5 takeaways from Belmont Park's Stars and Stripes Racing Festival

July 08, 2018 01:01am

Jason Servis: When you’re hot, you’re hot

Trainer Jason Servis has always been a high percentage trainer. As a matter of fact his lifetime statistics show a win percentage of 23.8 percent. However, in 2018 Servis is about as hot as a trainer can get. At Belmont Park, in the spring/summer meeting, he has found the winner’s circle with 17 out of 35 starters for an amazing 49 percent. At Monmouth Park, the numbers are even higher with 19 wins from 35 runners, which is 54 percent.

One of those amazing winners came in the Dwyer (G3) at Belmont when Firenze Fire won the rematch of Kentucky Derby participants. The Servis-trainee unleashed an amazing stretch to draw off and win by a margin of nine lengths in the very fast time of 1:33.74. Firenze Fire left Mendelssohn back in third place while Noble Indy faded to seventh and last position.

"We got on the [Kentucky] Derby trail, like you're supposed to do,” said Servis. “Do we think he's a mile and a quarter horse? Probably not. But, now we're getting him where he needs to be, a mile, seven eighths, where he might even be a tad sharper. I mean, it all worked out. We're all real happy."

Win and You’re In

In a Stars and Stripes card loaded with graded stakes races, the Belmont Sprint Championship (G2) was the only race that was part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series. Limousine Liberal got the last run down the stretch that turned out to be the winning run. After blistering early fractions, Whitmore made his usual grinding move down the stretch and took the lead, but the Kentucky-based 6 year old was closing right to his outside and got up by a neck just before the wire to earn a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. That was the first Grade 1 victory for Limousine Liberal and trainer Ben Colebrook’s first winner in New York.

It's taken me so long to find the winner's circle in New York; I'm just happy for this,” said Colebrook. “We were going to go to the Breeders' Cup even if we had to pay our own way in."

O’Brien wins, but not with Mendelssohn

European superstar trainer Aidan O’Brien had horses in three of the Star and Stripes races and it was Mendelssohn that was the center of attention. That one may have failed in the Dwyer as the 1.50-1 favorite, but O’Brien found better luck on the grass course at Belmont Park. He brought Athena to New York to win the Belmont Oaks (G1) after having raced on July 1 at the Curragh in Ireland.

Diversify loves Belmont Park

The New York-bred Diversify loves running out of his Belmont Park barn. Just give him ten furlongs to run on Big Sandy against open company and Diversify gets a big win. The last time the Rick Violette trainee was seen running the mile-and-a-quarter distance he ended up with the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) trophy in 2017. This time it was the Suburban (G2). Now a millionaire, he led every step of the way and won by six lengths to up his record at Belmont to 6 wins in 8 tries.

Catholic Boy did it again

Catholic Boy’s victory in the Pennine Ridge (G3) had racing fans amazed at the way he gave up the lead to Analyze It only to fight back and win the race. Amazingly, the Jonathan Thomas trainee did the same thing in the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1). This time he led the 10-furlong race from the start, gave the lead to his rival and then battled back to get the win by a smaller margin this time.


Thomas didn’t expect to see the same scenario unfold, “I didn’t expect him to fight back this time. I thought we were going to finish a really good second, but some how he got it done. Between his heart and Javier’s [jockey Castellano] ride, what can you say?”


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Meet Matt Shifman

Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs, Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.

Since 2012, Matt has been a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.

Recently, Matt helped launch Derby Day Racing, a new 2-year-old racing partnership, that just purchased a promising Lookin At Lucky filly named Sooner Schooner.

You may also know Matt by his Twitter, Facebook, and HRN screen nameAndyScoggin.

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