State Breds Take Center Stage at Belmont Park

Belmont Park
With seven stakes on a 10-race card worth $1 million, New York-bred horses will get their chance to shine at Belmont Park for the first “Big Apple Showcase Day.”


In all, more than 80 horses bred in the Empire State were entered, with the stakes action kicking off in race 3 with the $125,000 Bouwerie for 3-year-old fillies and wrapping up in race 9 with the $125,000 Kingston for 3-year-olds on the turf.


Also on Saturday, fans will have the opportunity to get autographed photos from three “Legends of New York” – Hall of Fame riders Angel Cordero, Jr. and Jorge Velasquez along with longtime New York fixture Richard Migliore – for a $10 donation to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys’ Fund. As well, the weekly Farmer’s Market will take place in the grandstand from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.


The centerpiece of the afternoon’s racing is the $150,000 Commentator Handicap for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles, in which Spa City Fever is the narrow 2-1 morning-line favorite over five other statebred stalwarts. The seven-year-old gelding, 1-1-1 in five 2013 starts, most recently was a 2 ½-length winner of a one-mile optional claimer at Belmont in which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 97.


Among his challengers will be the 4-year-old Readtheprospectus, who carries a five-race winning streak into his stakes debut.


“He’s doing very well,” said Cherie DeVaux, assistant to trainer Chad Brown, of the Read the Footnotes gelding, 5-2 on the morning line. “He came out of the winter great; his coat looks good, he’s gained weight and looks fantastic. In his first two starts (second and third-place finishes) he sprinted, and the third time, he was stuck on the rail and wound up fourth, which was the only time he was off the board. When Chad stretched him out next, he’s never looked back.”


Also entered were multiple stakes winner Icabad Crane, returning to competition at the age of 8 after a nearly 18-month layoff, and Awesome Vision, whose three-race win streak was snapped when fourth in a one-mile optional claimer on May 1.


In the $100,000 Mike Lee, the first leg of the Big Apple Triple for 3-year-olds, New York-breds juvenile champion Weekend Hideaway and West Hills Giant are expected to vie for favoritism in their return to statebred company.


Weekend Hideaway, who in 2012 won the David overnight stakes and the Bertram F. Bongard and finished third to Belmont Stakes contender Overanalyze in the Grade 2 Futurity, seeks the winner’s circle after finishing fifth in the Grade 2 Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park and fifth again in the Fred “Cappy” Caposella at Aqueduct Racetrack.


West Hills Giant, who last year won the New York Breeders’ Futurity at Finger Lakes, finished second in the Grade 3 Gotham to Vyjack and was no factor in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland Race Course on April 13.


Weekend Hideaway was listed at 5-2 on the morning line from post position 9, with West Hills Giant tabbed at 3-1 from the rail. The Big Apple Triple includes the New York Derby on July 20 at Finger Lakes and the Albany on August 21 at Saratoga Race Course.


Saginaw, 2012’s Older Male New York-bred Champion, goes for his fourth straight win as he defends his title as the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the $100,000 Affirmed Success Handicap. The 7-year-old son of Peruvian, a winner of 13 of 16 starts since being claimed by trainer David Jacobson for himself and Drawing Away Stable last March, most recently held on to win an open optional claimer by a nose on May 12.


Chief among his five challengers is 9-5 second choice Willy Beamin, who last year capped a six-race winning streak with a victory in the Grade 1 Foxwoods King’s Bishop. Subsequently second in the Oklahoma Derby and the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap, Willy Beamin ended his 3-year-old campaign with a fifth in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct. The 6 ½-furlong Affirmed Success will be his first start of 2013 and first start for new trainer Rudy Rodriguez.


Lubash will face two rivals he defeated in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy and six others when he aims for his second straight stakes score and sixth overall when he competes in the $125,000 Kingston at one mile on the turf.


Trained by Christophe Clement, Lubash, a 6-year-old son of Freud, closed into a fast pace to earn his first graded stakes triumph in the Fort Marcy on May 4 at Belmont. In the Kingston, the Aliyu Ben J Stables homebred will take on King Kreesa and Abilio, respectively third and fifth in the Fort Marcy, as well as Street Game, who defeated Lubash by 2 ¾ lengths in the Dave overnight stakes in April at Aqueduct Racetrack.


“On paper, a New York-bred race should be easier than a graded race, but this is not an easy race,” said Clement. “[Street Game] beat [Lubash] first time out this year, and he’s a nice horse who did not run in the Fort Marcy. [Street Game] is a fresh horse, and yet [Lubash is] picking up a lot of weight. Lubash is a fun horse. He came to me a little more than a year ago, and he has been a very pleasant addition to the stable.”


Jose Lezcano, who has ridden Lubash to four of his stakes wins, will be back aboard the bay on Saturday. Lubash will depart from the outside post in the field of nine as the 9-5 morning-line favorite.


Michael Dubb and Bethlehem Stables’ Shakeira will have the chance to escape the shadow of New York-bred champions Dayatthespa and Hessonite when she competes in the $125,000 Mount Vernon, a one-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

Last fall, Shakeira was second to Hessonite in the Ticonderoga at Belmont and won a first-level allowance against open company in November at Aqueduct. Now 5, she has won her lone start this year, saving ground around both turns, angling off the rail in the stretch, and rallying from last to win an optional claimer on April 20, also against open company at the Big A.


With her stablemate, Dayatthesthespa, awaiting the Grade 1 Longines Just a Game on June 8 and Hessonite having finished sixth in last Saturday’s Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay, Shakeira inherited the role of the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the Mount Vernon.


“I think it’s a really good spot for [Shakeira] to be in a stakes,” said Cherie DeVaux, assistant to Brown. “It definitely makes it easier without [Dayatthespa and Hessonite], which gives her a good opportunity to step up and win. She’s a runner. Ever since Chad claimed her, he has done a really good job finding spots for her.”


Rajiv Maragh has the assignment aboard Shakeira from post 5 on Saturday.


Kibosh, second to Dayatthespa in the in the You Go West Girl overnight stakes on May 5, was made the 3-1 morning-line second choice for the Mount Vernon. Yes It’s Pink will be withdrawn from the race after tying up, according to her trainer, Christophe Clement.


Miss Valentine will aim for her fourth consecutive stakes triumph in the $100,000 Dancing Rene for filly and mare sprinters.


A 5-year-old Waterville Lake Stable homebred, Miss Valentine has won stakes at distances ranging from six furlongs to one mile, 70 yards, but has yet to win at the Dancing Rene’s seven-furlong distance. In her most recent start and 2013 debut, the one-mile No Reason overnight stakes on May 10 at Belmont, Miss Valentine made a steady run to win by a half-length.


“[Miss Valentine] always tries very and is great hard to be around,” said trainer Christophe Clement. “She has won going six, she has won going a mile, she has won close to the pace, she has won from off the pace. She’s fun. This is not an easy race and she’s picking up weight, but we’ll try our best.”


Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride Miss Valentine, 3-1 on the morning line, from post 5.


The Dancing Rene also drew Clear Pasaj and Lady On the Run, respectively second and third in the No Reason. Sunny Desert, the 2-1 morning-line favorite, will be scratched, said trainer John Parisella.


Sophomore fillies will travel seven furlongs in the $125,000 Bouwerie, which features a select field of six.


Lovely Syn, trained by Dominick Schettino for Joemar Racing Stables, is undefeated in three starts. The daughter of Freud will stretch out slightly on Saturday, having won the Statue of Liberty division of the New York Stallion Series by 9 ½ lengths on May 5 at Belmont.


Javier Castellano will take over for injured jockey Mike Luzzi aboard Lovely Syn, who was made the 7-5 morning-line favorite and drew post 5.


Eklektikos Stable’s La Verdad, the 5-2 second choice, has matured immensely since finishing fourth in her debut in March. Trained by Linda Rice, she has won two straight, breaking her maiden by 6 ¾ lengths in April at Aqueduct and dominating an optional claimer by 5 ¾ lengths on May 8 at Belmont.


Rudy Rodriguez will run Kelli Got Frosty, a dark bay daughter of Frost Giant, in the Bouwerie. Kelli Got Frosty, who carries the colors of Sunrise Stables, is coming off a second-place finish to Kauai Katie in the Road Princess overnight stakes on April 21 at Aqueduct.




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