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Regally-bred Verifying, a half-brother to 2019 Champion Older Dirt Female Midnight Bisou, will make his stakes debut in the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne Stakes, a one-turn mile for 2-year-olds, at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
The 151st renewal of the Champagne, which offers a "Win and You're In" berth to the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile in November at Keeneland, co-headlines a stacked card that includes the Grade 1 $500,000 Woodward Stakes for 3-year-olds and up going nine furlongs; the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2, $200,000 Miss Grillo for 2-year-old fillies affording a "Win and You're In" berth to the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf; and the six-furlong Grade 3, $200,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational for 3-year-olds and up.
The Champagne is slated as Race 10 on Saturday's 11-race card. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.
Race 10 at Belmont at the Big A on Saturday, October 1 - Post 5:45 PM
|1||Andiamo a Firenze||6-1||Jose Lezcano
|2||Top Recruit||5-1||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
|4||Champions Dream||5-1||Manuel Franco
|5||Blazing Sevens||8-1||Flavien Prat
Trained by reigning two-time Eclipse Award-winner Brad Cox, Verifying enters from a frontrunning maiden win traveling six furlongs on August 27 at Saratoga Race Course.
By 2018 Triple Crown-winner Justify and out of the graded stakes-winning Repent mare Diva Delite, Verifying was purchased for $775,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Cox said he was confident Verifying would perform well on debut.
"We had free rein to run where we thought he could be competitive when he was ready," Cox said. "I felt like when he was ready to debut he was fit enough to win, and responded well. He's a very intelligent horse and I'm happy with what I've seen from him since that race."
Verifying has trained into the Champagne at Churchill Downs where he breezed five-eighths in 1:00.20 Saturday.
"He's doing really good," Cox said. "We've been happy with the way he's trained since the maiden win. He's been stabled at Churchill and will ship up tonight. We're excited about the opportunity."
Cox said Verifying is likely to be prominent again on Saturday.
"I want to be up close, but he doesn't necessarily have to be on the lead," Cox said. "He has enough natural speed going a mile that he's going to be in the mix. He's a good-looking horse. Based on pedigree and how he looks, I think he'll like more ground."
Cox said he is hopeful Verifying will share the competitive spirit of his famous half-sister, who banked in excess of $7.4 million through a record of 22-13-6-3.
"If he does, we'll be in good shape," said Cox, with a laugh.
Joel Rosario retains the mount from post 3.
Ron Lombardi's Mr. Amore Stable captured the 2017 Champagne with his Florida homebred Firenze Fire and will look to double up on Saturday with a three-quarter brother in New York-homebred Andiamo a Firenze. The last siblings to win the prestigious event were Bold Lad  and Successor , who were out of two-time Champion Misty Morn.
By Speightstown and out of the Langfuhr mare My Every Wish, Andiamo a Firenze graduated gate-to-wire in his June 3 debut at Belmont Park traveling 5 1/2-furlongs over a sloppy and sealed main track for trainer Kelly Breen.
He followed with a pair of starts at the Spa, finishing third after pressing three-wide in the six-furlong Grade 3 Sanford on July 16, but found redemption last out with a powerful 5 1/2-length score in the Funny Cide presented by Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, besting fellow state-breds by 5 1/2-lengths in the 6 1/2-furlong sprint over a muddy and sealed main track.
Andiamo a Firenze exits the inside post under Jose Lezcano.
William Heiligbrodt, Corinne Heiligbrodt, Jackpot Farm, Whispering Oaks Farm and Coolmore Stud's Gulfport [post 6, Jose Ortiz] enters from a pacesetting second in the seven-furlong Grade 1 Hopeful on September 5 at Saratoga for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
The Uncle Mo bay, purchased for $275,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Select Yearling Sale, romped by 12 1/4-lengths in the six-furlong Bashford Manor on July 4 at Churchill Downs. He followed with a troubled second in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special in August where he checked hard into the stretch run between Super Chow and the victorious Damon's Mound.
Gulfport motored through a half-mile in 45.57 seconds in the Hopeful, which was contested over a sloppy and sealed main track, but drifted out seven-wide late in the turn as Forte, who is under consideration for the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity on October 8 at Keeneland, made an inside rush to win by three lengths.
Bred in Kentucky by Diamond Creek Farm, Gulfport breezed a half-mile in 49.53 Sunday over the Oklahoma training track.
Rodeo Creek Racing's Blazing Sevens [post 5, Flavien Prat] will look to become the fourth Champagne winner for trainer Chad Brown, who captured this event previously with Practical Joke , Complexity  and Jack Christopher .
Blazing Sevens made his first two starts at Saratoga, garnering an 85 Beyer in his 6 1/4-length maiden score on July 24 ahead of a distant third in the Hopeful.
Brown said he was impressed by the maiden win.
"The horse had trained really good and you never know at Saratoga what you're going to run into in those races, but he showed up and identified himself as one of our top prospects," Brown said. "He got a muddy track in the Hopeful and it was difficult for him, but he tried and he galloped out well. I think as the distances increase, we'll see the best of this horse."
By Good Magic, the 2017 Champion 2-Year-Old Colt conditioned by Brown, Blazing Sevens is out of the Warrior's Reward mare Trophy Girl - a half-sister to 2012 Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap winner King David.
Brown said conditioning progeny of his past Champions is a unique experience.
"It feels good. Now that we're starting to see some of the offspring that we worked with here in our barn, it's extra special for sure," Brown said.
Blazing Sevens was purchased for $225,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale.
Top Recruit [post 2, Irad Ortiz, Jr.], trained and co-owned by Mike Maker with Paradise Farms Corp., David Staudacher, and Three Diamonds Farm, enters from a game head score on August 14 in the seven-furlong Ellis Park Juvenile over Curly Jack, who exited that effort to win the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs.
The $170,000 OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase graduated at first asking in a five-furlong maiden special weight at Churchill ahead of a distant third to the undefeated Tyler's Tribe in the Prairie Gold Juvenile on July 9 at Prairie Meadows.
The Midshipman colt is out of the Afleet Alex mare Oh So Bella, who is a full-sister to Afleet Again - winner of the 2010 Grade 3 Withers at the Big A and the 2011 Grade 2 Breeders' Cup Marathon at Churchill.
Completing the field is Rosedown Racing Stables' Champions Dream [post 4, Manny Franco], who enters from a frontrunning maiden score traveling seven furlongs on September 3 at the Spa for trainer Danny Gargan.
By Justify, the $425,000 OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase is out of the graded stakes-winning Tapit mare Dancinginherdreams.
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