Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, who concluded a successful Saratoga meet by saddling Hit It Rich to win the Grade 3 Glens Falls, looks to continue the momentum on opening day at Belmont Park when he sends out Air Support in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Bowling Green Handicap.
The 8-5 morning-line favorite over four others, Air Support seeks his first victory of 2012 in the 1 ¼-mile turf race, which will be run as the third of 10 races. First race post time is 12:50 p.m.
Second in the Grade 1 United Nations two starts back, Air Support most recently was third in an optional claimer on August 6 over a yielding turf course at the Spa. The 4-year-old Smart Strike colt has worked three times since, turning in a half-mile breeze in 47.45 on Monday, one week after covering the same distance in 46.77.
“With how well he worked Monday, and has been working, we’ve been excited about running him, just like we were with Hit It Rich,” said McGaughey, whose runners were 7-6-4 from 42 starts at Saratoga with earnings of $1,021,459. “It would be fun to keep the momentum going. I’ve always liked the Belmont fall meet, and I think we have a bit of everything we can run. Obviously, it’s going to get tougher, but I’m looking forward to running on Saturday.”
With Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the irons, the Stuart S. Janney, III color-bearer drew the rail under 118 pounds.
“I think Johnny will have him up in the race if there isn’t any pace,” said McGaughey, who has won eight graded stakes on the turf this year. “With a short field, they’re going to be galloping around there. I think he’ll be laying close. If he’s on the lead, that wouldn’t bother me.”
Second choice at 2-1 on the morning line is Live Oak Plantation’s Brilliant Speed, who was third behind the McGaughey-trained Point of Entry in the Grade 1, 1 ½-mile Sword Dancer Invitational last time out. The millionaire son of Dynaformer, who has run in a Grade 1 in six of his past seven starts, drew post position 2 with Javier Castellano aboard.
Also returning from the Sword Dancer is fourth-place finisher Newsdad. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott for James S. Karp, Newsdad has a pair of victories from six starts as a 4-year-old, winning the Grade 2 Pan American at Gulfstream Park in March and an optional claimer, also at Gulfstream, in his first start of 2012.
Junior Alvarado will ride the Arch colt, 7-2 on the morning line, from post position 3.
Also entered were Bombaguia, who will be making his stakes debut for trainer John Kimmel, and the H. Graham Motion-trained import Brujo de Olleros, a Brazilian-bred son of Wild Event who was fourth in his American debut on July 29 at Monmouth.
Redeemed was entered but will run only if the race comes off the turf.
The field for the Grade 2, $200,000 Bowling Green Handicap: