Reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown will look for his third win in four years in the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational when he saddles four entries in the 12-horse field at Belmont Park.
The Belmont Oaks is contested at 1 1/4 miles and is one of five graded stakes races on Saturday’s Stars & Stripes Racing Festival.
Peter Brant’s Sistercharlie will make her U.S. debut off of a second-place finish in the Group 1 Prix de Diane, known as the French Oaks. The Irish-bred daughter of Myboycharlie closed fast down the stretch in the field of 16, losing by only a length.
Sistercharlie has three wins in five races, including the Group 3 Prix Penelope at Saint-Cloud at 1 5/16 miles. Brown, who took over training duties following her private purchase, said that Sistercharlie shipped into Belmont on Saturday. She will break from the outside post with Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons.
Brown’s other starters include two top U.S.-based turf fillies, e Five Racing’s New Money Honey and Peter Brant’s second entry, Fifty Five. Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf champion New Money Honey led wire-to-wire in the Grade 3 Wonder Again on June 8, a 1 1/8 race over Belmont Park’s inner turf, with Fifty Five finishing 2 lengths behind in second. Both horses will be trying 1 1/4 miles for the first time. Brown is confident that the two can handle the distance.
New Money Honey, ridden by Javier Castellano, will break from post 8. The Grade 3 Florida Oaks winner Fifty Five will be ridden by Jose Ortiz and break from post 10.
Brown also saddles Michael Dubb’s U.K.-bred Uni, making her first start in the U.S. The chestnut filly has been training in New York since being transferred to Brown’s barn in May. Irad Ortiz, Jr., has the mount and will break from post 7.
#12 Sistercharlie – Chad Brown could have a live one here. Sistercharlie enters after last racing in France, where she finished second in the Prix de Diane by only a length. That was the first time that she had ever run on firm ground, and it looked to move her up quite a bit. That’s great news, as the ground should be firm for this race as well. She’s also lured John Velazquez to ride, which just makes her that much more enticing. If she handles the new elements well, she should be really hard to beat and will be a very exciting filly to watch.
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#5 Key to My Heart – Nobody is more dangerous right now than trainer Aidan O’Brien, who brings this filly over after a nice stakes win in Ireland last time out on June 28. The 10-day turnaround is certainly eye-catching, especially considering the fact that the race was in Ireland, but O’Brien wouldn’t bring a horse over this quickly unless he thought that she had a real chance of winning. This is an extremely well-bred filly (sired by Galileo out of a Bernardini mare) that should have no problem with the distance. She’s a very dangerous win contender.
#8 New Money Honey – The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner did not run well at all in her 3-year-old debut, but the screws were tightened before the Wonder Again, so it’s safe to say that she got back to her old self. However, this is going to be her most difficult race yet, and with her trainer entering multiple horses in the race, it shows that he doesn’t consider her to be a standout. She’ll have a big shot, but I really like the two European invaders ranked ahead of her.
#9 Dynatail – Last time out, she opened some eyes when winning the Penn Oaks by nearly a length at odds of 9/2. This is a much tougher spot today, but she should be ready for the challenge. Several still question her ability to get the distance, as she is not really bred to go 1 1/4 miles, but she’s classy enough to hit the board.
#10 Fifty Five – Chad Brown seems to be experimenting with her, but now it looks like he’s going to throw her into the deep end of the pool and she how she does. Last time out, she was a solid second to New Money Honey in the Wonder Again, a race where she had trouble making up ground on the loose-on-the-lead wunner. This will be the fourth straight race where jockey Jose Ortiz has ridden her, which is a good sign that he likes this horse. She’s not one to forget about.
#2 Beau Recall – At 15-1 morning line odds, this is a great horse to play underneath because she’s never done anything wrong. She kicked off 2017 with a win, then finished second three straight times, each by very slim margins. Last time out in the Grade 2 Honeymoon, she was beaten only a neck by Sircat Sally and was gaining ground with each and every stride. There’s no doubt in my mind that the stretch-out in distance is going to make her even more dangerous here. She should run well.
#7 Uni – She ships in to the United States for Brown, her new trainer. She might be the least-hyped of Brown’s four entries, but that doesn’t mean that she’s not dangerous in this spot. Last time out, she won a small stakes in France, and she shipped to Brown soon after, recording steady works at Belmont Park ever since. She might be a potential upsetter.
#11 Daddys Lil Darling – What happened to her last time out was a tough break, as she went all the way overseas just to have to scratch in the post parade. Now she’s back in a tough contest, and one has to wonder if she really even likes turf. Her one career turf race came in the Florida Oaks, where she finished sixth. Maybe the dirt would suit her better.
#3 Violet Blue – Going from a dead-heat maiden special weight win to perhaps the toughest Grade 1 race of the year for 3-year-old fillies? Not exactly a receipt for success.
#4 Grizzel – She’s been running very well on the synthetic surface at Woodbine, earning two straight wins, but her races on turf don’t look to be good enough to win a race like this one. If on synthetic, maybe, but not on turf.
#1 Coasted – As a 2-year-old, she was one of the better fillies in the country, but we haven’t seen that same form out of her this year. She’ll need a fast pace to have a shot in this tough spot. Her last couple of races gave her no shot at closing.
#6 Journey Home – The tremendous class jump here could become too tough for her to handle. I do like the connections, but this will be a big class test for her.
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