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ELMONT, NY – After 12 consecutive starts against Grade 1 company, Peter Brant’s Raging Bull will gain slight class relief in leading a strong hand for trainer Chad Brown, who vies for his 100th graded stakes win at Belmont Park in Sunday’s 35th running of the $250,000 Poker (G3) for 4-year-olds and upward.
The 1-mile Widener turf test honors the Ogden Phipps-owned champion broodmare sire whose daughters produced Kentucky Derby winners Seattle Slew and Silver Charm, among many other notable thoroughbreds. During his racing career, Poker won the 1967 Bowling Green Handicap over champions Assagai and Buckpasser.
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Raging Bull, who brags an 18-7-3-3 record, is the field’s lone millionaire, posting $1,496,750 in lifetime earnings, and has registered triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures on 5 occasions.
The French-bred son of Dark Angel recorded a dozen straight Grade 1 appearances dating back to his victory in the Hollywood Derby (G1) in November 2018 at Del Mar. His most recent non-Grade 1 endeavor was a fifth-place finish in the Hill Prince (G2) in October 2018 at Belmont.
Raging Bull arrives off a sharp 2021 debut in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) on April 9 at Keeneland, where he made a sweeping move around the far turn and took advantage past the 1/4 pole, powering home a 2-length winner. The victory garnered a career-best 106 Beyer Speed Figure. Raging Bull also commenced his 2020 campaign with a Grade 1 victory by capturing the Shoemaker Mile last May at Santa Anita.
Brown said he had intentions of sending Raging Bull back to Santa Anita for a repeat engagement in the Shoemaker Mile.
“We had planned on going out to California, but there were some travelling complications that got in the way,” Brown said. “But we’re glad that we’re able to run him out of his own stall. It should be a good steppingstone moving forward to the Fourstardave.”
The 1-mile $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap (G1), a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” event, is slated for August 14 at Saratoga Race Course. Raging Bull has finished a respective second and fifth in the last two editions of the Fourstardave.
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who returned to action Thursday after being sidelined for 2 weeks with an injury, retains the mount from post 1.
Raging Bull Leaves His Mark in Maker’s Mark Mile
Fellow Peter Brant color-bearer Veronesi, a French-bred son of Kendargent, makes his first start in North America and cuts back considerably in distance for Brown. The 5-year-old bay has not raced since September 2019 when fourth in the Prix Niel (G2) behind eventual 2020 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner Sottsass.
“I think this is a good starting point for him,” Brown said. “He showed some promise overseas and unfortunately was injured. He’s come back good and strong and we’re ready to get going with him.”
Jockey Eric Cancel rides form post 3.
Klaravich Stables’ Front Run the Fed will see an increase in ground off a second-place finish in the 7-furlong Elusive Quality on April 24 at Belmont Park. The son of Fed Biz briefly held command in the stretch run of his last effort but was gunned down in the final strides by Casa Creed, who went on to win the Jackpocket Jaipur (G1) on Belmont Stakes Day.
Front Run the Fed, who sports a consistent 12-4-4-1 record, has 1 stakes win on his resume when capturing his stakes debut in the Better Talk Now in August 2019 at Saratoga.
“Hopefully he’ll be closer and get into good rhythm and position early on,” Brown said. “He’s a nice and versatile horse from 6 furlongs to a mile.”
Jockey Jose Lezcano, a 4-time winner of the Poker, has the mount from post 6.
Casa Creed Wins Blanket Finish in Elusive Quality
Mary Abeel Sullivan Revocable Trust’s Get Smokin arrives at the Poker in top form, with 3 of his last 5 outings being stakes wins. Following a second-out maiden victory in September 2019 at Belmont Park, the speedy 4-year-old son of Get Stormy acquired black type in 4 stakes races before notching a graded stakes victory when going gate to wire in the Hill Prince (G2) on October 18 over a yielding Widener turf course.
After a close fourth in the Hollywood Derby (G1) in November at Del Mar, Get Smokin began his 2021 campaign by utilizing stalking tactics to capture the Tampa Bay (G3) on February 5. Last out, he won the Seek Again in front-running fashion while recording a career-best 99 Beyer.
“He’s just matured on his own. He’s a very nice horse,” Bush said. “He’s got a big, long stride and he has a little fight in him, too. He’s got plenty of good qualities.”
Get Smokin, who is 3 for 5 at Belmont Park, has shown an affinity for the 1-mile distance as well as the local turf course. He boasts a record of 9-3-2-1 when travelling 1 mile.
“A mile seems to suit him pretty well,” Bush said. “We had a pretty soft pace last time. I’m not sure how it will shake out this time, but that worked out very well for him in that they didn’t go too fast up front.”
Jockey Junior Alvarado, who was aboard for both stakes victories this year, returns to the irons from post 4.
Get Smokin Parlays Easy Lead Into Success In Seek Again
Team Valor International’s Oleksandra will try to make amends after 3 losses this year while seeking another triumph against males for Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale. The Australian-bred daughter of Animal Kingdom last won when displaying a powerful turn of foot to win last year’s Jaipur against colts.
Jockey Joel Rosario will ride Oleksandra for the twelfth time from post 2.
Completing the field are Sanctuary City (post 5, Manny Franco), Raased (post 7, Jose Ferrer), Tell Your Daddy (post 8, Luis Saez), and Penalty (post 9, Jose Ortiz).
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