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ELMONT, NY – Flying P Stable’s graded stakes winner Lone Rock has won his last four starts and will look to extend his streak as part of a six-horse field in Saturday’s $300,000 Grand Prix American Jockey Club Invitational for 4-year-olds and up competing at 1 5/8 miles over the Belmont Park main track.
The race’s second-ever edition, slated as race 4, is part of an 11-race card with first post of 1 PM Eastern.
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Lone Rock has been a force in his 6-year-old campaign, winning 5 of his 6 starts for trainer Robertino Diodoro and 7 of his last 8 overall. His only non-win still resulted in a runner-up effort in the Temperence Hill in March at Oaklawn Park, which preceded victories in a pair of 1 1/2-mile contests in the Isaac Murphy Marathon in April at Churchill Downs followed by a dominating 11 1/4-length score in the Brooklyn (G2) presented by Northwell Health on Belmont Stakes Day June 5 over Big Sandy that netted Lone Rock a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure.
Lone Rock registered a four-length win in the 1 3/4-mile Birdstone on August 5 at historic Saratoga Race Course and will once again contest a marathon distance in running 13 furlongs. After spending the summer stabled at Saratoga, Lone Rock returned to Belmont and breezed four furlongs in 48.26 seconds over the main track on Saturday.
“He’s doing great, He had a real good work this past weekend and he’s just a monster right now,” Diodoro said. “He’s training great, looks great and he’s filled out over the past few months. We just have to keep him happy and healthy.”
The Majestic Warrior gelding will attempt to go 2-for-2 at Belmont, drawing post 4 with Ramon Vazquez, who has been aboard for all four wins in the streak, back in the irons.
“Ramon is one of the most underrated riders there is,” Diodoro said. “He has soft and quiet hands and this horse likes that. He puts him in position early, lets him do his thing and I think that’s what this horse likes.”
Repole Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Moretti ran on turf for the first time in 15 career starts last out, finishing seventh in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer on August 28 at Saratoga.
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will now move the 5-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro back to the more familiar main track, where Moretti racked up victories in the 2020 Flat Out and Birdstone at Belmont.
No stranger to long distances at Belmont, Moretti ran third in the Grade 2 Brooklyn and followed with a fourth-place effort in the 1 1/4-mile Grade 2 Suburban over a sloppy and sealed track on July 3.
After two starts at Saratoga – finishing third in the 1 3/4-mile Birdstone on August 5 before his foray to grass in the Sword Dancer – Moretti will return to Belmont, breaking from post 5 with Irad Ortiz, Jr. set to ride.
Empty Tomb, claimed for $80,000 out of a third-place finish in a 1 1/8-mile contest on August 7 at the Spa, will make his first start for owner John Grossi’s Racing Corp and trainer Robert Falcone, Jr.
The 5-year-old son of Speightstown is 4-4-5 in 20 career starts and will be making his first stakes appearance since running sixth in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Stephen Foster in June at Churchill Downs for then-conditioner Mike Maker. Empty Tomb will be seeking his first career stakes win, exiting from post 3 with Luis Saez picking up the mount following a successful Saratoga meet in which he won the Angel Cordero Jr. riding title.
Locally Owned, who like Lone Rock is owned by Flying P Stable, will return to stakes company for the first time in seven starts. The gelded son of Distorted Humor has finished in the money in two of his four starts since trainer Tom Morley took over the training duties after Locally Owned as claimed for $40,000 out of a seventh-place finish in February at Fair Grounds.
Under Morley’s care, Locally Owned bested optional claimers by a half length going 1 1/16 miles over Big Sandy on April 30. Following an off-the-board finish in May at Belmont going a one-turn mile, Locally Owned finished second in a 1 1/8-mile off-the-turf contest on July 25 at Saratoga before running eighth last out on the same track on September 5.
Jockey Dylan Davis will pick up the mount in breaking from the outermost post 6.
Knights R B Stable’s Mo Gotcha crossed the wire second in his start two weeks ago but was elevated to first when Candy Tycoon was disqualified. Trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul claimed Mo Gotcha for $40,000 out of that contest, and the 5-year-old Uncle Mo gelding will now make his first start for his new connections in his first-ever stakes appearance in his 21st career start overall.
Jalon Samuel will be aboard Mo Gotcha for the first time, exiting post 1.
Robert Amendola’s Chris and Dave has finished on the board in his last nine starts spanning four different trainers. The now 8-year-old Bluegrass Cat gelding has been a popular claiming horse and has done well for current conditioner Mertkan Kantarmaci, who saddled Chris and Dave to a second-place finish in a one-mile off-the-turf optional claimer on July 3 at Belmont before he ran third in a 1 1/8-mile optional claiming race that was also taken off the turf on July 25 at Saratoga.
Kantarmaci, who has won four straight NYRA “Under 20s Claiming Challenges,” will see Manny Franco take over as jockey for Chris and Dave, drawing post 2.
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