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You're to Blame (Bortolazzo Stables) will lead a compact but talented field in Friday's inaugural running of the $80,000 Miner's Mark Stakes, a 12-furlong stamina test for 3-year-olds and upward on Big Sandy, on Opening Day of the 27-day Belmont Park fall meet.
The meet, which runs through Sunday, November 1, will be highlighted by 22 graded stakes, featuring seven Grade 1 events and seven Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" qualifiers to the two-day Breeders' Cup 2020 World Championships to be held November 6-7 at Keeneland Race Course.
Following opening weekend at Belmont, live racing will be conducted Thursday through Sunday with the exception of Columbus Day weekend, when live racing will be offered on Monday, October 12 and will resume on Friday, October 16.
Race 4 at Belmont Park on Friday, September 18 - Post 2:35 PM
|1||You're to Blame||7-5||John Velazquez
|2||Counter Offer||8-1||Javier Castellano
|3||Danny California||8-1||Manuel Franco
|5||Petit Fils (FR)||9-2||Kendrick Carmouche
|James Lawrence, II|
Trained by Todd Pletcher, fresh off winning his 14th H. Allen Jerkens training title for the Saratoga summer meet, You're to Blame will look to pick up his first win of the campaign in his fifth start this season.
The 6-year-old Distorted Humor bay began his campaign in March at Gulfstream Park when sixth in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Hal's Hope. He then caught a pair of sloppy tracks when fourth in the Sunday Silence in May at Gulfstream and fifth in the Flat Out in June at Belmont.
Last out, travelling 1 3/4 miles over a fast Saratoga main track in the Birdstone, You're to Blame completed the exacta behind well-regarded stablemate Moretti.
"He's been a straightforward horse for us and always seems to try hard. He's one of those long-distance horses and we're hoping for a big effort," said Byron Hughes, Pletcher's Belmont-based assistant.
You're to Blame, who boasts a record of 29-6-7-4 with purse earnings of $680,378, has continued to train at Saratoga, posting a half-mile breeze in 49.96 seconds on September 11 over the Oklahoma training track.
The well-bred horse is out of the multiple stakes winning Malibu Moon mare Bon Jovi Girl, who is a half-sister to multiple Eclipse Award-winner Gio Ponti.
Hughes said You're to Blame has consistently trained to his impressive pedigree since arriving at the Pletcher barn in the winter of 2017.
"He trains with class and he's a feel-good horse, too. He shows a lot of energy in the mornings," said Hughes. "He's the type of horse that if you don't see him full of energy you'd be a little worried, but on a daily basis he always seems to show good energy for us."
Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who captured his 200th Grade 1 win when guiding Authentic to victory in the Kentucky Derby on September 5 at Churchill Downs, will have the call from the inside post.
Centennial Farms' Rocketry will return to the scene of one of his best career performances for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.
The 6-year-old Hard Spun bay posted a remarkable effort in the 2018 Temperance Hill Invitational where he covered the 1 5/8-mile distance in 2:40.18, besting Man o' War's 98-year-old track record of 2:40 4/5.
He followed that score with a three-quarter length win in the Grade 2 Marathon at Churchill Downs in November 2018 but has yet to return to the winner's circle in eight starts since.
Last out, Rocketry finished a game third in the Birdstone just a nose back of runner-up You're to Blame. Junior Alvarado will pick up the mount from post 4 as Rocketry looks to improve on an impressive record of 24-5-5-4 that includes purse earnings of $660,110.
Matthew Schera's Petit Fils will make his dirt debut for trainer James Lawrence off a $62,500 claim from an off-the-board effort in a 1 3/16-mile optional-claiming event on the Spa turf on August 14.
The 5-year-old Makfi gelding captured the 2019 Group 3 Prix d'Hedouville in his native France on the turf at Longchamp. He was transferred to the care of conditioner Christophe Clement last fall and was off-the-board in a trio of turf starts in the Grade 3 Red Smith at Aqueduct in November and the Tiller in June at Belmont ahead of being claimed last out.
Petit Fils owns a modest record of one win and two seconds in four synthetic starts in France and he breezed five furlongs in 1:03.20 on September 8 over the dirt at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland.
Kendrick Carmouche will take the reins from post 5.
Rounding out the field are Six Column Stables' allowance winner Counter Offer for trainer Ian Wilkes, who will exit post 2 under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano; and Noda Brothers' six-time winner Danny California, a New York-bred son of Afleet Alex who will emerge from post 3 under Manny Franco for trainer Orlando Noda.
The Miner's Mark is slated as Race 4 on Friday's 10-race program, which offers a first post of 1:00 p.m. Eastern.
Matthew Schera's Petit Fils has already run long distances on turf in his first four starts in North America since arriving from his native France in 2019. On Friday, the 5-year-old will attempt a new challenge, making his first main track appearance on U.S. soil as part of a five-horse field in the marathon 1 1/2-mile $80,000 Miner's Mark on the Opening Day card of the Belmont Park fall meet.
Schera claimed Petit Fils out of a seventh-place finish going 1 3/16 miles on the turf on August 14 at Saratoga. James Lawrence took over the training duties from Christophe Clement, with Petit Fils working twice at Fair Hill for his new conditioner, including a five-furlong work in 1:03.20 on September 8 over the Fair Hill dirt track.
Petit Fils had been training at Saratoga over the summer, with four consecutive works over the Oklahoma dirt training track through July and August before his previous start.
"He's been training very well and we'd thought we'd take a chance with the dirt," Lawrence said. "He had some impressive workouts from Saratoga from what I heard, and down here at Fair Hill, he has worked very nicely on the dirt, so we thought we'd take a shot."
Lawrence said the Miner's Mark distance - once around the famed Big Sandy track - could open options, though he said finding spots with potential softer turf later in the campaign could also be an option.
"He cherishes the distance. It just looked like a good spot to try," Lawrence said. "We did this while keeping in mind finding longer races and hopefully softer turf this fall. He ran really well in France on a softer turf and the races over here, it's been really firm. So, that was our angle."
Petit Fils, who went 6-4-0 in 13 starts in France [with one win and two seconds in four starts on synthetic surfaces] made his North American debut in November, running ninth in the Grade 3 Red Smith going 1 3/8 miles at Aqueduct Racetrack. After a six-month break, he returned to run 11th in the Tiller on June 4 at Belmont going 1 3/8 miles over firm turf before his Saratoga bow. Lawrence said he's seen the attributes of what made him successful in Europe during his training in Maryland.
"He's got a really unique personality and he's always shown another gear in his workouts," Lawrence said. "We made some changes at Fair Hill where we've been able to turn him out and made him a happy horse. Hopefully just a change of venue works."
Breaking from the outside post in a five-horse field with jockey Kendrick Carmouche aboard, Lawrence said he expects Petit Fils to be close to the front near expected pacesetter Rocketry, trained by Jimmy Jerkens.
"We'll see if he actually likes the dirt or not," Lawrence said. "I prefer the outside post compared to the one or two hole. He can break out of there and do what he wants to do. I would anticipate him being forwardly placed. I think Rocketry will probably be the speed of the race and I would imagine we'd sit there with him and see what unfolds."
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