Belmont Fall Meet Opens
Belmont fall meet commences; Bowling Green highlights opener
With 21 graded stakes worth $5 million, Belmont Park's fall meet will showcase a stellar lineup of champions-in-the-making when it opens for its 37-day meet on Saturday with free grandstand admission all weekend.
Opening Saturday also marks the first $300,000 Guaranteed Late Pick 4, which will be offered on Saturdays throughout the 2011 fall meet.
The meet's superb Grade 1 schedule is highlighted by Super Saturday, October 1, and the 93rd running of the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). Last year, older male champion Blame ran in the 1 1/4-mile fixture before going on to upset Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).
The day also features the $350,000 Beldame Invitational (G1) for fillies and mares, the $350,000 Vosburgh Invitational (G1) for sprinters, the $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (G1), and the $500,000 Flower Bowl Invitational (G1) for fillies and mares on the turf, as well as the Kelso H. (G2) at a mile on the main track.
All the Super Saturday graded stakes races are Breeders' Cup Challenge races, which means the winners earn automatic entry into the corresponding Breeders' Cup races.
On Super Saturday, NYRA will offer a $500,000 Guaranteed Pick 4.
The stellar weekend continues on October 2, with a quartet of races for two-year-olds: the Nashua S. (G2) at six furlongs on the main track and the Pilgrim S. (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, along with the Tempted S. (G3) for fillies at six furlongs and the Miss Grillo S. (G3) for fillies going 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
Juveniles take center stage again on October 8 with the $300,000 Champagne S. (G1) and the $300,000 Frizette S. (G1) for fillies, which are joined by the $250,000 Jamaica H. (G1) for three-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
New York-breds get their chance to shine on New York Showcase Day, October 22, with seven stakes for the top horses bred in the Empire State, capped by the $200,000 Empire Classic.
A field of seven will line up for the first stakes of the meet, Saturday's $150,000 Bowling Green H. (G2). With late-week showers expected to linger through the first half of the weekend, the chances of the 1 3/8-mile Bowling Green being contested on less-than-firm turf is a strong possibility. That might benefit the German import SANAGAS (Ger) (Lomitas [GB]), who moved up dramatically in his second U.S. appearance in the August 5 John's Call S. at Saratoga. Under Rajiv Maragh, the gelding effortlessly overcame a slow pace to win by 2 1/4 lengths while wearing blinkers for the first time.
GRASSY (El Prado [Ire]) has been winless in four starts since taking the Red Smith H. (G2) at Aqueduct last November but has typically run well over the Belmont turf, owning a mark of 6-2-1-2. He narrowly missed by a neck in the Singspiel S. (Can-G3) at Woodbine two back, then was an even fourth behind a lone speed at the same course's Sky Classic S. (Can-G2) last month.
Grade 3 veteran SAL THE BARBER (Alphabet Soup) makes his return to action after taking much of the summer off. Third in the Fort Marcy S. (G3) at Belmont in May, he was next sixth of seven in a compact finish to the Monmouth S. (G3).
CENTER DIVIDER (Giant's Causeway) and BOLD HAWK (Silver Hawk), who finished behind Sanagas in the John's Call, have each been winless on turf for some time. Center Divider captured an allowance on Polytrack earlier this year but is winless on grass since April 2010. Bold Hawk's last victory of any kind was in the 2007 Hawthorne Derby (G3), though the gelding was out of action nearly three years from late 2007 until the fall of last season.
The Bowling Green field is rounded out by KINDERGARDEN KID (Dyanformer), fifth in the John's Call, and last-out Saratoga allowance winner COLONIALISM (Empire Maker).
Prayer for Relief faces eight in Super Derby
PRAYER FOR RELIEF (Jump Start) will put his three-race winning skein on the line while taking on eight rivals in the $500,000 Super Derby (G2) at Louisiana Downs on Saturday. The 1 1/8-mile contest is the feature event on a stakes-loaded card that also includes the $150,000 Sunday Silence S. and $100,000 Happy Ticket S. for juveniles.
