BELMONT PARK - Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence's Cloud Computing will be making his first start in more than eight months as part of a field of six in the Grade 3, $200,000 Westchester Stakes for 4-year-olds and up on Saturday, Kentucky Derby Day, at Belmont Park.
Carded as Race 11 on the 12-race card and following the 144th "Run for the Roses", the Westchester is one of three graded stakes on Belmont's slate on Derby Day, joining the Grade 2, $200,000 Sheepshead Bay for older fillies and mares and the Grade 3, $150,000 Fort Marcy for 4-year-olds and up on the turf. It is the first three of the 33 graded stakes of Belmont's spring/summer meet.
2018 Westchester Stakes Odds & Entries
Race 11 on Belmont Park's Saturday card with a Post Time of 7:07 PM
Cloud Computing, the winner of the 2017 Grade 1 Preakness, will be making his first appearance since running eighth in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes on August 26 at Saratoga Race Course. After giving trainer Chad Brown his first career win in a Triple Crown race in edging Classic Empire by a head in the 1 1/8 mile Preakness, the dark bay colt by Maclean's Music ran fifth in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy before tiring in the Travers.
After having a chip in his front ankle surgically removed in September, Cloud Computing was wintered in Florida and resumed workouts at Palm Meadows Training Center in February before shipping to Belmont in April. Since arriving, he has breezed four times in preparation for the one-mile Westchester, the traditional local prep for the Grade 1, $1.2 million Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day, June 9.
Manny Franco, who was aboard for Cloud Computing's debut win (and his only victory other than the Preakness in six career starts), will have the return call from post 2.
Conquest Big E is coming off a breakthrough effort in which he won his first graded stakes start in nine attempts, going gate-to-wire to win the Grade 2 Hardacre Mile on March 31 at Gulfstream Park. Owned by Daniel Hurtak and trained by wife, Donna Hurtak, the 5-year-old Tapit gelding has posted a 100 Beyer Speed Figure in two of his last three starts, including a runner-up effort to fellow Westchester contender Tommy Macho when he stalked early and closed strong in the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper on January 27 at Gulfstream.
"I believe he can come from off the pace," Donna Hurtak said. "In a lot of previous races, he's had bad luck. But the positive thing about this horse is that he always comes back. Even when he gets in trouble, he keeps coming back and fighting."
Since taking over training duties in April 2017, Conquest Big E has recorded three wins and a second-place finish against strong competition, with his last six starts against graded stakes company.
"I had to do a lot of mental training with him, and I guess that was the key," Hurtak said. "It took about 30 days to get him on the right track after I received him. He was a little underweight and it took a little time to get back together. We kept the same people around him and we had them ship with him. I would have loved to [keep] him at his home in Gulfstream, but those races really don't come up there."
A $700,000 yearling buy at the 2014 Keeneland September sale, Conquest Big E will take his first crack at Big Sandy but has four wins and two second-place finishes in 11 starts at one mile.
Jose Batista, who piloted him to a three-length score in the Hardacre Mile in which he defeated Always Dreaming, will make the trip to New York to ride from the outside post.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle a pair of formidable contenders, including Tommy Macho, who finished third behind Conquest Big E and Always Dreaming over a fast track last out.
Owned by Paul Pompa, Jr., Tommy Macho will face Conquest Big E for a third consecutive time, starting when he bested him by three-quarters of a length to win the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper on January 27. Following the victory in his 6-year-old debut, the son of Macho Uno ran again at Gulfstream before shipping back to Belmont to make his first appearance here since running fourth in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap on September 23. Tyler Gaffalione will break from post 5.
His stablemate, Vulcan's Forge, will look to rebound after finishing sixth in the Stymie on March 10 at Aqueduct Racetrack. The 5-year-old son of Giant's Causeway will return to graded stakes competition for the first time since running second in the Grade 3 Toboggan on January 27 at the Big A. Trevor McCarthy will exit post 4.
Rounding out the field is Tale of Silence, from trainer Barclay Tagg, from the rail; and Moe Trouble, trained by Claudio Gonzalez, out of post 3.
About the Westchester Stakes
First run in 1918, the Westchester was originally called the Yorktown Handicap and run at Empire City Race Track before getting a name change to the Westchester in 1940.
The race made another change later on in its running when it moved from Jamaica Racetrack to Belmont Park in 1960.
A one-mile (8 furlong) race open to horses 4 and up, the Westchester Stakes is a prep race for the Metropolitan Handicap held a month later.
Trainers Allen Jerkens and Christophe Clement have the most wins of any trainer at four each with Angel Cordero, Jr. taking the jockey honor with five wins and three owners sharing the all-time leading owners at three each.
In 2003, Najran equaled the North American dirt record when he finished the race in 1:32.24.
Horses to win the race include Mad Hatter (1920), Dr. Freeland (1931), Stymie (1945), Assault (1946), Iron Ruler (1969), Rubiano (1991-1992), Caixa Electronica (2011), Palace Malice (2014) and Tonalist (2015).