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The feature race on an amazing day of racing Saturday at Belmont Park will be the $1 million Belmont Derby (G1), which has drawn a tremendous international field of 14 3-year-olds, plus one also eligible. The race kicks off the brand-new “Turf Trinity” series that highlights 3-year-olds on the turf. Meant to mimic the Triple Crown, the Turf Trinity is comprised of three legs: the Belmont Derby, the Saratoga Derby (G1) on August 4, and the Jockey Club Derby (G1) on September 7 back here at Belmont Park. This Saturday’s card also features four other stakes races on a day highlighting the week-long Stars and Stripes Festival of Racing.
You can’t have a big American turf event without trainer Chad Brown, who has four horses entered in this spot. It’s hard to pick out who might be the best of the bunch; all of them come into the race looking strong. Digital Age won the American Turf Stakes (G2) last time out at Churchill Downs, while Demarchelier defeated a solid field over this track in the Pennine Ridge Stakes (G3) in his last start. Then there is Standard Deviation, who won the Tale of the Cat Stakes at Monmouth Park in his last start. Finally, Brown will send out Rockemperor, who will be making his American racing debut in this difficult spot. Overall, Brown is excited for this new series.
“I love the concept of the series,” Brown said. “It makes a lot of sense. Turf racing has become increasingly more popular in the last few years, so the natural thing to do is to create a series like this to help with the continued development of our turf program in this country.”
Not to be outdone by Brown, international training sensation Aidan O’Brien will send out a pair of his own runners in this race, with Cape of Good Hope and Blenheim Palace each set to make their American debuts. Both of these horses have struggled in recent races overseas, but the competition that they have been up against has been fierce. O’Brien is no stranger to success with shipping horses to this country for the first time; these two are sure to play a factor in this spot.
It’s not often that trainer Todd Pletcher becomes forgotten in a race of this magnitude, yet he’s flying a bit under the radar against this competitive field. He’ll saddle two horses with a shot, Social Paranoia and Spinoff. Spinoff will be making his debut on the turf after poor efforts in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1), while Social Paranoia will look to continue to improve after hitting the board in a couple of difficult races in his last two starts.
The full field from the rail out for the Belmont Derby: Moon Colony, Standard Deviation, Seismic Wave, English Bee, Plus Que Parfait, Henley’s Joy, Master Fencer, Social Paranoia, Cape of Good Hope, Spinoff, Blenheim Palace, Demarchelier, Digital Age, Rockemperor, and He’s No Lemon
#13 Digital Age – Ever since his impressive win in the American Turf Stakes (G2), I have thought that he would win the Belmont Derby. He is a perfect 3-for-3 entering this contest, with his last victory coming over a quality group of horses. Looking at his pedigree, it screams going long on the turf, so this challenging mile and 1/4 distance should be right up his alley. He has shown heart and determination along the way as well, which will be important in this extremely deep and talented field. If he gets the pace setup, which he should, then he is going to be difficult to hold off down the lane.
#12 Demarchelier – It’s hard to find much of anything wrong with this colt. He is a perfect 3-for-3 for Brown, who is obviously the guy you want in a race like this. Last time out, he stepped up to stakes company for the first time, making it look easy in the Pennine Ridge Stakes (G3) for a solid victory. From a breeding standpoint, the extra distance should be fine. It will come down to his talent level, which looks to be very high, but there are some really good horses in this race to challenge him. There is no doubt that he has a big shot to win.
#9 Cape of Good Hope – This is O’Brien’s best chance of winning the race. His overseas form is not overly impressive; however, he has been facing some tough competition, including running at Royal Ascot in his last start. Much like Blenheim Palace, this is a quick turnaround for him, yet O’Brien has had success with this type of move in the past. Like always, how the European invaders handle the different racing conditions will be the biggest factor. Cape of Good Hope looks to be classy enough on paper to be up for the challenge.
