OffTrackBetting.com - The Grade 3 Poker Stakes comes our way this Saturday, June 18 from Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. Horses four years old and upward will be featured when they take to Belmont Park's turf track and race one mile for the winner's share of the $300,000 purse.
A solid field of six have been confirmed for the Poker Stakes - race 4 on Belmont Park's Saturday schedule. Post time is 3:04 PM. Here is a peek into the past performances of all six combatants for this Grade 3 stakes.
2016 Poker Stakes Race Preview at Belmont Park
Obviously 9-5 - multiple Grade 1 winner, Irish bred gelding enters this week on the heels of good runner-up finishes - the Grade 2 Arcadia Stakes last time out at Santa Anita February 13 and as favorite with a 104 Beyer Speed Figure in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes on that track January 2. Before that was a ninth in the Breeders' Cup Mile, an OK third in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile September 13 and 10 months away. Before the layoff was a fifth in the 2014 Breeders' Cup Mile, a fourth in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap in August, 2014 and two straight graded stakes scores - the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile in June, 2014 and the Grade 3 American Stakes in May of that year - he won both of those races two straight years. Obviously now has 26 career starts with 11 wins, six seconds and three third place finishes and will look for his first win in 24 months. He has placed in three of his last four starts overall since his return to the track against some top older competition as well and should be in the mix Saturday. Jose Lezcano has been tabbed to ride the morning line favorite from post 3.
Grand Arch 7-2 - finished eleventh in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Mile and was third behind Tepin in the 2015 edition of the BC Mile. He has just one start since that race which resulted in a third in the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico May 21. Grand Arch posted a win in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile October 3 and in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap in August but hasn't been afraid to deliver a dud in there as well. That said Grand Arch now has seven wins, six seconds and eight third place finishes in 25 career starts, has placed in four straight races ahead of this week and is certainly in decent form for this race. Luis Saez will be in the saddle of the second betting choice from the rail Saturday hoping to keep the streak going.
Takeover Target 4-1 - Chad Brown trained colt makes his twelfth career start Saturday having recorded five wins and two second place finishes so far. He made his graded stakes debut last July and finished a somewhat disappointing fifth in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes Invitational and followed that with a good win in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes in August, a sixth in the Grade 3 Saranac Stakes in September, a nice 1 3/4 length win in the Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont Park October 3 and a troubled fifth in the Grade 2 Ft. Lauderdale Stakes January 9. Takeover Target produced a career best win last time out in the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico May 21 after a second in the minor Danger's Hour Stakes at Aqueduct April 10 and a fourth in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf in February. He has been a tad inconsistent but has produced three wins and a runner-up finish in five starts on this track. He looks for his second straight graded stakes win Saturday on his favorite course and leaves from the outside post 6 with Joel Rosario in the irons.
Force the Pass 5-1 - has four wins, two seconds and three third place finishes in nine career starts for trainer Alan Goldberg and enters off three straight third place finishes - the Grade 3 Appleton Stakes last time out April 2, the Grade 2 Commonwealth Derby in September and the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes in August. Before that were good wins in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational in July and in his graded stakes debut - the $500,000 Grade 3 Penn Mile May 30. Force the Pass has been a factor in every race he's entered so far and should be again Saturday from gate 2 with Jose Ortiz in the reins.
Offering Plan 6-1 - Chad Brown trained colt finished thirteenth in the 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and was out of racing for nine months. He returned August 9 and won an Allowance score and followed that with a fifth in the minor Better Talk Now Stakes August 31 and a nice win in the minor English Channel Stakes on this track October 25. Offering Plan enters off an Allowance Optional Claiming score here May 15 which followed a fifth in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby November 28. He chases his first stakes score Saturday from gate 4 with Javier Castellano guiding him.
King Kreesa 10-1 - eight time stakes winner and defending champion in this race (he also won the Poker in 2013) had a two race win streak this past summer - the minor Forbidden Apple Stakes July 11 and the 2015 Poker Stakes which followed a pair of thirds and a disappointing sixth in minor stakes action to start his year. He has been just OK recently - a second last time out in the minor Kingston Stakes here May 30 followed a fourth in the minor Elusive Quality Stakes on this track April 30, a second in the minor West Point Stakes August 28 and a fourth in the Grade 2 Foustardave Handicap August 15. King Kreesa looked terrific at this time last year but has placed in just one of his last three starts overall. He chases his first win in a year Saturday from post 5 with Irad Ortiz guiding him.
2016 Poker Stakes Entries & Odds
Race 4 on Belmont Park's Saturday card with a Post Time of 3:04 PM.
||Force the Pass
||Irad Ortiz, Jr.