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The $250,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (G1) headlines opening Saturday of the Belmont Fall meet this weekend, drawing a small but competitive field of five runners.
The meet, which runs through Sunday, November 1, will be highlighted by 22 graded stakes (seven Grade 1s) and seven Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifiers to the two-day Breeders’ Cup 2020 World Championships to be held November 6-7 at Keeneland Race Course. The Belmont Oaks will be held as race 5 on a 10-race card, with local post time set for 3:04 PM ET.
The Bill Mott-trained Antoinette headlines this event after winning the Saratoga Oaks in gate-to-wire fashion by a 1/2-length last time out. The filly has never finished worse then fourth in 4 lifetime starts on grass, including a solid third in the Wonder Again Stakes (G3) over this surface on June 20. She drew post 5 and will have Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez aboard.
Shipping in from California is Neige Blanche, who was a fast-closing fourth in the Del Mar Oaks (G1) last time out. That was her North American debut after winning a Group 3 event in France 2 starts back. Jose Lezcano will take the reigns this time as she breaks from post 4.
Magic Attitude is another European runner who has a solid overseas resume. After winning a G3 race at Longchamp, the filly was second in the Saxon Warrior Coolmore Prix Saint Alary Stakes (G1) at Chantilly. Last time out, she finished fifth in the Prix de Dianne Longines Stakes (G1), only defeated by 3 lengths. Javier Castellano will have the mount for her United States debut, breaking from post 2.
“She arrived here in late July,” said new trainer Arnaud Delacour. “We liked her right away. She’s not very big, but she’s very athletic. She moves very well on the grass.”
The full field from the rail out includes Setting the Mood, Magic Attitude, Key Biscayne, Neige Blanche, and Antoinette.
#2 Magic Attitude – I’m willing to give a first-time North American runner the nod in a race that seems devoid of any major talent. Magic Attitude has an impressive overseas resume and finished second in a G1 at the same distance as this event, which is a major positive. If she can produce that kind of effort in these new conditions, then she should be tough to beat.
#5 Antoinette – Mott has been successful with this horse on both turf and dirt this year, but after her impressive Saratoga Oaks score, the turf seems to be her best surface. This pace should set up very similar to what she got last time out at Saratoga, which makes her very dangerous. Look for her to go straight to the front and try to make every pole a winning one.
#3 Key Biscayne – She seems like the perfect hit-the-board candidate. Last time out, she was third in the Saratoga Oaks while never really threatened the top two finishers. It was more of the same in the Lake Placid Stakes (G2) 2 starts back, as she finished fourth while making up some ground in the stretch. That type of effort should be good enough for a minor award here.
#4 Neige Blanche – This was my pick to win the Del Mar Oaks (G1) last time out, so I was a bit disappointed to see her run a non-threatening fourth. She got running late and made up some solid ground, but she just had too much work to do. Expect her to improve a bit, with this being her second start in the United States, but she will need to show more speed out of the gate to have a shot in this small field.
#1 Setting the Mood – This filly seems to be improving coming into this event, finishing second in an allowance over this course and distance 2 starts back before narrowly losing an allowance at Saratoga last time out. That being said, this is an awfully tough ask of a horse who has never won beyond his maiden.
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