#11 Blenheim Palace – Anytime O’Brien sends a horse over, then it is one that you have to respect, which is why we’ve listed this horse and Cape of Good Hope as ones to use in multi-race wagers. Cape of Good Hope may have the flashier resume, but Blenheim Palace comes off of an impressive run in his last start, finishing second against Group 3 company in the Dubai Duty Free Full of Surprises International Stakes at Curragh. This is a rapid turnaround, but it is something that O’Brien has had success with in the past.
#14 Rockemperor – This unknown Brown entry could very well be the goods. He’ll make his American debut for connections who have all kinds of success when trying this for the first time. The horse has won 2 of 7 starts in his career and finished second in the Prix la Force (G3) at Longchamp two races back. How he handles the American style of racing is going to be the major question mark. If he handles it well, he’ll be tough, as he is bred to run all day and certainly has the right trainer.
#3 Seismic Wave – He is dangerous after a strong closing performance in the Pennine Ridge Stakes (G3), where he settled for second behind Demarchelier. Three races back, he also showed that same determined turn of foot down the lane when he won the Cutler Bay Stakes at Gulfstream Park. This horse also seems to be getting better the more he races. The distance is going to suit him perfectly, making him the biggest challenger to the loaded duo of Brown and O’Brien.
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#1 Moon Colony – Trainer Mark Casse was really talking this colt up before the Penn Mile Stakes (G2), and for good reason, as the horse got a perfect trip and won by over a length. There is no doubt that race should give you confidence coming into this one. The competition here is much tougher, though, and he also must stretch out in distance.
#8 Social Paranoia – This horse has been solid since breaking his maiden at Gulfstream Park this winter, with two third-places finishes in tough races. Two races back, he looked loaded in the American Turf Stakes (G2) before settling for third, and then he made a nice run in the Pennine Ridge Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park to finish third again. At this point, he may just be the type of horse that is going to round out the trifecta. If he can do so this time around, he could make it pay at what will likely be a big price.
#2 Standard Deviation – He made his first start on turf look easy last time out, winning the Take of Cat Stakes at Monmouth Park by an eye-catching 2 lengths while never asked. The competition gets much stiffer for this next challenge for him, but it is a good sign that Brown entered him in this race. With three other runners, it is not like Brown needed another entry just for the hell of it, so being entered means that he must be doing well. There is a decent chance that he will be the highest price of the Brown foursome, which makes him intriguing.
#4 English Bee – He comes into this race off of a solid victory at Pimlico in the James W. Murphy Stakes, where he defeated a few nice horses. This race is going to give him a major class test, though, as it is his first against graded company. For that reason, I need to see him prove it to me before I can back him in a race of this magnitude.
#6 Henley’s Joy – Last year, this horse showed a lot of promise, but this year, he can’t seem to find his winning form. Perhaps the rest of the crop has caught up to him a bit, or maybe he just hasn’t developed quite like we thought he would. This looks to be an extremely difficult spot for him based on how he’s been running.
#5 Plus Que Parfait – This move to the turf might be a good thing for a horse that has struggled in big dirt races in this country. His sire, Point of Entry, was a turf monster, making it a bit surprising that this horse has been running on the dirt. Overall, this is not a crazy spot to try him, but he’ll need to prove his talent to me before I back him in a race like this.
#10 Spinoff – Pletcher moves him to the turf after disappointing runs in both the Kentucky Derby (G1) and the Belmont Stakes (G1). At this point, he has let down a lot of people who believed that he was developing into something nice. His pedigree is a little iffy for the turf, which has me questioning his chances in a difficult spot like this one.
#7 Master Fencer – His American racing experiment continues with a move to the turf after two unsuccessful attempt along the Triple Crown Trail where he made nice closing runs in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1), but he never threatened to win. This move to the grass seems a little desperate and has me staying away from him, just like I’ve done in other American races.
Also Eligible: #15 He’s No Lemon
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