Turf Stakes Light Up Belmont Park

Za Approval wins 2013 Knickerbocker.
Photo: NYRA, Adam Coglianese
Multiple graded stakes winner Za Approval tries to regain the winning touch on Friday at Belmont Park as he heads a field of eight entered for the $150,000 Forbidden Apple, the first of two turf stakes on an Independence Day Card with a special first-race post time of 3 p.m.


Joining the Forbidden Apple, which will be run as race 7, is the $100,000 Perfect Sting for fillies and mares, also at one mile on the Widener Turf Course. Post time for the Perfect Sting is approximately 7:08 p.m.


First or second in all but one of eight starts last year, including victories in the Grade 3 Appleton, the Grade 3 Knickerbocker and the Grade 3 Red Bank along with a rousing second to Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile, Za Approval kicked off this 6-year-old campaign with a fourth-place finish as the favorite in the Grade 1Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita. Fourth again in the Grade 1 Makers 46 Mile in April at Keeneland Race Course, he was given a class break in the Grade 3 Poker on May 26 at Belmont, but flattened out at the end to finish third, beaten 4 ¾ lengths as the 4-5 favorite.


His connections, however, are encouraged by his subsequent training as he heads into his first ungraded stakes appearance since January 2013.


"He has worked a touch better [since the Poker]," said Christophe Lorieul, assistant to trainer Christophe Clement. "Physically, I think he has improved a little bit. He doesn't seem to have exactly the same form as last year, but we are just trying to get him back to the winning stage."


Joel Rosario will be aboard the Live Oak Plantation color-bearer as he leaves from post position 4 as the 7-5 morning-line favorite.


New York-bred Kharafa goes in search of his second straight stakes win in the Forbidden Apple, having taken the Kingston on May 31 at Belmont. While most of his victories have come in restricted company, the 5-year-old Kitalfa gelding also owns two wins in open company, including a victory in the Three Coins Up at Aqueduct Racetrack to close out his 2013 campaign.


Owned by Paul Braverman and Timothy Pinch, Kharafa, 2-1 on the morning line, will be ridden by Javier Castellano from post position 6.


Shadwell Stable's Sayaad makes his first start of 2014 in the Forbidden Apple, having closed out his sophomore season a pair of front-running wins, an allowance score against older horses in October at Belmont Park preceded by a 4 ½-length victory in the Dance Life at Saratoga.


"He's been working well," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin of Sayaad, who turned in a bullet four-furlong breeze in 47.69 seconds on Friday, the fastest of 47 at the distance over Belmont's training track. "He had some issues with his feet in Florida [over the winter], but now he's doing great. It's time to get him start5ed, and this was the only spot to get him started. He's a nice horse, doing well, in tough."


Jose Ortiz rides Sayaad, 8-1, from post position 8.


Rounding out the field, from the rail out, are Plainview, Bio Pro, General Logan, Dawly (MTO) and Hamp.


Expected to vie for favoritism in the Perfect Sting are Grade 3 Beaugay winner Waterway Run and runner-up Orion Moon, who was beaten just a beck in the 1 1/16-mile race.


Trained by Chad Brown, the 4-year-old Waterway Run made an eye-catching North American debut in February at Gulfstream Park, rallying widest of all from 10 to finish second by a neck in an optional claimer. Subsequently second in the Grade 3 Hillsborough at Tampa bay Downs, the Arch filly was a game winner of the Beaugay in May before finishing sixth, beaten 2 ¾ lengths in the Grade 1 Just a Game in June at Belmont.


"She got a good trip last time out but was was outfinished the last eighth of a mile," said Brown of Waterway Run, 5-2 on the morning line. "We'll regroup in this listed stakes and go on from there."


Jose Lezcano rides from post position 6.


Orion Moon, who also began her career in Europe, is 2-2-0 in five American starts, taking an allowance at Belmont and an optional claimer at Saratoga in her first two stateside appearances.


"She's been progressing the whole time," said Lorieul of the French-bred mare. "She has done nothing wrong so far. She won two races last summer, and she is graded stakes-placed. She ran really well the other day [in the Beaugay] and only got beat by a head. She deserves every chance."


Listed at 3-1 on the morning line, Orion Moon leaves from post position 7 with Junior Alvarado in the irons.


Also expected to attract support are the Todd Pletcher-trained Alaura Michelle, most recently third in the Intercontinental Stakes on June 8, and Baffle Me, who closed out 2013 with a victory in the South Beach at Gulfstream but who is winless in two starts this year.


Completing the field are Angel's South, Joy, Belle Gallantey (MTO), Lady Ten, Mah Jong Maddnes, and Embarr.



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