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ELMONT, NY – The strong racing weekend continues Sunday at Belmont Park, which celebrates the 4th of July with the $250,000 John A. Nerud Stakes (G2). Led by Firenze Fire, in search of his third straight win, a field of seven will do battle in this Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” for the Sprint.
The event will go off as the last of the day, race 10, with a local post time of 5:44 PM.
The king of Belmont Park, Firenze Fire is definitely the headliner. The Kelly Breen trainee has won 7 of 10 races overall at this track, including 4 straight. He made his seasonal debut a winning one in the Runhappy Stakes (G3) before taking the True North Stakes (G2) last time out. He’ll break from the rail with Irad Ortiz Jr. up for the mount.
“One of the biggest advantages of this year was for the first time in his career, he had 5 months off,” said assistant trainer John Attfield. “We gave him the winter off without running him. He was still training a little bit, but he’s come back great.”
Another accomplished entry is Mind Control, looking to break an 8-race losing streak in this spot. He’s raced twice this season, finishing second in the Carter Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct and a lackluster seventh in the Churchill Downs Stakes (G1) last time out. John Velazquez will have the mount breaking from post 2 in the horse’s first start for new trainer Todd Pletcher.
“We went through a few races where he didn’t win, and we knew there were no races for him at Monmouth,” said Rick Sacco, racing manager for owner/breeder Red Oak Stable. “We just thought it was a change of scenery that would do him some good. Todd is on our team and he has horses for us. My brother Gregg won him a couple of Grade 1 races and did a fantastic job, but we figured we would change things up, send the horse over to Todd and try to win a race with him. It’s a hard lens to look through to move a horse. We’re just trying to get him back on track. He’s sound and training super.”
One horse that could steal the race from the more accomplished runners is Three Technique, who’s shown signs of being a good horse throughout his career. He ran well defeating allowance foes 2 starts back before running third to the talented Happy Saver. He’ll break from post 6 with Manny Franco aboard while looking for his first stakes victory.
The full field from the rail out: Firenze Fire, Mind Control, American Power, Top Seed, Wicked Trick, Three Technique, and Doubly Blessed.
Firenze Fire Defends Title in True North
#1 Firenze Fire – Simply put, he should win this race without much of an effort. He towers over the competition, seems to be running better than ever, and loves Belmont Park. This horse has been fun to watch for years, so it’s nice to see him still in training and running at the highest level. We should see him pick up his third straight victory on his way to his next challenge at Saratoga.
#6 Three Technique – At times, this horse looks like a stakes-caliber runner, especially in races less than a mile. That makes him a bit dangerous here, as 7 furlongs should suit him very well. He probably isn’t going to be good enough to beat the heavy favorite, but he provides an option for those wanting to try, and he should show up with his best effort.
#2 Mind Control – At his best, he’s the only one with speed figures capable of competing with the logical choice. It’s been a while since we’ve seen his best effort, though, so it’s hard to think he’ll do it in this spot. This is one of the easier races he’s been in lately, so that might help a bit, but hitting the board might just be his ceiling here.
#3 American Power – This horse consistently hits the board in these types of races. He’s been competitive in each of his last 6 starts, winning 4, but he was no match for Firenze Fire last time out in the True North Stakes (G2). He’ll need to show more in this spot to pick up the win.
#7 Doubly Blessed – This horse knows how to find the winnerls circle, picking up 4 wins from 6 starts this season. He also has solid connections who are known for pulling off upsets. Look for Luis Saez to get him involved early and try to steal this away from the top choices. His talent level may not be quite as high as Firenze Fire’s, but if the favorite stubs his toe, this horse can win at a price.
#4 Top Seed – He started in just 1 stakes before and that resulted in an off-the-board finish, so he looks to be a bit outclassed in this spot. He did run second to Happy Saver last time out, though, which is a positive sign.
#5 Wicked Trick – We’ve seen him face better horses in the past without much luck, so it’s hard to think he can win here. With it being a short field, it’s understandable that they’d like to take a shot, but he just looks to be outclassed.
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