UPI Horse Racing Weekend Preview: Mendelssohn hits Belmont Park

By ROBERT KIECKHEFER, UPI Racing Writer  |  July 6, 2018 at 3:45 PM
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Mendelssohn is back, looking for redemption from his Kentucky Derby misadventure on a sparkling, multimillion-dollar Saturday program at Belmont Park.

Delaware Park, Prairie Meadows and Arlington Park also get in on the action with graded stakes as the emphasis in strongly on the grass.

On the international front, Saxon Warrior will try erase the disappointment of Derby defeats in England and Ireland when facing Epsom winner Masar again Saturday in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown. There's also Group 1 racing in South Africa, France and Germany.

Around the world, around the clock:

Turf

They come from Ireland, France and California to contest Saturday's $1.2 million Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational at 1 1/4 miles on the turf. The overseas bunch is headed by Hunting Horn, another with the O'Brien-Moore credentials. The Camelot colt exits a victory in the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot. Kingstar, an Evasive colt, represents France after a victory at Longchamp in his only previous start of the year.

The locals for the Belmont Derby feature the 1-2-3 from the Grade III Pennine Ridge on June 2 -- Catholic Boy, Analyze It and Channel Cat -- as well as Hawkish, who stretches out from a win in the Grade II Penn Mile. Santa Anita-trained My Boy Jack makes his first start since finishing a closing fifth in the Kentucky Derby but has had success on the green course.

Synchrony and Divisidero are the heavy favorites in a field of 12 for Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Arlington Handicap -- the local prep for the Aug. 11 Arlington Million. Synchrony, a 5-year-old son of Tapit, was sidelined before last year's Million but rebounded this year to win his first two starts and finished third in the Grade I Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, over yielding turf, May 5. Divisidero, a 6-year-old by Kitten's Joy, was a late-running seventh in the 2017 Million, losing by only 2 1/2 lengths. He has been second and fourth, each time beaten less than 1 length, in two previous starts this season. Any of the others would be a surprise although Compass Zone, a lightly raced 4-year-old, shows promise.

Ezmosh and Pont Du Garde, the first- and second-place finishers from the Grade III Arlington Classic, return for Saturday's $100,000 Grade III American Derby at Arlington Park. This is the local trial for the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on Arlington Million Day, Aug. 11. The favorite is Captivating Moon, a Malibu Moon colt who was a dead-heat second in the Grade II American Turf at Churchill Downs and a close third in the Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury Park in his last two starts. Eight are set for this one.

A dozen stayers, or would-be stayers, are lined up to contest Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Stars & Stripes at 12 furlongs at Arlington Park. Seven of the 12 have experience at the distance. The problem is, they are a combined 3-for-20 going this far. The 5-2 morning-line favorite is Arklow, an Arch colt whose only try beyond 1 1/8 miles resulted in a last-place drubbing, albeit against much tougher rivals, in last year's Grade I Belmont Derby.

Coltandmississippi and Silent Citizen stand out on the morning line among 14 entered for Saturday's $100,000 Not Surprising Stakes for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park. Coltandmississippi, a Pioneerof the Nile colt trained by Todd Pletcher, has but two wins yet always seems to be in the mix. He was third in the Grade II Penn Mile in his last start. Silent Citizen, a son of the Japanese sire Hat Trick, has four wins from six starts including a minor stakes at Delaware Park June 13.

Already in the books:

Up the Ante led all the way to a 3 1/2-lengths victory in Wednesday's $100,000 Manila Stakes for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park. The odds-on favorite, Raging Bull, took back to last of six and came with a late run to take second, 3 1/2 lengths in front of Westerland. Up the Ante, a Smart Strike colt trained by Christophe Clement, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.42 with Javier Castellano riding.

Filly & Mare Turf

You'd expect a turf race with a $1 million purse to draw lots of interest both home and abroad, especially if it's a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. And that just the case for Saturday's $1 million Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational. A field of 10 includes six with at least some international experience. Seven have won graded stakes in North America and one -- Capla Temptress -- fits both categories. She won the Grade I Natalma at Woodbine last fall and finished fourth, beaten only 1/2 length, in the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, or French 1000 Guineas, in her most recent outing for trainer Marco Botti.

The Aidan O'Brien combine brings Athena, a Camelot filly who wheels back on just one week's rest after finishing third in the Group 1 Pretty Polly in Ireland. Moore has the mount. This fascinating field also includes the top three from the recent Grade III Wonder Again -- La Signare, Significant Form and Mighty Scarlet. French-bred Thewayiam will reward backers handsomely if she can stretch her demonstrated speed to 1 1/4 miles.