The Bob Baffert-trained Prayer for Relief began his career in California, but dropped his initial two starts on Del Mar's Polytrack last year. The dark bay colt seemed to take to the Cushion Track much better, breaking his maiden next out and running second in the Real Quiet S. at Hollywood Park. That November 6 event marked Prayer for Relief's juvenile finale, and he returned a winner on May 29 when taking an allowance at the Inglewood, California, venue.
Baffert decided to give his charge a shot on the main dirt track at Prairie Meadows when entering Prayer for Relief in the Iowa Derby (G3), and the Kentucky-bred colt responded with a two-length decision. The sophomore continued his winning ways last out in the West Virginia Derby (G2) going nine furlongs, and will keep jockey Rafael Bejarano in the saddle for Saturday's race.
While Prayer for Relief is looking to add to his tally, ALTERNATION (Distorted Humor) will attempt to get back on the winning track. The Donnie Von Hemel pupil broke his maiden, took an optional claimer and an allowance over the winter, then came back from a short break to put in a good rally for fifth while making his stakes debut in the Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 16.
Alternation broke through with his first black-type credit when taking the Peter Pan S. (G2) at Belmont Park, then was given a 2 1/2-month vacation before returning to be fourth in the Jim Dandy S. (G2) most recently to next-out Travers S. (G1) hero Stay Thirsty (Bernardini). Ramon Dominguez was aboard for Alternation's Peter Pan and Jim Dandy runs, and retains the mount on Saturday.
While Prayer for Relief and Alternation have been given plenty of time to prepare for the Super Derby, MALIBU GLOW (Malibu Moon) will take a shot at the race off a two-week turnaround. The George Weaver runner was fifth in both the Dwyer S. (G2) and Travers with a win against allowance rivals sandwiched in between. Also entered in the race are the respective top two from the Super Derby Prelude, TRUBS (First Samurai) and POPULIST POLITICS (Don't Get Mad), as well as Barbaro S. winner AWESOME BET (Awesome Again), who was fifth by 3 1/4 lengths in the West Virginia Derby last out.
Prior to the Super Derby, a field of 12 juvenile colts and geldings will take to the track in the Sunday Silence S. The one-mile turf contest has drawn the likes of stakes winners INDIAN ASSAULT (Indian Ocean), TOP CAT BOOGIE (Big Top Cat) and TEQUILA FACTOR (Pure Prize). The Happy Ticket, going a grassy mile three races earlier on the card, features a field of 10 two-year-old fillies, including Princess S. victress LITTLE MS PROTOCOL (El Corredor) and undefeated stakes heroine EXCHANTED (Exchange Rate).
Older horses will get their turn in the spotlight in the Unbridled S. and River Cities S., each worth $100,000 going 1 1/16 miles on Louisiana Downs' turf. GO TIGER JACK (Offlee Wild) will face off against HEAVENVILLE (Offlee Wild) yet again in the Unbridled after the pair ran one-two, respectively, in the Barksdale S. on August 6. Stakes scorers LONESOME STREET (Broken Vow) and MYSTIC (Unbridled's Song) are also entered in the race. Dual stakes winner SKIPPING TOWN (Leestown) will attempt to keep her two-race win streak going in the River Cities against returning rivals ROYAL MADAME (Royal Strand [Ire]), CATEGORY SEVEN (Gulf Storm) and VICKIES IN TOWN (Leestown), while LOVENOTLOST (Lost Soldier) is seeking her sixth victory from her past seven starts.
Also scheduled for Saturday is the $50,000 Temperence Hill S. for three-year-olds and up sprinting six furlongs. SOUTHERN STYLE (Forestry), triumphant in his last three at Evangeline Downs and five-for-seven at Louisiana Downs, tops the field of eight.
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