New York-breds will take center stage on Saturday as Belmont Park hosts its annual Empire Showcase Day, featuring a unique 11-race all-state-bred card, including eight stakes races worth a total of $1.75 million in purses and anchored by the $300,000 Empire Classic Handicap.
In addition to the New York-bred racing action, Empire Showcase Day celebrates all things New York, offering an array of Taste NY food and crafts as well as a wide variety of activities that the entire family can enjoy. Gates will open at 10:30 am, with the first race scheduled for 12:25 pm.
West Point Thoroughbreds' Empire Dreams will look to defend his crown in the 41st running of the Empire Classic for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.
Trained by Tom Albertrani, Empire Dreams, who has finished in the money in five straight starts, will be starting at Belmont for the first time since posting a three-quarters of a length score in last year's Empire Classic. The 5-year-old dark bay gelding will leave from the outside with jockey Manny Franco.
The Christophe Clement-trained Grade 2 Jim Dandy runner-up Governor Malibu will return to stakes competition after winning against allowance company on September 30. The 3-year-old chestnut colt, owned by Jump Sucker Stable and Oak Bluff Stables, will be ridden by Joel Rosario from post 2.
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez has a pair of entries with Royal Posse and Good Luck Gus. Royal Posse, runner-up in last year's Empire Classic, has won his last two starts, including a 5 ¼-length win in the Evan Shipman last out. He will exit post 6 with Irad Ortiz, Jr. His stablemate, who is also owned by Michael Dubb and Bethlehem Stables, will be searching for his first win in six starts out of post 4. Luis Saez has the call.
Hit It Once More will return to New York for the first time since winning the Albany on August 26 at Saratoga Race Course. Trained by Gary Sciacca, August Dawn Farm's 3-year-old, who has won three of his last five starts, drew post 5 with Javier Castellano set to ride.
Pax in Terra, for trainer Todd Pletcher, will be running in his second career stakes in 17 career starts. He will seek his first career Belmont win in four starts in leaving post 3. Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride.
Rounding out the field are Wake Up in Malibu, returning to stakes competition after defeating allowance company on October 7; Sea Raven, looking for his first career stakes win; and Clifton Pleasure, making his stakes debut in his 30th career start.
Treadway Racing's Wonder Gal will try for a repeat performance in the third running of the $250,000 Empire Distaff for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, carded as Race 8.
The Tiz Wonderful filly will rejoin state-bred stakes company for the first time since her 2 ½-length victory in last year's edition. Now 4, Wonder Gal is still searching for her first stakes win of the year after opening her season with a third-place finish in the Ladies Handicap in January and a fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie in February.
After receiving a lengthy breather, the Leah Gyarmati trainee returned to action in September at Saratoga Race Course, taking advantage of an optional claiming contest to register a 11 ½-length victory and record a personal-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure. Most recently, Wonder Gal finished fifth in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap over a muddy and sealed track October 1. She is set to break from post 2 with Ortiz, Jr. aboard.
Wonder Gal will face a fresh challenge from 3-year-old Super Surprise, riding a three-race win streak dating back to October 2015. The Giant Surprise filly will be making her first start since posting a four-length romp in the Fleet Indian on August 26 for Pletcher and owner Repole Stables. Super Surprise will be ridden by Velazquez from post 8.
Rounding out the field for the Distaff are Bar of Gold, a close third in the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters last time out; Jc's Shooting Star, third in last year's Distaff; Saratoga Dew winner Jules N Rome and recent allowance winner Literata, both trained by Rodriguez for current meet-leading owner Dubb; and New York Oaks runner-up Mecke's Madalyn.
Carded as Race 3, the 38th running of the $150,000 Iroquois for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up at 6 1/2 furlongs is set to kick off the day's stakes action with an accomplished field of stakes winners.
Rodriguez-trained Frosty Margarita will be looking for her first win in seven starts as she makes her 12th consecutive stakes start. The 3-year-old should be well rested off her seventh-place finish in the Fleet Indian in August. Ortiz, Jr. has the call from the outside post.
Among Frosty Margarita's chief challengers are Bobby Ribaudo trainee Quezon, who registered a career-high 93 Beyer Speed Figure in a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom on October 1; Hot City Girl, winner of the Union Avenue on August 18 at Saratoga for trainer Linda Rice; and Broadway winner Court Dancer from the barn of David Cannizzo. Rounding out the field for the Iroquois are Wonderment and E Warfare, each seeking her first stakes victory.
