The week in-between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes did not disappoint, thanks to a stellar card at Belmont Park. Everyone seems to be talking about the Preakness, and rightfully so, but before we move on to Baltimore, let’s take a look at some fantastic performances that should springboard several horses into races on Belmont Stakes day on June 9. Here are the Three Stars of the Week:
1. Hi Happy
This is quickly becoming one of the country’s best turf horses. Three races ago, Hi Happy switched to the barn of Todd Pletcher, a move that has done him well. After losing his first race of the year to Heart to Heart, Hi Happy has now won two straight stakes. Saturday’s win in the Grade 1 Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park was his most impressive win yet. He sat second behind the early pacesetter One Go All Go before wearing him down late to take the lead. Approaching the wire, he still had enough in the tank to hold off a bold charge by Sadler’s Joy and win by 1/2 a length. There are several turf options for him next, and he looks ready for a big-time summer at Belmont Park and Saratoga.
2. A Raving Beauty
It’s good to be trainer Chad Brown! It’s also good to be A Raving Beauty after she made her American debut a winning one with a crushing victory in the Grade 3 Beaugay Stakes on Saturday. The German-bred was a three-time winner overseas, but she showed a whole new turn of foot in her United States debut. After breaking sharply, jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., covered her up with a perfect inside pocket trip. She sat just a length off the pace, tipped out turning for home, then simply blew the competition away to win by 3 lengths over stablemate Inflexibility. This is another horse, like Hi Happy, that will have plenty of options this summer because New York has the most lucrative turf racing in the country.
After taking a couple of chances on the Kentucky Derby trail, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer cut Kanthaka back in distance for the Grade 3 Lazaro Barrera Stakes, a move that paid off with a nice victory. Like usual, Kanthaka dropped back early, however this time, he was a bit closer than usual up the backside. Jockey Flavien Prat patiently sat behind the leaders while hugging the rail, giving the horse a ground-saving trip and staying inside when making his move at the top of the stretch. Kanthaka quickly put away the front-runners, then held on gamely to turn away a bid from a late-flying Beautiful Shot. Last year, American Anthem won this race before going on to win the Grade 2 Woody Stephens at Belmont Park. Will Kanthaka try to do the same thing?