Trainer Chad Brown will send out a very talented duo in the Grade 2, $250,000 True North for older horses at six furlongs on Friday at Belmont Park.
The True North - a race traditionally run on Belmont Stakes Day - will be the co-feature of Friday's card, along with the inaugural running of the $200,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational.
Bakken, who Brown trains for Mr. and Mrs. William Warren, Jr., has not raced since finishing fifth on December 26 in the Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita Park. Prior
to the Malibu, the son of Distorted Humor was undefeated through two starts, which he won by a combined 8 ¾ lengths.
"He's training very well," said Brown. "He likes Belmont Park; he debuted here. I think he's a graded stakes caliber horse and I wanted to start him back at six furlongs. He drew well so we're definitely going to run."
Bakken, the 5-2 morning line favorite, will be ridden by Javier Castellano and the pair will break from post position 8.
Brown will also saddle Integrity, a dark bay or brown colt owned by Robert LaPenta. Integrity has won half of his 10 starts, and most recently captured the seven-furlong Elusive Quality at Belmont when the race was washed off the turf. The Hard Spun colt enters the True North on a three-race win streak.
"He's doing well," said Brown. "He's on a roll right now and he seems to be an improving horse. I think he can cut back to six [furlongs] and can run as far as a mile. He's a versatile horse and we've always thought he has graded stakes potential."
Integrity will be ridden by John Velazquez from post position 4, and sits at 4-1 on the morning line.
Linda Rice may also send out two runners in the True North - Marriedtothemusic and Palace, both New York-breds.
Marriedtothemusic was transferred to Rice in March after the death of Dominic Galluscio, and "runs in his memory," according to the trainer. The chestnut colt has won seven of 11 career races, including both starts since Rice took over training duties. In his most recent outing, he captured the Affirmed Success at Belmont after lunging at the start, which cost him his usual position on or near the lead.
"He's coming in very well," said Rice. "I did breeze him twice on the turf with the idea that I might switch him over and run him in the Jaipur. We'll take a look at both races and figure out which to run in, but he's probably 60-40 to run [in the True North]."
Marriedtothemusic, 10-1 on the morning line, will be ridden by Cornelio Velasquez and the pair will break from post position 2.
Palace, like Marriedtothemusic, is no stranger to the winner's circle. He has won eight of 17 career starts and banked over $500,000. Last fall at Aqueduct Racetrack, the 5-year-old son of City Zip became a graded stakes winner, taking the Grade 3 Fall Highweight by 1 ½ lengths over Strapping Groom.
"I had run him in the General George in Maryland and he bled in the race," said Rice. "I turned him out for two months and he's just coming back off the layoff. He's borderline, whether he needs another breeze or not, but it came up a short field so I thought I'd take a look at it."
Palace will break from post position 7 with Jose Ortiz in the irons, and sits at 8-1 on the morning line.
Also among the entrants is the 2014 Grade 1 Carter winner Dads Caps, trained by Rudy Rodriguez for Vincent Scuderi. Prior to his breakthrough in the Carter, the son of Discreet Cat suffered a three-race string of narrow defeats, in which he led in the stretch only to finish second by a length or less.
Dads Caps, 3-1 second choice on the morning line, will break from post position 3 with Joel Rosario aboard.
Rounding out the field are Eastwood, most recently third in an optional claimer at Belmont for trainer Todd Pletcher; Royal Currier, third in his most recent outing, the Diablo at Belmont; Salutos Amigos, who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 for an optional claiming win on May 10 at Belmont; and Well Spelled, most recently third in an optional claimer on April 3 at Pimlico Race Course.