OTB Race Previews
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On Belmont Stakes Day, an eclectic field of eight turf sprinters will line up for the Grade 1, $250,000 Jaipur Stakes at Belmont Park, which features a pair from the barn of Christophe Clement, a trio of West Coast invaders and the star-crossed Hidden Scroll.
The Jaipur presented by America's Best Racing, a "Win and You're In" qualifier to the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint on November 7 at Keeneland, is carded as Race 9 at 4:53 p.m.
Race 9 at Belmont Park on Saturday, June 20 - Post 4:53 PM
|2||Oleksandra (AUS)||7-2||Joel Rosario
|3||Texas Wedge||4-1||Javier Castellano
|4||Pure Sensation||5-2||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
|6||Hidden Scroll||8-1||John Velazquez
|7||White Flag||8-1||Junior Alvarado
One of the octet will be crowned a Grade 1 winner for the first time in their respective careers in the 37th running of the Jaipur - contested at six furlongs over Belmont's inner turf course - which achieved Grade 1 status last year and will serve as a prelude to the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.
Chief among the motley crew assembled for the Jaipur is the elder statesman Pure Sensation, who goes out for Clement and owner Patricia Generazio as he makes his 9-year-old debut off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint to close out 2019.
No stranger to this race, the gray Zensational gelding won the Jaipur in 2016, finished fourth in 2017 and third in 2018. Though he missed the Jaipur last year, he still put together a productive campaign which included wins in a pair of Grade 3 events at Parx Racing and an ungraded stake at Penn National.
"He's an older horse and this is his first race back but he's been working very well over the turf," Clement said of Pure Sensation. "We know he's a fast horse and we're excited to see how he runs. We know he loves Parx but they're not racing yet, so there's really no choice as to where to bring him back. We're based in New York, we train in New York, so we'll run in New York."
Pure Sensation drew post 4 and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr.
The other half of the uncoupled Clement entry is horse-for-course White Flag, who is 4-for-5 sprinting over the Belmont lawn, with his lone blemish coming in June 2018 when he missed by a half-length as the runner up in a high-end optional claimer.
Owned by Robert S. Evans, the 6-year-old son of War Front last raced on September 7 at Kentucky Downs when he finished a well-beaten eighth in the Grade 3 Turf Sprint.
"White Flag just had two good works on the Belmont turf and we know he likes this course," Clement said. "He struggled last year but he's been doing very well, he's been quiet, so we'll see."
Junior Alvarado picks up the mount on White Flag, who drew post 7 for his 2020 bow.
Leading the California contingent is the late-running Stubbins, trained by Doug O'Neill for McShane Racing. Stubbins progressed steadily throughout his sophomore season, which culminated in a win against older horses in the Grade 2 Woodford at Keeneland in the fall before he ended his year with a tough-luck fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. His fortunes didn't improve any in his 4-year-old debut, when he encountered a good deal of trouble in the Grade 3 Daytona on May 23 at Santa Anita Park but still finished third, missing by just a half-length.
Breaking from post 5, Stubbins will enlist the services of Luis Saez.
With a style very similar to Stubbins', the 6-year-old mare Oleksandra will hope to mow them all down in the stretch for trainer Neil Drysdale and Team Valor International. An Australian-bred daughter of Animal Kingdom, Oleksandra took on the boys successfully over the Belmont turf on June 28 of last year going six furlongs, showing an impressive turn of foot to overcome a soft early pace.
That race proved to be a breakout victory for her, as she followed with a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Royal North at Woodbine before adding a win in the Smart N Fancy at Saratoga Race Course, a third in the Grade 3 Ladies Sprint at Kentucky Downs and a win in the Grade 3 Buffalo Trace Franklin County at Keeneland to close 2019.
Though she wasn't victorious in her seasonal unveiling in the Grade 2, 5 ½-furlong Monrovia on May 25 at Santa Anita, she still earned a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort after running out of ground late and missing by a half-length.
Joel Rosario will again be aboard Oleksandra and the duo will depart from post 2.
Rounding out the West Coast shippers is Texas Wedge for trainer Peter Miller, who has sent out the runner-up in the Jaipur the past two years. Texas Wedge off a career-best 100 Beyer in the Grade 3 Daytona, in which he finished fourth, a half-length behind Stubbins.
Texas Wedge will be ridden by Javier Castellano from post 3.
The highly regarded Hidden Scroll adds even more intrigue to an already fascinating puzzle in the Jaipur. A 14-length debut winner in January of 2019 at Gulfstream, Hidden Scroll seemed destined to be the next big thing in racing but had a disappointing end to his abridged 2019 campaign.
But the Juddmonte Farms homebred returned to the races in style with a 12 ½-length romp at Gulfstream on March 1 but finished out of the money next-out in the Grade 3 Count Fleet at Oaklawn Park. He added yet another chapter to his growing saga in his most recent start on June 3 at Belmont when he stumbled and lost his jockey at the start.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Hidden Scroll from post 6.
Kanthaka, trained by Graham Motion, hasn't raced since the 2019 edition of the Daytona, which marked his first start on turf after showing some ability early in his career as a dirt sprinter. Kanthaka will break from the rail with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
The field is completed by the longshot Lonhtwist, who wheels back quickly for trainer Keith O'Brien off a 10th-place finish in the First Defence on June 7 at Belmont. He will break from outermost post 8 with Eric Cancel aboard.
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