiane Harley.

“He loves to be away from home and to travel around. For a colt, he’s very good,” said Harley. “He loves it. He’s doing really good and has worked well. I have taken him around before, so I know him. He seems as good as he’s always been.”

The 5-year-old Teofilo bay won 2-of-3 starts as a juvenile in England and went on to post a stellar sophomore campaign that included his New York scores and additional open-lengths victories in the Jumeirah Derby at Meydan Racecourse in the U.A.E., and the Newmarket at its namesake course. He nearly swept the New York series of turf routes for 3-year-olds when a narrowly-beaten second in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational, and completed the year with an off-the-board finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf that November at Keeneland.

As a 4-year-old, he made five starts in four different countries, beginning with a win in the Group 3 Dubai Millennium in February at Meydan and a close third-place effort in the Group 1 Dubai Turf ahead of four-month respite that ended with a victory at Germany’s Munich Racecourse in the Group 1 Grosser Dallmayr-Preis – Bayerisches Zuchtrennen. He made two more outings when shipping to Woodbine to capture the Grade 1 Canadian International, and to Bahrain to finish off-the-board in the Group 2 International Trophy in November.

Nations Pride boasts more than $2.5 million in earnings through a consistent 15-9-2-1 record. He is out of the stakes-winning Oasis Dream mare Important Time with his second dam being multiple group stakes-winner Satwa Queen, winner of the 2007 Group 1 Prix de l’Opera.

Frankie Dettori will ride from post 9 with Nations Pride to carry a field-high 124 pounds over the Belmont at the Big A turf.

Appleby will also send out Godolphin’s multiple group/graded stakes-winner Silver Knott [post 8, Flavien Prat, 122 pounds] off a win in the Grade 2 Elkhorn on April 20 at Keeneland when making his seasonal bow. There, he was given a prominent trip by Prat and drew clear late to win the 1 1/2-mile test by 1 1/2 lengths. The effort was awarded a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure.

The 4-year-old Lope de Vega gelding was winless as a sophomore, but posted good efforts in graded company when a close second in the Grade 2 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita Park and third in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar, finishing 2 1/2 lengths back of subsequent Grade 1 Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic-winner Program Trading.

As a juvenile, he captured two Group 3s in his native England in the Solario at Sandown Park and the Autumn at Newmarket ahead of a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf where he was beaten a nose by Victoria Road.

Trainer Christophe Clement will send out two contenders in graded stakes-winner Kertez [post 2, Joel Rosario, 122 pounds] and multiple graded stakes-winner Tawny Port [post 5, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 118 pounds]. Both Kertez and Tawny Port were training with Clement’s string at Payson Park in Florida before shipping up to New York last week.

“Both horses are doing great. They just came in from Florida and they had their first day on the track Saturday and looked good,” said Clement.

Michael Dubb, Morris Bailey and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Kertez was last seen making his American debut when posting a nose victory in the Grade 2 Pan American on March 30 at Gulfstream Park, pouncing from four lengths off the pace under Hall of Famer Joel Rosario and nailing returning rival Harry Hood at the wire to earn a 94 Beyer. Tawny Port finished a neck back in third.

“They both ran very well in the race at Gulfstream,” said Clement. “It won’t be easy – the Man o’ War is never easy, but we’ll try our best.”

Kertez was purchased for just over $158,000 at the Arqana Saint-Cloud Arc Sale in September in France, where he made his first 19 starts for conditioner Andre Fabre while campaigned for his breeder Wertheimer et Frere. There, he graduated at fourth asking in August 2021 a 1 1/2-mile maiden over soft footing at Clairefontaine, and went on to post three consecutive allowance scores in the spring of 2022 at Saint-Cloud.

Kertez placed in six group events over one year from June 2022 to last June, led by a narrowly-beaten runner-up effort to Haya Zark in the Group 3 Prix d’Hedouville last May at Longchamp. He won his final French start in a September allowance at Saint-Cloud ahead of the Arqana sale.

“He’s always trained like nice horse. He’s the most beautiful mover,” said Clement. “We bought him from Mr. Wertheimer and he has plenty of back class.”

Peachtree Stable’s Tawny Port was a prominent third in the Pan American, where he was once again defeated a neck after a strong runner-up effort in Gulfstream’s Grade 2 Mac Diarmida on March 2 going the Man o’ War distance.

The 5-year-old Pioneerof the Nile horse has seen each of his six starts for Clement garner Beyers in the 90s, including a 95 in his second start for the veteran conditioner when taking the restricted John’s Call going 1 5/8 miles in August at Saratoga.

“Tawny Port is a beautiful horse. He’s very game,” said Clement. “He’s very unlucky not to have won a graded stakes this winter. He’s run very well twice. So, we’ll try again.”

Tawny Port earned his two graded conquests on dirt as a sophomore when in the care of two-time Eclipse Award-winner Brad Cox, capturing the Grade 3 Lexington and Grade 3 Ohio Derby going 1 1/16-miles and 1 1/8-miles, respectively. His 12 outings for Cox also included graded placings when third in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga and second in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks over the Turfway Park synthetic.

A $430,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, the millionaire Tawny Port is out of the multiple graded stakes-placed Macho Uno mare Livi Makenzie and is a half-brother to the graded stakes-placed Broadway Lady.

Completing the field at Belmont at the Big A are:

  • The stakes-placed Ohana Honor [post 1, Kendrick Carmouche, 118 pounds] for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey
  • The Naipaul Chatterpaul owned/trained pair of Grade 1-placed So High [post 3, Romero Maragh, 118 pounds] and four-time winner Rocket and Roll [post 7, Gokhan Kocakaya, 118 pounds]
  • Harry Hood [post 4, John Velazquez, 118 pounds], who was defeated a nose by Kertez in the Pan American last out for trainer Mark Hennig
  • The stakes-placed Greek Order [post 6, Jose Lezcano, 118 pounds], who makes his second stateside outing for Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott