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Breeders' Cup 2017

Strapping Groom Faces Five Foes in Bold Ruler

Strapping Groom, who became a Grade 1 winner three months after being claimed for $35,000, goes in search of the second graded stakes victory of his career on Saturday when he heads a field of six sprinters for the 37th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Bold Ruler Handicap.


The seven-furlong Bold Ruler and the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm Handicap for fillies and mares are the final two graded stakes of Belmont Park's fall meet, which concludes on Sunday. Thoroughbred action moves to Aqueduct Racetrack on Friday, November 1.


With a record of 5-4-1 from 17 starts, Strapping Groom came off an 11-month layoff to run second in a 6 ½-furlong claimer on May 24, when trainer David Jacobson claimed the 6-year-old son of Johannesburg on behalf of himself and Drawing Away Stable.


"My brother Douglas and I claim a lot of horses, and we both had our eye on this horse from the year before," said Jacobson. "When he came back off the layoff, we thought it was a good opportunity. Like some of them, he turned out to be a good one."


In his first start for his new connections, Strapping Groom earned a career-high 104 Beyer Speed Figure for his front-running victory in the Lion Cavern overnight stakes on June 26. Following a fifth in the Grade 3 James Marvin at Saratoga Race Course, he returned to his winning ways in the Kid Russell and then pulled off a 15-1 upset of the Grade 1 Forego. Last time out, he ran third to Breeders' Cup Sprint-bound Private Zone and Justin Phillip in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Invitational on September 28.


"I thought he ran very well in his last race,' said Jacobson. "A lot of those big names are at the Breeders' Cup so I think he's going to be very tough in here. He's doing really well and we're very excited about the race."


Junior Alvarado will be aboard Strapping Groom, the 122-pound highweight and 9-5 favorite on the morning line. The pair will leave from post position 6,


Multiple graded stakes winner Forty Tales, most recently fourth in both the Grade 1 Foxwoods King's Bishop and the Grade 1 Vosburgh Invitational, skipped the Breeders' Cup Sprint in favor of the Bold Ruler. The late-running 3-year-old turned in a stellar performance in June to win the Grade 2 Woody Stephens presented by NYRA Rewards on Belmont Stakes Day, and followed that with another fast-closing effort to take the Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga Race Course.


"When we decided not to do to the Breeders' Cup Sprint, this became the most logical option," said trainer Todd Pletcher of the Bold Ruler. "Seven-eighths is probably his ideal distance."


Joel Rosario rides the Tale of the Cat colt, 3-1, from the rail.


Big Screen, who came off a two-month freshening to win the Who's To Pay overnight stakes on the turf last time out, returns to dirt looking for his first graded stakes score. Disqualified from first to second in an off-the-turf edition of the Jaipur on June 7, the Speightstown colt was third in the Grade 3 Poker on the turf on July 4 and next finished fifth in a main-track optional claimer at 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga.


"He ran well in the Who's To Pay, which was his second start on the turf this year," said trainer Tom Albertrani of the Dogwood Stable colt. "He's pretty versatile and this looks like a good race to bring him back in. The timing was right for the Bold Ruler. It's a good race for him to try and win, and we'll try to get one more race in him before we ship him to Florida."


Big Screen, who drew post position 2 at 4-1 on the morning line, will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr.


Rounding out the field are the Canadian invader Clearly Now, who was third, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the Woody Stephens in his only appearance at Belmont; Saturday's Charm, runner up in the Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park last time out, and Politicallycorrect, most recently third in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile Handicap on August 18.  



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