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ELMONT, NY – Saturday’s $200,000 Pennine Ridge Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park, always a fun race that serves as the local prep for the Belmont Derby (G1) coming up later in the meet, features Sainthood making his turf debut.
This year’s field drew a solid group of nine 3-year-old males in what looks like a wide-open betting event. The event is scheduled for race 9 on the card and has a local post time of 5:12 PM ET.
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Trainer Todd Pletcher leada the charge with two entries. Sainthood (post 5) finished 11th in the Kentucky Derby (G1) last time out and gets a big vote of confidence from Joel Rosario, who picked up the mount on the son of former Pletcher trainee Mshawish.
“He and Mshawish have similar physiques, and like Mshawish, this one seems pretty versatile,” Pletcher said. “We’ve had turf in the back of our minds with this one all along. With him being out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare and being by Mshawish, his breeding suggested that. I thought his two works on the turf here were really good.”
Shaftesbury (post 3) comes into the race off of a maiden special weight win over the local course. Irad Ortiz Jr., the nation’s leading rider for the past 3 years, will be aboard for the sixth straight race.
“He’s held good company,” Pletcher said. “His last race was a good race and hopefully was a breakthrough race to lead us into some better things.”
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The Pletcher duo will be challenged by the Jonathan Thomas-trained Hard Love, who won the Woodhaven Stakes at Aqueduct last time out. That kicked off his 2021 campaign and insured he’d point towards the big 3-year-old summer events in New York. He drew post 4 for this contest and will have Javier Castellano up for the ride.
“My guess is that the further the races get, the closer to the pace he’ll be,” Thomas said. “He seems to have pretty good tactical speed. I would imagine the further they run, the better he’s going to get. His strength is his stamina.”
When it comes to turf racing in New York, you can’t forget about trainer Chad Brown, who sends out Public Sector in this spot. The colt competed against the best in his crop as a 2-year-old, finishing second in the Pilgrim Stakes (G2) and 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) to round out last season. This year, he has just 1 race under his belt, a runner-up finish in an allowance race over this track. He’ll be ridden by Jose Ortiz when he breaks from post 7
The full field from the rail out: Shawdyshawdyshawdy, Step Dancer, Shaftesbury, Hard Love, Sainthood, Minuteman, Public Sector, Safe Conduct, and The Reds.
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#5 Sainthood – All through the Kentucky Derby trail, I felt that this horse would be great on turf, so it’s exciting to see him finally try the surface. 2 starts back, he ran the best race of his career in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on the Turfway Park synthetic surface, finishing second. Last time out, he was better than I expected in the Kentucky Derby (G1), running 11th, which isn’t horrible. He’s shown that he has the class, so if the turf is something he enjoys, then we could see a breakout performance from him.
#4 Hard Love – This horse has never been worse than second in 3 starts, and though his Woodhaven victory wasn’t flashy, it was his first start of the year, so you can expect to see improvement from him here. If we see that projected improvement, then he could dispose of this field rather easily.
#3 Shaftesbury – After finishing second 3 straight times, he finally broke his maiden last time out over this turf course, winning in impressive fashion by nearly 3 lengths. He has the pedigree to run well at this longer distance and Irad Ortiz Jr. has been aboard this horse in all of his starts as well, which is a great sign.
#8 The Reds – He makes his turf debut in this spot, which obviously is a big challenge, but his pedigree suggests that he will like this surface. The colt’s best races seem to come at this 1 1/8-mile distance, which makes him an intriguing alternative to the logical contenders in this spot. There also seems to be plenty of early speed signed on, which sets up perfectly for a closer like The Reds.
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#7 Safe Conduct – This colt has finished first or second in all 3 of his turf starts, with his last win coming at Belmont Park against allowance runners. He’ll make his stakes debut in this spot, so his the jump up in class will be a question mark for him. His speed figures are just a tad below the top group in here, too, so he’ll need to improve to have a chance to win.
#6 Public Sector – It’s hard to throw out Brown on the turf in New York, but this colt needs to show improvement here to have a chance. He’s hit the board in 3 of 4 starts, though, so playing him in the underneath positions makes a lot of sense.
#2 Step Dancer – As a 2-year-old, this horse won 2 of 3 starts, with his only loss coming to Fire At Will in the Pilgrim Stakes (G3). His 3-year-old season hasn’t gone to plan, though, with an off-the-board finish in the Cutler Bay Stakes before finishing third in a Belmont Park allowance last time out. He did make some big improvement in that last start, which makes him interesting here, especially with this being his third start off of the layoff. If his price floats up, then he’s worth a small play.
#6 Minuteman – This colt is still a maiden after 3 starts, while he’s only hit the board in one of those races. It’s hard to see him making an impact here, with this being the toughest field he’s faced so far.
#1 Shawdyshawdyshawdy – This colt just looks a bit overmatched in a field of this caliber. After breaking his maiden on debut, he’s lost 5 straight.
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