Carded as Race 8 with a scheduled post time of 5:18 p.m. ET, the 38th running of the Kelso tops a 10-race program on Saturday that also includes the the Grade 3, $200,000 Noble Damsel Stakes for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.
Won last year by Sharp Azteca, who would finish second to Kelso contender Battle of Midway in the Dirt Mile, the Kelso could serve as a more useful prep as this year's Dirt Mile, at Churchill Downs, will be run around one turn for the first time since 2011. However, no Kelso winner has won the Dirt Mile since the race reverted to the main track in 2009.
2018 Kelso Handicap Odds & Entries
Race 8 on Belmont Park's Saturday card with a Post Time of 5:18 PM
|1||Battle of Midway||2-1||Flavien Prat
|4||No Dozing||4-1||David Cohen
|5||Still Having Fun||8-1||Joel Rosario
|7||Sunny Ridge||3-1||Manuel Franco
Trainer Barclay Tagg said he hopes to start Realm on Saturday with a long-term eye on the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap, a race the veteran conditioner won in 2008 with Tale of Ekati and 2010 with Jersey Town. Realm, a 5-year-old Virginia-bred gelding by Haynesfield, will enter the Kelso on a pair of wins this summer, having run down Papa Shot in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming race on June 29 at Belmont before taking the restricted 1 1/8-mile Alydar by a hard-fought head around two turns on August 5 at Saratoga Race Course.
Realm, owned by Eric Dattner, Tagg, and Harry Astarita, was third as a 3-year-old in the 2016 Cigar Mile behind Connect and Divining Rod. He hit the board in two Grade 3s that winter before finishing a well beaten fifth in the Grade 3 Westchester in May of 2017.
"I think he's good at one turn and the race is here and we're ready to run him," said Tagg. "He tries hard and he's sound, so you run him when you can run him. I'd like to have something left over to take a shot at the Cigar Mile. That's not a bad one to win. We've won it twice, so we've been lucky, and we'll try to do it again. This is a stepping stone and it's a mile, so we might as well get him back to a mile now."
Junior Alvarado, who has been aboard for Realm's last three starts, has the return call. The pair will break from post 3 carrying 116 pounds.
Lael Stable's No Dozing will stretch back out to a mile following his fifth-place finish in the seven-furlong Grade 1 Forego on August 25 at Saratoga. Prior to the Forego, the Union Rags gelding made his late 4-year-old debut on July 21, winning a seven-furlong optional claimer by three-quarters of a length in near-record time at the Spa.
"I think he'll be more efficient with a one-turn mile compared to seven-eighths. I'm much more comfortable going a mile with him, especially at Belmont," said trainer Arnaud Delacour. "Everything depends on what kind of post position we have and how he breaks. He tends to break a step slow from time to time.
"In the Forego, when he was going up against very good sprinters, they don't wait for you at the break," he added. "You need to break and be right there with them, and it didn't happen, so we got too far back and had to come wide. That's always difficult to overcome against good horses. In the Kelso, we'll have a better chance to have a better trip."
David Cohen picks up the mount and will ride No Dozing from post 4 at 116 pounds.
Don Alberto Stable and WinStar Farm's Battle of Midway has been installed as the field's high weight with 123 pounds. Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner will be making his second start following his return to racing in 2018. Battle of Midway, a 4-year-old colt by Smart Strike, stumbled at the start of his season opener but regrouped well enough to finish second in the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien, crossing the wire 7 ¼ lengths behind Catalina Cruiser.
Battle of Midway will be ridden by Flavien Prat from the rail.
Trainer Chad Brown will be represented by a pair of runners in Timeline (118 pounds), fourth in the Alydar last time out, and Patternrecognition (115), making his stakes debut following a three-quarter-length win in an optional claiming race August 11 at Saratoga.
Dennis Drazin's homebred Sunny Ridge (118), cross-entered in the PA Derby Champions on Saturday at Parx Racing, could cut back around one turn after finishing ninth in the Grade 1 Woodward on September 1 for trainer Jason Servis. Still Having Fun (116), himself cross-entered in the Grade 3 Gallant Bob Saturday at Parx, is the lone 3-year-old entrant in this year's Kelso.
About the Kelso Handicap
The Kelso Stakes is an American race for Thoroughbred horse race run annually in late September/early October at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. A Grade II event open to horses, age three and up, it is contested on turf over a distance of one mile (8 furlongs).
The race is named for Kelso, Allaire du Pont's five-time winner of American Horse of the Year honors. In 2010, the Kelso was run for the first time in its 30 year history on dirt.
Run at two miles on the main track at Aqueduct from 1980 to 1982. Not run in 1983. Run at 1 ¼ miles on the turf from 1984 to 1987. Distance changed to one mile in 1988. In 2009, the Kelso was taken off the turf and transferred to the main track. The following year, the race became a regular dirt fixture.