Photo: Eclipse Spotswire - Alex Evers
Belmont Park always puts on a good show for the Belmont Stakes and this year will be no exception. Besides the big one, there will be no less than six other graded stakes over Friday and Saturday, and most of them carry high intrigue. Things get started on Belmont Stakes 2013 Eve with the Brooklyn, featuring Breeders’ Cup Marathon champ, Calidoscopio, and the Jaipur, where trainer John Shirreffs will try to win his first stakes race in New York as a local, with Mr. Commons. On Saturday, that old warrior, Caixa Eletronica will attempt to defend his True North title against a deep field, Point of Entry hopes to continue his turf dominance in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap, and Declan’s Warrior might rate a lukewarm choice in a wide open edition of the Woody Stephens. Five interesting races for the males, but it might be the lone stakes for the distaff set that most has my attention. The Grade 1 Longines Just A Game is coming up absolutely loaded. The $500,000 turf affair for fillies and mares, going a flat mile over Belmont’s Widener turf course typically draws a strong cast, and this year is better than most. Let’s take a look at the excellent main participants... Mizdirection is on a roll. Beginning what will be a trend with this bunch, Jim Rome’s mare has a sparkling career record. In 12 lifetime turf races, the five-year-old mare has 9 wins, and 3 seconds. She has won eight of her last nine, including a win over the boys in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Best known for slightly shorter races, Mizdirection had absolutely no problem in navigating the trip while an easy winner of the Grade 2 Buena Vista two starts back. The Just a Game will be her first start outside of California in nearly two years. Centre Court is a major talent. Never worse than runner-up in ten races on the grass, the Rusty Arnold charge was a force as a sophomore, thrice winning graded stakes on the lawn. This year, however, it looks like she has taken things up a notch. After easily accounting for the Grade 2 Honey Fox in Florida, Centre Court turned in a superior effort when romping by the classy, and loose on the lead, Daisy Devine in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland in her most recent win. Dayatthespa is one superior New-York bred. A quick scan of her lifetime record reveals a sparkling record of seven wins in only ten career starts. A tactical speed horse, the daughter of City Zip had a five race win streak snapped when she completely lost her action when jumping a shadow in last fall’s Matriarch. Getting right back to business this year, the grade 1 winner dominated a statebred stakes race at one mile in her seasonal debut, which also was her first career race at Belmont Park. Stephanie’s Kitten is the second Breeders’ Cup winner in the field. Despite a few tough trips last year, the Ken Ramsey runner fires just about every single time, and has shown a fondness for the eight furlong trip, having won 3-of-4 lifetime. The Juvenile Fillies Turf heroine of 2011, rebounded from her only poor race to close last year, with a hard-fought victory in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile in her only start this year. Hungry Island is always a threat. The multiple stakes winner has won at the distance, has won at Belmont, and is coming off a sharp, just miss to Stephanie’s Kitten in the last one. Third in this race last year, the experienced daughter of More Than Ready also won’t mind it one bit if things get a little heated early to set up her major league late run. Better Lucky may have failed in her initial 2013 try, but the four-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper is just one race removed from a gigantic win, when she defeated older mares in the Grade 1 Matriarch last fall. Not so coincidentally, that win also came at a flat mile, and the horse she beat that day, Tiz Flirtatious, has proven to be a force in Southern California this year. Laugh Out Loud is a serious import. Running against terrific European competition, the grey filly has won 4-of-10 lifetime, including a group 2 in France. The one-mile specialist closed out her three-year-old season with a pair of very competitive losses in group 1 competition. Look for her to show major improvement off her lone 2013 start in which she faded against the boys.
There you have it … Seven sensational mares lining up for half-a-million in a race named after another sensational turf mare. With this much quality, picking a winner is no easy task, but I am going to give it a try. Not to be unpatriotic or anything, but the foreign filly looks like a good one. I’ll take Laugh Out Loud to upset the American Turf Party.