A diverse and compelling cast of sophomores are set to square off in the fifth running of the Grade 1, $1.2 million Belmont Derby Invitational on Saturday at Belmont Park, led by Catholic Boy for owners Robert LaPenta, Madaket Stables, Siena Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables.
The Belmont Derby serves as the centerpiece of Stars & Stripes Day, which also features the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational, Grade 2, $700,000 Suburban Handicap, Grade 2, $350,000 Belmont Sprint Championship and Grade 3, $300,000 Dwyer. The race will be televised nationally as part of Belmont Park Live on FS2, while the Dwyer, Sprint, and Oaks will comprise an NBC broadcast from 4:30 to 6 p.m. ET.
2018 Belmont Derby Invitational Odds & Entries
Race 10 on Belmont Park's Saturday card with a Post Time of 6:50 PM
|1||Channel Cat||30-1||Luis Saez||Todd Pletcher|
|2||Encumbered||30-1||Mario Gutierrez||Simon Callaghan|
|3||Analyze It||5-2||Jose Ortiz||Chad Brown|
|4||Hunting Horn (IRE)||7-2||Ryan Moore||Aidan O'Brien|
|5||Maraud||12-1||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher|
|6||Kingstar (FR)||12-1||Pierre-Charles Boudot||Pia Brandt|
|7||Catholic Boy||4-1||Javier Castellano||Jonathan Thomas|
|8||Hawkish||7-2||Manuel Franco||James Toner|
|9||My Boy Jack||6-1||Kent Desormeaux||J. Desormeaux|
Trained by Jonathan Thomas, Catholic Boy enters the 1 ¼-mile turf event for 3-year-olds off an eye-catching score in the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge, the local prep for the Belmont Derby. Pitted against the previously unbeaten Analyze It in the Pennine Ridge, Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano immediately sent Catholic Boy to the lead, a position he had never been in before in his career, and the two skipped around the Belmont inner turf with Analyze It in close pursuit. The pace quickened considerably around the far turn as Analyze It ranged up to confront Catholic Boy, and at the top of the stretch Analyze It appeared to have the race in hand with Catholic Boy pinned to his inside. However, once Castellano steadied Catholic Boy and angled him to the outside of his rival, the two re-rallied and surged late to nip Analyze It by a neck on the wire.
"We were really proud of his effort," said Thomas. "Javier was able to execute a plan we had put together in the paddock at the last minute, and we were thrilled with the result. Analyze It is a nice horse. Obviously, it was an oddly run race, and the verdict is still out on where [Catholic Boy] will be positioned [in the Belmont Derby]. We've always felt he had mile and a quarter capabilities, though. He's a mentally relaxed horse and everything we see from him in the mornings and afternoons makes me think he'll appreciate the distance."
The Pennine Ridge, run on June 2 at Belmont, was Catholic Boy's first start on turf since finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf on November 3 at Del Mar. Sandwiched in between, the More Than Ready ridgling picked up a win in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct Racetrack and finished second in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs before a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Florida Derby dashed his Kentucky Derby dreams.
"If you look at his body of work, we weren't overly surprised he ran so well in the Pennine Ridge. He's done little wrong on turf," said Thomas. "We started him out on turf primarily just to go a route of ground; he was never going to be effective sprinting. I think the [Belmont Derby] will really play to his strengths."
To be ridden again by Hall of Famer Castellano, Catholic Boy will break from post 7.
Analyze It, now 3-for-4 in his career, will get another crack at Catholic Boy on Saturday. The talented son of Point of Entry had racked up wins in the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille at Del Mar and Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland, his seasonal debut, before falling short in the Pennine Ridge. The bay colt's trainer, Chad Brown, believes there may be reason to expect a different outcome in the Belmont Derby.
"I thought he ran into a really good horse in Catholic Boy in the Pennine Ridge," said Brown, who trains Analyze It for William Lawrence. "He ran very well; our horse had no excuse. He might've had a little time between races where I could've had him a little better. It's not an excuse, he had every chance to win, but I believe this horse can move forward now that he has some recent fitness in him. I might've given him a little too much to do after the Transylvania heading into that race."
Prior to missing by a neck in the Pennine Ridge, Analyze It's average margin of victory was a robust 5 ¼ lengths. He will break from post 3 with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Another runner with only one blemish on his record from four career starts, Hawkish, will go out for trainer Jimmy Toner and owners AJ Suited Racing Stable, Robert LaPenta, and Madaket Stable. The bay gelding burst onto the 3-year-old turf scene with a sensational debut on January 6 at Gulfstream Park, and after a hiccup in the Grade 3 Palm Beach has registered impressive scores in an optional claimer at Aqueduct and most recently in the Grade 2 Penn Mile on June 2 at Penn National.
