Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin looks to have a strong hand in
Saturday’s 61st running of the Grade 1, $250,000 Jamaica Handicap at
Belmont Park as he sends out a pair of Grade 3
winners to head a wide-open field of 11 sophomore colts and geldings going 1
1/8 miles on the turf.
Krypton seeks his first win since taking the Grade 3 Hill
Prince at Belmont Park on June 4, having followed that victory with
third-place efforts in both the Grade 2 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs in
July and the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga on August 13.
All three of the Rock Hard Ten colt’s career wins have come at a mile or less.
Lethal Combination, a gelded son of Broken Vow, exits a
gutsy victory in the Grade 3 Saranac at Saratoga Race Course on September 5, in
which he overcame a wide trip to win by a half-length. Having begun his career
in England, Lethal Combination made his U.S. debut for McLaughlin in the Grade
3 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 6, finishing sixth, then came
back to win a grass allowance at Keeneland in April. In his only previous start
Lethal Combination was third in the one-mile Hill Prince behind Krypton.
“A mile to a mile and a sixteenth might be [Krypton’s] best
distance, but in that this race is straight 3-year-olds, a mile and an eighth
is fine,” said McLaughlin. “He ran well at a mile and a quarter in the Virginia
Derby, so we’re not that worried about the distance, although going forward I
think he could be a really nice older horse going a mile, because he finishes
so well. Lethal Combination kind of takes himself out of it and then he comes
running. He’s coming off his lifetime best race, and if he can repeat that
he’ll be tough.”
Krypton, the 118-pound highweight and 3-1 morning-line
favorite, gets the services of regular rider Alan Garcia from post 9. With
Rajiv Maragh riding out of town on Saturday, Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado
has the call aboard 6-1 morning-line third-choice Lethal Combination from post
The top three from the Saranac will be reunited in the Jamaica, with
runner-up Turf Melody and third-place finisher Fantastico Roberto joining
Lethal Combination on Saturday.
The Irish-bred Fantastico Roberto, trained by Todd Pletcher
for Team Valor International, also began his career in Europe, winning his
first two starts in Italy
before coming to the United
States last year. A son of Refuse To Bend,
Fantastico Roberto collected his first U.S.
victory in Monmouth’s Choice Stakes on July 5 at the Jamaica distance. The colt, who
wore blinkers in three starts before the Saranac, will regain the equipment on
“We’ve been trying to figure out his best running style,”
said Pletcher. “We took the blinkers off for [the Saranac] after he ran off in
the Jersey Derby [finished seventh]. We’ll be putting blinkers back on in the
hopes of a happy medium, hoping they’ll help him focus without being too
headstrong. Short cups should do the trick.”
John Velazquez will ride the 8-1 co-fourth choice from post
With his runner-up effort in the Saranac his best grass
performance so far, Turf Melody will look for his first win over the surface on
Saturday. The Earle Mack color-bearer made the fifth start of his career over
the Keeneland lawn, finishing a disappointing seventh in the Grade 3 Bourbon
last fall, and did not try turf again until a fifth-place effort in the Quick
Call at Saratoga
on July 29.
Turf Melody and jockey Alex Solis will leave from post 5.
Teaks North and Beau Choix, the 1-2 finishers from the Restoration
Stakes at Monmouth, will both step up into Grade 1 company for the first time
Trained Justin Sallusto, Teaks North carries a two-race
winning streak into the Jamaica
and will be piloted by Jose Valdivia, Jr. from post 10 at 8-1 morning-line
Second by a length in the Restoration, Beau Choix has
finished in the top three in seven out of eight lifetime starts. Trained by
Barclay Tagg for Belle Meadows Farm, the son of Elusive Quality was tabbed as
the 4-1 second choice on the morning line and will leave from post 3.
Switching surfaces from dirt to turf will be Admiral Alex,
most recently last in the Grade 1 Travers, only the second start of his career
after a 1 1/8-mile maiden victory on the main track at the Spa July 31.
“His whole pedigree is loaded with turf,” owner and trainer
Leon Blusiewicz said of the half-brother to Grade 3 Lexington and Fort Marcy
winner Woodlander. “[His dam, Madam Lagonza] comes from one of the powerful
families in Europe.”
Completing the field are Citrus Kid, fifth in the Saranac;
Center Divider, who has not raced since a four-length allowance victory at
Keeneland in April; Prince Will I Am, game winner of an optional claimer at
Saratoga on September 3, and Two Notch Road, who finished fourth in the Jersey
The field for the Grade 1, $250,000 Jamaica