Las Vegas, NV - The Grade 3 Poker Stakes goes down this Thursday, July 4 from Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. Horses three years old and upward will be featured as they go one mile on Belmont Park's turf track in search of the winner's share of the $150,000 purse.
A field of seven older horses plus one Main Track Only entry has been confirmed for the Poker Stakes - race 9 on Belmont Park's Thursday schedule. Post time is 5:17 PM. Let's take a glance into the credentials of all eight combatants for this Grade 3 stakes.
Data Link - Shug McGaughey's four time graded stakes winner was second in the Marker's 46 Mile to reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan last time out at Keeneland April 12 after a two race win streak - the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Stakes February 23 and the Grade 2 Citation Handicap November 23. He was fifth in the Grade 1 Shadwell at Keeneland in October for his worst result in a while after a couple of great results - a win in the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes in June and a second in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch in September. He has won eight of 17 career starts and has proven tough against top competition in the past. He has been worse than second just once in his last six starts and certainly is the one to beat Saturday.
King Kreesa - is coming off a good win over Lubash in the minor Kingston Stakes here June 1 after a third behind Lubash in the Grade 3 Fort Marcys Stakes May 4. Before those results was nice third in the Grade 3 Appleton Stakes at Gulfstream March 30 in his only other start this year. He ended 2012 with a tenth in a Starter Stakes at Gulfstream after a fourth in the minor Montserrat Stakes and a good second in the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap here in October. He has placed in his last three starts overall and carries a little momentum after his first win in a year and is the morning line second choice for the Poker.
Lubash - finished third last time out in the minor Kingston Stakes to follow his biggest career result - a win in the Grade 3 Fort Marcys Stakes on this track May 4. Before that was a second in the minor Dave Stakes at Aqueduct April 14 after nearly a five month layoff and a pair of fourths in minor stakes action - the If Winter Comes Stakes in November and the McMahon of Saratoga Mohawk Stakes in October. He also had a pair of wins last summer in minor stakes action for trainer Christopher Clement. He is 4-3-2 from 13 starts at Belmont and is the morning line third choice for the Poker Stakes.
Howe Great - He had an impressive streak of four straight wins interrupted with a fifth in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland last April and had some good results after that. In September Howe Great was a very good second in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby but he stumbled to a pair of sevenths - in the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park October 6 and in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream February 23. Last time out was OK fourth in the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico May 18 after an Allowance score at Keeneland April 6.
Poker Stakes betting at Belmont Park with OffTrackBetting.com
Big Screen - has two Allowance Optional Claiming scores at this distance and a second place finish to start 2013 and appeared to be in the best form of his career. Since then he has continued his solid form finishing second in his last two starts including the Grade 3 Jaipur Stakes after getting disqualified due to a bump in the stretch here June 7 and a fourth in the Grade 3 Westchester Stakes also on this track in April. Big Screen has two wins and three second place finishes in six starts in 2013 and returns to a preferred turf surface after nearly a year racing on dirt.
Upgrade - has placed in all four starts in 2013 - three third place finishes including last time out in his only graded stakes action of the year - the Grade 2 Connaught Cup May 26 and an Allowance Optional Claiming score at Keeneland April 5. Upgrade ended his 2013 campaign with a ninth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint in a year that was highlighted by a win in the Grade 3 Jaipur Stakes on this track in June. He has six wins, eight seconds and five third place finishes in 25 career starts.
Shkspeare Shaliyah - posted consecutive wins toward the end of 2011 but has placed in just two of twelve starts since - a second in the minor Montserrat Stakes and a third in the Sunshine Millions Turf behind Teaks North January 19. His last graded stakes action came in February - an eighth in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida. He hasn't improved in his last two starts - a sixth in an Allowance Optional Claiming last time followed a fifth in the minor Three Coins Up Stakes here June 14.
Politicallycorrect - Main Track Only entry is coming off a third in the minor Jaipur Stakes here June 7 after a sixth in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes in May and a nearly six month layoff. He did have a pair of minor stakes wins last fall but ended 2012 with a distant eighth in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes in December.