The 39th running of the $150,000 Hudson, a handicap for 3-year-olds and up, will feature Breakin the Fever headlining a field of five over 6 ½ furlongs. Owned and trained by Debra Breed, Breakin the Fever will look for his third straight win and add to an impressive stretch that has netted six victories in his last seven starts.
In his last four starts, all against stakes company, the 4-year-old bay gelding has picked up wins in the Leon Reed Memorial, the Starter Handicap and the George W. Barker. The ultra-consist homebred is 13-3-2 in 23 career starts. Nazario Alvarado, his regular rider, will be in the irons out of post 3.
Also expected to attract support are Pletcher trainee Ostrolenka, set to depart from the outside in tandem with Castellano, and Weekend Hideaway, third in the Grade 1 Vosburgh last time out and set to break from post 2 with Luis Saez aboard. Completing the field are Drama King and Candid Desire.
Veteran turf warriors will take center stage in Race 6 as winners of the last three editions of the $200,000 Mohawk will be represented in this year's 38th running.
At 1 1/16 miles on the inner grass, the nine-horse field will feature Gerald and Susan Kresa's 2013 Mohawk winner King Kreesa from the barn of David Donk. Earlier this year, the 7-year-old gelding by King Cugat was fourth in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap before returning six days later to post a nose victory in the West Point at Saratoga. Most recently, King Kreesa finished fourth in the Ashley T. Cole on September 24.
King Kreesa drew the outside post 9. Jose Ortiz is named to ride.
Kharafa, winner of the 2014 Mohawk, earned millionaire status with his three-quarter-length win in the Cole last time out. Trained by Tim Hills for owners Paul Braverman and Timothy Pinch, the 7-year-old Kitalpha gelding will be ridden by Antonio Gallardo from the rail.
Last year's Mohawk winner Lubash will be making his sixth appearance in the Empire Showcase contest for owner Aliyu Ben J Stables and Clement. The 9-year-old son of Freud will depart from post 7 with Junior Alvarado in the irons.
Looking to join the storied ranks of Mohawk winners is Whisper Hill Farm's 2016 Kingston winner Tapitation, making his first appearance in the race. A 5-year-old Tapit gelding, the Ralph Nicks-trained Tapitation will be break from post 8 with Manny Franco aboard.
Also set to line up in the starting gate are Brother O'Connell Latigo Trail, Macagone, and Offering Plan. The Crocheron Kid was entered for the main track only.
Dubb and Bethlehem Stables' Fourstar Crook will look to go seven in a row as she heads a field of 12 in the $200,000 Ticonderoga for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the Widener turf. A 4-year-old daughter of Freud, Fourstar Crook has posted back-to-back stakes victories in her last two starts, most recently notching a 2 ¼-length win in the John Hettinger on September 25.
Castellano will ride Fourstar Crook, trained by Chad Brown, from the outside post 12.
Also on tap for the 36th running of the Ticonderoga are Carameaway, making her first turf start since August 2012; C d'Cat, third in the River Cities last time out; recent allowance winner Feeling Bossy; Yaddo runner-up Flipcup; 2015 Ticonderoga winner Invading Humor; Old Harbor, 4 ½-length winner of the George Rosenberger Memorial; Mah Jong Maddnes; Neck of the Moon; Selenite and The Tea Cups. Tahoe Tigress has been entered for the main track only.
Headlining the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow for 2-year-olds is Chester and Mary Bromans' Haul Anchor for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Harold Lerners' Pat On the Back from the Ken McPeek barn.
The pair dead-heated for second behind Mirai in the Bertram F. Bongard on October 2. Haul Anchor will leave from post 2 with Junior Alvarado aboard. Pat On the Back drew post 8 and will be ridden by Dylan Davis.
Rounding out the field Eddie's Gift, Hamptons Holiday, Gold for the King, Mission Command, Macho Miah, Runaway Lute, Mr. Buff and Tellmeafookystory.
In the Sleepy Hollow's sister race, the $250,000 Maid of the Mist for juvenile fillies, Dubb and Bethlehem Stables' Bonita Bianca will look to follow up her maiden winning victory with a win in her first stakes start.
By Curlin, the Rodriguez trainee is set to battle against Iron Mizz for Pletcher and owner Barry K. Schwartz. A daughter of Mizzen Mast, she has two wins from five starts with her second career win coming in the Seeking the Ante at Saratoga this summer. Most recently, she ran third in the Joseph A. Gimma on October 2 at Belmont.
Rounding out the field are Passporttovictory, Bree's Got Heart, Mo Promise, Tainted Angel, Bliss to You, Grand Banks and Bonita Springs.
Source: NYRA Communications