Leading horses in the older male turf division move to the Belmont at the Big A meeting for the Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. A field of nine was drawn for Saturday’s 1 ½-mile turf feature.
The Joe Hirsch field contains the top three finishers from last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf with Rebel’s Romance, Stone Age and War Like Goddess.
Here is a full-field analysis for the Joe Hirsch with morning-line odds provided by the Horse Racing Nation staff. The Turf Classic is set as race 6 on the 11-race card with post time scheduled for 2:40 p.m. EDT.
1. Grand Sonata, 15-1. Medaglia d’Oro – Todd Pletcher / John Velazquez – 15: 4-4-2 - $659,810. Grand Sonata made two starts this year and both were in Saratoga allowances with a victory by a neck in August in a field of six at 11-1. Last year the Todd Pletcher trainee raced only in stakes races and was the winner of the Kitten’s Joy (G3) in February at Gulfstream Park along with five other top three finishes. Toss.
2. Soldier Rising, 6-1. Frankel – Christophe Clement / Jose Ortiz – 19: 4-8-3 - $1,144,997. Since the summer of 2022 Soldier Rising raced exclusively in Grade 1 and 2 races in New York where he finished in the top three four times but did not record a win. He was second in three Grade 1s including the Sword Dancer at Saratoga in August at 2-1 in a six-horse field. His last trip to the winner’s circle was last year in a third-level allowance. Soldier Rising stayed in training at Saratoga. Use underneath.
3. Stone Age, 6-1. Galileo – Chad Brown / Irad Ortiz – 16: 2-4-2 - $1,180,899. Stone Age was second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last year which was his second trip from Ireland to race in America. Earlier in the year Aidan O’Brien sent him over to race in the Belmont Derby (G1) and the Saratoga Derby (G1). Stone Age has two starts this year. He was 12th in a Group 1 at Doha in Qatar in February and then moved to the barn of Chad Brown and was fifth in the Sword Dancer (G1) after pressing the pace and briefly getting the lead. The son of Galileo’s last win was in May of 2022 in the Derby Trial (G3) at Leopardstown in Ireland. Use underneath.
4. Adhamo, 6-1. Intello – Chad Brown / Flavien Prat – 18: 5-3-4 - $883,690. Since Adhamo joined the barn of Chad Brown after racing in France he has one win which came in the 2022 United Nations (G1) at Monmouth Park. The 5-year-old made his first start of 2023 last month in the Arlington Million (G3) when he rallied from 10th to finish third. Use underneath.
5. Rebel’s Romance, 2-1. Dubawi – Charles Appleby / William Buick – 14: 9-0-0 - $2,994,610. Rebel’s Romance was the winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland, when he rallied boldly from 10th to win by more than two lengths at nearly 6-1. That completed a five-race winning streak that ended with three Grade 1 victories. The 5-year-old made his 2023 debut in March at Meydan in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) where he was not a threat and finished seventh. He then shipped to New York to prepare for the Bowling Green (G2) at Saratoga but lost his rider when they clipped heels. Win contender.
6. War Like Goddess, 4-1. English Channel – Bill Mott / Junior Alvarado – 16: 10-2-1 - $2,220,184. War Like Goddess raced against the best male turf horses twice last year. She won this race as the odds-on favorite and then went to the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Overall in her 2022 campaign she won 3 out of 5 starts in graded stakes. Her career record shows more wins than any horse in this field and the second most earnings. This year the daughter of English Channel raced against fillies and mares and won the Bewitch (G3) at Keeneland. Then the Bill Mott runner was sixth in the New York (G1) at Belmont Park and was second by a neck in the Glens Falls (G2) at Saratoga where she was rank and had to steady a few times. Win contender.
7. So High, 30-1. Nathaniel – Naipaul Chatterpaul / Romero Maragh – 24: 3-4-1 - $169,293. So High is the long shot in this field and the Turf Classic will be his fourth grade 1 start since June. The 7-year-old ran in five graded stakes in his career with a pair fifth-place finishes. His last victory was in a $35,000 claiming race in November 2020 at Aqueduct. Toss.
8. Pioneering Spirit, 5-1. American Pharoah – Linda Rice / Jose Lezcano – 18: 5-4-2 - $443,250. Pioneering Spirit was claimed earlier in the year for $40,000 from a maiden claimer at Aqueduct from Todd Pletcher by Linda Rice. Three starts later Rice moved the son of American Pharoah to the turf and he began a four-race winning streak with a maiden win, a starter allowance and then a pair of allowance races. His first stakes races at Saratoga resulted in a third in the Sword Dancer (G1) followed by a win in the Bernard Baruch at odds of 3-1. Win contender.
9. Astronaut, 15-1. Quality Road – Tom Albertrani / Kendrick Carmouche – 15: 3-5-1 - $513,860. The 6-year-old Astronaut raced three times last year with a front-end victory in the Red Smith (G2) at Aqueduct in November. He also finished third in this race behind War Like Goddess when she was at her best. He has only one start this year and that was back in May at Gulfstream when he flashed some speed and then backed out of the competition and ended up in 10th. Astronaut returned to training in August and worked on a weekly basis since then. Use underneath.
Summary: The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic field got legitimate Grade 1 quality when the top three from the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Turf were entered along with other horses that are either winners or have placed in a Grade 1.
Rebel’s Romance and War Like Goddess had fantastic 2020 campaigns with lots of Grade 1 success but they both come to Aqueduct with question marks after their most recent pair of races. They are likely to be the top two choices when they head into the starting gate on Saturday. Between them the pair of turf stars have won 19 races and more than $5 million.
War Like Goddess was a heavy favorite in almost every race the past two years and the chance to bet her at a higher price than that is attractive. Therefore, War Like Goddess is the top choice.