Multiple graded stakes winner Upstart
was tabbed as the slight favorite in a closely matched field of seven gathering for the Grade 2, $350,000 Kelso Handicap, one of seven stakes on Super Saturday at Belmont Park.
The leading money earner in the Kelso with a bankroll of more $1.7 million, Upstart enters the one-mile race off two consecutive third-place finishes behind Frosted in the Grade 1 Whitney and the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap. The Flatter ridgling is seeking his first victory since taking the Grade 3 Razorback to kick off his 4-year-old campaign, and trainer Rick Violette said he is expecting yet another good effort.
"He's doing great - training well, eating well - and his last two breezes were good," said Violette, who trains Upstart for Ralph Evans and WinStar Farm. "He's had some time off, and he runs well fresh. So all systems are go."
Listed at 5-2 on the morning line, Upstart will have the services of Irad Ortiz, Jr. when he leaves from post position 6.
Expected to vie for favoritism as well are California invader Point Piper, from Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, and Shadwell Stable's Tamarkuz, from the barn of Kiaran McLaughlin.
Point Piper, 3-1 on the morning line, came off a three-month freshening to post a late-running 4 ¾-length victory last time out in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile Handicap at Emerald Downs, in which he registered a personal-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure. The 6-year-old son of Giant's Causeway drew post position 2 and will be ridden by Mario Gutierrez.
Tamarkuz, still in search of his first North American victory, had his best stateside outing on August 27 at Saratoga Race Course, when he finished a sharp second to A. P. Indian in the Grade 1 Forego. Hall of Famer Mike Smith, who was aboard for the Forego, has the return call on the 6-year-old son of Speightstown, tabbed at 7-2 on the morning line. The pair will leave from post position 5.
McLaughlin also will saddle Stonestreet Stables' consistent Ocean Knight, no worse than third in seven of eight career starts. Winner of the 2015 Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs, the Curlin colt came off a nine-month layoff to finish second in a pair of optional claimers, most recently getting nosed out by the Todd Pletcher-trained Protonico on September 9.
Joel Rosario will ride Ocean Knight, 12-1 on the morning line, from the rail.
Pletcher also will have two representatives in the Kelso in Anchor Down, most recently sixth in July in the Grade 1 A. P. Vanderbilt at Saratoga, and Tommy Macho, making his first start since winning the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper in February at Gulfstream Park.
A 4-year-old son of Macho Uno, Tommy Macho has been training steadily for his return to the races, most recently covering five furlongs in 1:02 4/5 on September 29.
Anchor Down, with Javier Castellano in the irons, drew post position 4 at 12-1 on the morning line, while Tommy Macho, 6-1, will depart the outside post 7 with Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
"I suspect both of them will be forwardly placed," said Pletcher. "They both seem to have done their best running when they're involved early on. Leaving from the outside, Johnny will have options to see how the race unfolds, while Javier hopefully can maneuver into the clear with Anchor Down, who's got good tactical speed."
Rounding out the field is the Brazilian-bred Baccelo, who is 3-0-1 from four starts since being claimed for $62,500 by David Jacobson. A front-running winner of the Grade 3 Philip Iselin on August 27 at Monmouth Park, Baccelo, 12-1, will leave from post position 3 under jockey Manny Franco.
Source: NYRA Communications