Nine fillies and mares will contest Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park and the 1 3/8-miles affair promises to be contentious indeed. At least half the field seems to have a good shot at the win, topped by French import Palinodie, the 5-2 morning-line favorite. She was a fading fourth in the Grade II Sheepshead Bay over the same trip at Belmont Park in her last start but this might be an easier task. Creative Thinking is a threat after two straight wins.

Daddys Lil Darling drew the outside post among 13 entered for Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Modesty at Arlington Park but nonetheless gets the favorite's role at 8-5 on the morning line. The 4-year-old Scat Daddy filly has been running consistently at the top level but has not won since taking the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks last Dec. 30. The field also includes the first- and third-place finishers from the Grade III Matron on the Arlington all-weather, Princess LaQuinta and Con Te Partiro, plus some talented invaders from the East Coast and Kentucky.

Saturday's $100,000 Hatoof Stakes for 3-year-old fillies drew a well-balanced field of 12 to try the Arlington Park turf. Go Noni Go is a lukewarm favorite after finishing second in the Grade III Regret at Churchill Downs. Colonia is fresh off the plane from France and now handled by Graham Motion.

Camila Princess is the even-money favorite against eight rivals in Saturday's $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park. The Animal Kingdom filly notched four wins on the north-of-Miami circuit before finishing seventh in the Grade III Wonder Again at Belmont Park in her last outing.

Turf Sprint

A dozen applied for Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Parx Dash at 5 furlongs on the turf. The solid morning-line favorite is Pure Sensation, winner of the last two editions of this race. The 7-year-old Zensational gelding also won the Turf Monster at Parx in September of 2015 and 2017. Only a fourth-place finish in the 2014 Gallant Bob prevents him from sporting a perfect record at the Pennsylvania oval.

Eight are entered for Saturday's $100,000 Turf Amazon for fillies and mares at Parx Racing. Blue Bahia and Smiling Causeway are the oddsmakers' pick along with the entry of Goldwood and Boos.

Classic

Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Dwyer at Belmont Park is a one-turn mile but for the morning-line favorite, Mendelssohn, it's a fresh start toward the Breeders' Cup Classic and a chance for redemption after his last-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. The 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner was wiped out at the start in the Run for the Roses and trainer Aidan O'Brien and jockey Ryan Moore both said they learned from that and accept the challenge.

Only six will line up against the Scat Daddy colt, winner of the Group 2 UAE Derby back in March. One is stablemate Seahenge, another by Scat Daddy and not to be taken lightly despite a couple of rough outings. Also in here are Kentucky Derby also-rans (albeit better than Mendelssohn) Firenze Fire and Noble Indy. Lightly raced Rugbyman gets blinkers on after finishing second in the Easy Goer in his last start.

The Dwyer winner gets a "Win and You're In" spot for the Breeders' Cup Sprint but the big guns are aiming longer range.

Last year's Belmont Stakes winner, Tapwrit, returns for Saturday's $700,000 Grade II Suburban at Belmont Park, facing the Bob Baffert one-two punch of Hoppertunity and "family horse" Dr. Dorr. Tapwrit, by Tapit, was sidelined after finishing fourth in the Travers at Saratoga and only reappeared June 3 at Belmont Park, finishing a fading third. Hoppertunity, now 7, loved the 1 1/2 miles of the Brooklyn in his last start but now cuts back to the 10-furlongs distance where he is 1-for-8. Dr. Dorr, owned by Natalie Jillene "Jill" Baffert, the trainer's wife, had a three-race winning streak snapped when finishing second to Accelerate in the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita last time out. He is cross-entered in the Grade III Prairie Meadows Cornhusker on Friday. Diversify and War Story both should be available at tempting odds by post time.

If Dr. Dorr does not tackle the big boys a Belmont, he and McCraken will be favorites in Friday's $300,000 Grade III Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap. If not, McCracken will be the prohibitive favorite despite his sixth-place finish in the Grade I Met Mile at Belmont in his last outing. The extra furlong of the Cornhusker should help. Dangers would Matrooh, Dalmore and Irish Freedom

High North and Lionite are the morning-line picks for Friday's $250,000 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows. High North, a Midnight Lute colt, flirted with the Triple Crown trail and most recently was fourth in the Grade III Peter Pan at Belmont Park. Lionite, by Quality Road, won the Prairie Mile over the course June 8.

Distaff

A field of 10 for Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Delaware Oaks includes the first two from the Grade II Black Eyed Susan, Red Ruby and Coach Rocks, as well as Gio Game, third in the Grade I Acorn in her last outing. Mo Shopping, Blue Strike and Prospective Lady return after finishing 1-2-3 in a minor local stakes June 6. Added spice: Cascanueces, a Smart Strike filly, won all three of her previous starts in her native Peru, two of them Group 1 affairs, and now makes her bow under the command of Todd Pletcher.

