The Brock Talk

Friday, October 2, 2009

Confidence From All Places At Belmont Saturday

(photo: Summer Bird and jockey Kent Desormeaux)
I would think there will be a good number of confident steps taken into the Belmont Park paddock Saturday. Certainly the competition will be coming in droves throughout the day as five grade 1 stake races dominate the card in what is known as Super Saturday in thoroughbred circles. Without any shadow of doubt, it ranks among the most important and enjoyable days of horse racing in the world. Kentucky Derby Day, Breeders' Cup Day, The Royal Ascot in Great Britian, Arc Day in France, any race day in Ireland and Super Saturday at Belmont Park.

The added money attractions start in the sixth race with the $600,000 Beldame Stakes for fillies and mares at 1-1/8 miles on a main track that is expected to be hit with rain and thundestomes tonight and tomorrow. The same weather will surely produce a yielding turf course.

But neither rain nor slop nor four other rivals look to be much of a match for Godolphin Stables' Music Note in Beldame. She who won the grade 1 Ballerina on an off track at Saratoga by 5-1/4 lengths in only her second start of the year. Not only does Music Note like an off track, but she appears to be quite comfortable on Long Island too having won the grade 1 Mother Goose, Coaching Club American Oaks and Gazelle at Belmont Park last year.

Unbridled Belle looks for her second Beldame after winning in 2007, but her only victory this year came in the grade 3 Obiah Handicap at Delaware Park. Her entry-mate Captain's Lover will try to repeat her win in the Matchmaker Stakes at Monmouth Park. While the Matchmaker was not quite this level of compition, it was the first start on dirt for Captain's Lover who may improve Saturday with that experience. But it might not take a victory the optimal preperation for the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Both Round Punch in 2006 and Ginger Punch in 2007 won the Breeders' Cup Distaff coming out of the Beldame. Ironically though, both won the Distaff after finishing third in the Beldame.

When the sprinters parade over from the barn area for $400,000 Vosburgh the following race, confidence will not come from one, but from the group as a whole.

Fabulous Strike will be looking for his second Vosburg victory after winning in 2007 and missing only by a head while running second last year. He is also coming off of an impressive win the the grade 2 Vanderbilt Handicap Aug. 9 at Saratoga but will have no cakewalk, despite his even-money morning line odds.

Kodiak Cowboy is coming off a close second to Pyro in the Forego Handicap (gr. 1) at Saratoga and a third behind Fabulous Stike in the Vanderbilt. He defeated Fabulous Strike earlier this year in the seven furlong Carter Handicap (gr. 1) at Aqueduct. Trainer Todd Pletcher is confident Munnings can bounce back after consecutive thirds in the NetJetsKing's Bishop Stakes (gr. I) behind Capt. Candy Man and Haskell Invitational (gr. 1) behind Rachel Alexandra. Before that he was impressive in winning the grade 2 Tom Fool at Belmont Park and will adjust favorably in his return to Elmont.

Speightstown was the last Breeders' Cup Sprint winner to make his previous start in the Vosburgh. Oddly enough though, he was also third in his Breeders' Cup prep race in New York.

Last year Dynaforce won the Flower Bowl Handicap over a yielding turf course and her connections are hoping she will repeat that performance Saturday. Pure Clan, however, will be trying to repeat her race in the grade 3 Modesty Handicap at Arlington Park when Dynaforce was third.

Perhaps the most dominating individual at Belmont Saturday will be Gio Ponti (photo left) when the 4-year-old son of Tale of the Cat goes after his fifth consecutive grade 1 turf win in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at 1-1/2 miles. He started his streak with the Frank E. Kilroe at Santa Anita in March. He then went to Belmont to win the 1¼-mile Woodfood Reserve Manhattan Handicap and the Man o’ War Stakes before winning the Arlington Million in Chicago Aug. 8.

Gio Ponti is the consensus leader in the older turf horse division in North America and will be heading to California for the Breeders' Cup after the Hirsch. However, trainer Christophe Clement has not yet said if he will run the the Breeders' Cup Classic on the main track or the Breeders' Cup Turf.

When trainer Tim Ice walks into the paddock before the Jockey Club Gold Cup with Summer Bird, he may not have any more faith than before other races with the Belmont and Travers winner, but he says he's going to enjoy the additional confidence
of the fans. For the first time in Summer Bird's seven-race career, he will be the favorite.

It is doubtful that those odds will shake the resolve of trainer Todd Pletcher who will lead over Florida Derby (gr. 1) winner Quality Road. Sidelined from the Triple Crown by quarter crack problems in his hoofs, Quality road set a 6-1/2 furlong track record in the grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga in his first start back. Then finished third in the Shadwell Travers (gr. 1) behind Summer Bird. With two solid races under his belt since the extended Spring break, Quality Road figures to improve in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, especially if the footing at Belmont is more to his liking than the sloppy Saratoga track on Travers day.

The top of the East Coast older horse class will be represented in the Jockey Club Gold Cup as well with Macho Again and Asiatic Boy going at it again. They last met behind Rachel Alexandra in Woodward at Saratoga when Macho Again was just a head behind in second and Asiatic Boy was fourth. Asiatic Boy was also second behind Macho Again in the grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs this summer.

Curlin was the last Jockey Club Gold Cup winner to take the Breeders' Classic in his next start, having done so in 2007. In the three previous years, Breeders' Cup Classic winners Invasor ('06), Saint Liam ('05) and Ghostzapper ('04) all made their previous starts in New York, but none were in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Saint Liam and Ghostzapper came out of victories Woodward Stakes while Invasor won the Whitney just prior to the Breeders' Cup.

Regardless of the winners, however, this day will certainly have a major impact on the Breeders' Cup during the first weekend of November.

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