"You don't know until you try," Toner said of the Belmont Derby's 1 ¼-mile distance. "We know he's a top miler and that's the unknown factor here, if he can get the mile and a quarter, but we'll find out. He gallops a mile and a half every day. I think the key is being rateable. If he isn't too aggressive early and settles in, I think you're OK. I think it's when you get those speed-type or fast horses that are not rateable, or get aggressive, then it's hard for them to settle in to go a mile and a quarter. So far, he's shown that he's OK with everything."
Hawkish will enlist the services of jockey Manny Franco, and the pair will depart from post 8.
This year's European contingent will be headed by Hunting Horn from the barn of trainer Aidan O'Brien, who won the Belmont Derby in 2016 with Deauville. The Coolmore color-bearer is coming off an impressive 4 ½-length win in the Group 3 Hampton Court on June 21 at Royal Ascot. He will be ridden by Ryan Moore from post 4.
Kentucky Derby darling My Boy Jack, who was a surprise second choice in the wagering to Justify in the Run for the Roses, will make the switch back to turf for the Belmont Derby, a surface over which he has a win and three second-place finishes from five starts. The son of Creative Cause picked up wins in the Grade 3 Southwest and Grade 3 Lexington on the Kentucky Derby Trail before finishing a fast-closing fifth in the Derby, his most recent outing. Trained by Keith Desormeaux, My Boy Jack will be ridden by his brother Kent, and the two will leave from post 9.
Rounding out the field are Channel Cat, the third-place finisher from the Pennine Ridge; Encumbered, most recently fifth in the Penn Mile; Kingstar, who won his 2018 bow at the newly revamped Longchamp; and Maraud, a multiple graded stakes winner on turf exiting a fourth-place finish in the Penn Mile.
Hawkish `relaxed' in final work before stretching out in G1 Belmont Derby
BELMONT PARK - Grade 2 Penn Mile hero Hawkish breezed four furlongs in 49 seconds over the Belmont turf course Sunday morning for his final work before Saturday's Grade 1 Belmont Derby.
Hawkish, a 3-year-old Artie Schiller gelding trained by Jimmy Toner, broke off behind stablemates Manitoulin and Violet Blue with jockey Manny Franco aboard. He tracked that pair through the turn and caught up with them in the stretch. Franco directed his charge to the outside and Hawkish kicked on past the wire on even terms.
"I told Manny to track them," said Toner. "I said that I want to see how comfortable he is behind other horses and if he gets too close or too anxious, just ease out a bit. I couldn't ask for more. [He was] five lengths [behind] and sat, sat, sat, and then the closer he got to them, I thought he was going to run over them, but Manny just moved him out a little bit and he went. The main thing was to get him to relax behind horses and it was no problem. [Manny] said he rated perfectly. When he turns into the lane, he said he knows where the wire is and he starts to get aggressive. As long as he settles before that, he's good, and that's what he did this morning."
Sunday's breeze was Hawkish's second since his late-running three-length victory in the Penn Mile on June 2 at Penn National Race Course. Last weekend, Hawkish worked a bullet five furlongs on the turf in a dogs-up 59.63.
"He's doing really well. His attitude's been good and he's been training good," Toner said. "His major breeze was last week and today, we were just trying to do a little maintenance breeze with him but also teach him to relax a little more, which he did."
The Belmont Derby will be Hawkish's first attempt at 1 ¼ miles. Hawkish, owned by Robert LaPenta, AJ Suited Racing Stable, and Madaket Stables, is 3-for-3 at a mile on the grass with his only loss in four career starts coming with a fourth-place finish in his second start in the Grade 3 Palm Beach on March 3 at Gulfstream Park.
"You don't know until you try. We know he's a top miler and that's the unknown factor here, if he can get the mile and a quarter, but we'll find out," said Toner. "He gallops a mile and a half every day. I think the key is being rateable. If he isn't too aggressive early and settles in, I think you're OK. I think it's when you get those speed-type or fast horses that are not rateable, or get aggressive, then it's hard for them to settle in to go a mile and a quarter. So far, he's shown that he's OK with everything."
Trainer Chad Brown sends out Analyze It in Belmont Derby
Fresh off a 1-2 finish in the Grade 1 United Nations on Saturday, trainer Chad Brown sent out a slew of turf workers Sunday morning at Belmont Park, some in preparation for Stars & Stripes Day on July 7 at Belmont.