Already in the books:

She's a Julie stalked a pacesetting long shot through most of Thursday's $300,000 Grade III Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows, easily took the lead when asked by jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. and drew off to a 5 1/2-lengths victory. Cosmic Burst was second, Hold Her Tight finished third and the favorite, Sassy Sienna, retreated in the stretch run to finish seventh. She's a Julie, a daughter of Elusive Quality, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.33. She's a Julie, owned by Godolphin and trained at Churchill Downs by Steve Asmussen, shipped to Iowa after a hard-fought allowance win under the Twin Spires.

Dreamcall rallied by the even-money favorite, Mended, in the stretch in Thursday's $100,000 Iowa Distaff at Prairie Meadows and ran on to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Mended had to battle to hold off Girl Power by 1/2 length for place money. Dreamcall, a 4-year-old Midnight Lute filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.38, also with Santana up.

Sprint/Dirt Mile

Saturday's $350,000, Grade II Belmont Sprint Championship looks like a classic battle with the speed drawn outside in the six-horse field and the two favorites in gates No. 1 and 2. On paper, at least three of the four "outsiders" should be out and winging in the 6-furlongs dash, which is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Sprint in November. That scenario would appear a perfect setup for the favorite, Limousine Liberal, and second-favorite on the morning line, Whitmore. Limousine Liberal won the Grade II Churchill Downs two starts back and Whitmore finished second, beaten only a neck, in the Grade II True North in his most recent outing. But "on paper" often differs from "on the track" and the others certainly look capable on their best effort.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Marley's Freedom is the odds-on choice among five set for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Great Lady M. at Los Alamitos. The 4-year-old Blame filly won the Grade III Desert Stormer in her first start since switching to the Bob Baffert barn and has been burning up the track in the morning since that race May 27. The chief threat appears to by Skye Diamonds, who won this race last year and comes off a rest following a poor effort in the Churchill Downs slop on Derby Day.

A tough field of 11 is set for Sunday's $150,000 Victory Ride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, going 6 1/2 furlongs at Belmont Park. Separationofpowers makes her first start since finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar and earlier won the Grade I Frizette. Mia Mischief comes off a victory in the Grade II Eight Belles at Churchill Downs. Spectator was second in the Santa Anita Oaks. Take Charge Paula was second in a pair of Kentucky Oaks preps in Florida. Divine Mischief has the mischievous look of an upsetter. Good betting opportunities for a sharp handicapper.\

Already in the books:

Golden Mischief, the odds-on favorite, ran to form in Thursday's $100,000 Saylorville at Prairie Meadows, stalking the pace before drawing off to win by 5 lengths over Honey Bunny. Golden Mischief, a 4-year-old Into Mischief filly owned by Juddmonte Farms, ran 6 furlongson a fast track in 1:09.49 with Florent Geroux in the irons for trainer Brad Cox.

On the international front:

England

Investec Derby winner Masar returns to action in Saturday's Group 1 Coral-Eclipse at Sandown facing Saxon Warrior, the beaten favorite from both that Epsom Classic and the Irish Derby as well. "It's a great race and I'm glad Saxon Warrior is turning up," Charlie Appleby, who trains Masar for Godolphin Racing, told Racing Post. "It's what an Eclipse deserves. I spoke to His Highness (Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum) after the final declarations were made and he's pleased, too. We would rather win an Eclipse like this than one that people might previously have called substandard."

The "substandard" comment must have been inadvertent as the field also includes the likes of Hawkbill, who won the 2016 Coral-Eclipse -- for Appleby and Godolphin, no less -- as well as Derby third Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior stablemates Happily and Cliffs of Moher.

Donnacha O'Brien takes the reins on Saxon Warrior, subbing for Ryan Moore, who will ride in Saturday's Grade I events at Belmont Park.

France

Moore will jet back from New York late Saturday, overfly Ireland and England and settle in northern France to ride Gustav Klimt against six rivals in Sunday's Group 1 Prix Jean Prat at Deauville. The Galileo colt comes off a second in the Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The locals are tough. Among them Olmedo and Hey Gaman were first and second in the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains or French 2000 Guineas. Wusool captured the Group 3 Prix Paul de Moussac and Ancient Spirit won the Group 2 German 2000 Guineas at Cologne.

South Africa

African Night Sky tops a quintet entered by trainer Justin Snaith for Saturday's Group 1 Vodacom Durban July at Greyville. The race, equally known for its quality competition and prominence on the social calendar, has a lot of fresh faces. Only Abashiri returns from last year's July and faces a tough task off just a single prep race.

Germany

Fourteen are set for Sunday's Group 1 Deutches Derby at Hamburg.

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