Brown's contingent was led by Grade 1, $1.2 million Belmont Derby Invitational hopeful Analyze It, who breezed five furlongs in 1:02.76 in company with graded stakes winner Projected. Previously undefeated, including a pair of Grade 3 victories, Analyze It finished second to Catholic Boy on June 2 in the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge, the local prep for the 1 ¼-mile Belmont Derby.
"He went great, so he's on target for the Derby," Brown said of the Point of Entry colt's work. "I thought he ran into a really good horse in Catholic Boy in the Pennine Ridge. He ran very well; our horse had no excuse. He might've had a little time between races where I could've had him a little better. It's not an excuse, he had every chance to win, but I believe this horse can move forward now that he has some recent fitness in him. I might've given him a little too much to do after the Transylvania heading into that race."
Catholic Boy turns in 'maintenance half' at Saratoga for G1 Belmont Derby
Grade 3 Pennine Ridge winner Catholic Boy put the final touches on his Grade 1, $1.2 million Belmont Derby Invitational preparations with a four-furlong breeze Saturday morning over the Oklahoma turf course at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Jonathan Thomas, the 3-year-old More Than Ready ridgling went in company with Eagle Pass, an unraced 3-year-old gelding, covering the distance in 49.39 seconds with dogs up.
"It was kind of like a maintenance half, but I felt like he did everything well, finished up nicely and galloped out well. All in all, it went nicely," said Thomas. "More than anything, I wanted to see him moving well, happy, and comfortable in his work. Obviously, he's got a lot of foundation with numerous runs under his belt. We're only trying to keep him happy."
It was Catholic Boy's third work at Saratoga since capturing the Pennine Ridge in his return to turf on June 2, where he set the early pace and briefly lost the lead in the stretch before digging in to prevail by a neck under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.
"I don't think you expect efforts like [the Pennine Ridge] from horses often and obviously, you can't predict scenarios to set up like they do, but he's a horse we've always had a lot of faith in," said Thomas. "He's been very reliable for us. As a fan of horse racing, it was a fun race for us to watch. Knowing him and knowing how honest he is in his efforts, in retrospect it wasn't necessarily a surprise to me that he bellied down and got the job done because that's just him."
Thomas said Castellano is set for the return call aboard Catholic Boy, owned by Robert LaPenta, Madaket Stables, Siena Farm, and Twin Creeks Racing Stable.
Catholic Boy began his career on the grass, breaking his maiden at first asking and following up with a one-length score in the Grade 3 With Anticipation at Saratoga. His 2-year-old turf campaign culminated with a close fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf November 3 at Del Mar, crossing the wire 1 ½ lengths behind well-regarded European invader Mendelssohn.
The connections opted to make the switch to dirt, and in December Catholic Boy won the Grade 2 Remsen on the main track. He continued to pursue the Kentucky Derby trail in the spring, recording a tough runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis and a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 31 at Gulfstream Park before his return in the Pennine Ridge.
Pletcher duo Channel Cat, Maraud wrap up Belmont Derby preparations
Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out Belmont Derby contenders Channel Cat and Maraud on Saturday morning for their final breezes ahead of next weekend's Grade 1 contest. Treadway Racing Stable's Maraud and Calumet Farm's homebred Channel Cat took to Belmont's main track and worked a half-mile in company in 48.45 seconds.
"Both I thought went very well," said Pletcher. "They had good, solid maintenance breezes and seem to be holding form."
Last time out, Maraud vied for the early lead in the Grade 2 Penn Mile on June 2 at Penn National Race Course before fading to fourth, 3 ½ lengths behind Hawkish. A $375,000 2-year-old in training purchase, the Blame colt posted a 1 ½-length victory in the Grade 2 American Turf over yielding ground on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs. He also owns a win in the Grade 3 Palm Beach at Gulfstream Park earlier this year and finished a close third in last fall's Grade 3 Pilgrim, his only previous start at Belmont Park.
Channel Cat, a chestnut son of English Channel, is exiting a third-place finish to Catholic Boy in the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge. Prior to that, he was a bothered sixth in the American Turf, running late to finish 4 ¾ lengths behind Maraud.
Pletcher also reported that 2017 Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit came out of his Tuesday breeze in good order and remains on target for the Grade 2 Suburban on Stars & Stripes Day.
About the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes
Renamed from the Jamaica Handicap in 2014, the Belmont Derby was also moved to July when it runs as a 1 1/4 mile race at Belmont on the turf for 3-year-olds. The race was first run in 1929 and used to be a sprint race before gradually getting longer. Run at Belmont Park, the race used to be open to older horses with winners such as Fighting Fox, Jet Pilot, Dance Spell, Waquoit, Pennine ridge, Stroll, Artie Schiller and Court Vision.