â€¢ Brown readies five runners for G1 Belmont Derby, G1 Belmont Oaks â€¢ Tonalist preps for G2 Suburban
ELMONT, N.Y. - The second renewal of Stars & Stripes Day on July 4 at Belmont Park will be highlighted by the Grade 1, $1.25 million Belmont Derby Invitational and the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational.
Between the two marquee races, trainer Chad Brown is projected to have five entrants, led by undefeated turf filly Lady Eli in the Belmont Oaks.
Lady Eli, a daughter of Divine Park owned by Sheep Pond Partners, will look for her sixth straight victory in the Oaks. The 3-year-old filly took the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf to close out 2014, and returned with a win in the Grade 3 Appalachian at Keeneland before notching an impressive score in the Wonder Again Stakes, the local prep for the Oaks.
"There's always some pressure when you have an undefeated horse; you'd like to keep it going," said Brown. "She's given us every indication in the morning that she's going to continue to run her 'A' race, but as she goes on the races are always going to get harder. I'd anticipate this being the most difficult race she's been in, but she seems like she's up for it. She continues to improve."
Brown will also saddle Consumer Credit and Strict Compliance in the Belmont Oaks, and his three Oaks entrants turned in their final works for the race on Saturday.
Multiple stakes winner Consumer Credit finished third, beaten 1 Â½ lengths in the Grade 1 American Oaks at Santa Anita Park in her latest outing. Previously, the daughter of More Than Ready won the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant at Gulfstream Park over the winter.
"Consumer Credit breezed well. She showed in her last race - the American Oaks - that she has the ability to stretch out to a mile and a quarter. She's coming into the race in good form," said Brown.
Strict Compliance, owned by Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence, has won her last three races, most recently taking the Penn Oaks in her stakes debut.
"Strict Compliance is lightly raced. She's in good form, a little bit of a later developing filly than the other two, but I'm confident she can handle the distance," said Brown. "It's going to be a big class test for her, but she can get the mile and a quarter and it's a big purse. She deserves a shot."
Others for the Belmont Oaks include Itsonlyactingdad, fourth in the Wonder Again; Irish-bred Jasmine Blue; Lady Zuzu, trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas; Miss Chatelaine and Pine Needles, trained by Christophe Clement; Olorda, a German-bred filly trained by Michael Figge; Sentiero Italia, an impressive allowance winner at Belmont; Sharla Rae, fifth in the American Oaks; and Spanish Queen, winner of the American Oaks. Gypsy Judy and Daring Duchess are possible.
Brown's hand is equally strong in the Belmont Derby, in which he will send out Takeover Target and Startup Nation, who finished second and third, respectively, in the Pennine Ridge Stakes at Belmont for Klaravich Stables and Lawrence.
Takeover Target burst onto the turf scene as a juvenile with an explosive debut win last October at Belmont. The Harlan's Holiday colt returned to the races in May at Belmont, and delivered another powerful performance in an optional claimer before finishing second in the Pennine Ridge.
Startup Nation was also victorious in his debut, which came at Saratoga Race Course last summer, and then won the Grade 2 With Anticipation at the Spa in his second start. The son of Temple City is winless since, but turned in a useful prep in his 3-year-old debut, closing strongly to get third in the Pennine Ridge.
"Takeover Target and Startup Nation breezed together as they have been all along," said Brown. "It was more of the same from them, steady, easy work. We didn't want to do too much with them today and they went perfect. I believe they both will have no problem with a mile and a quarter, as well."
The two Brown horses are likely to meet a formidable lineup in the Belmont, including Pennine Ridge winner Divisidero, who is trained by Buff Bradley for Gunpowder Farms. Others for the race are Bolo, 12th-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby; Force the Pass, winner of the Grade 3 Penn Mile; Granny's Kitten, third in the Penn Mile; and Postulation, who has done his running in Ireland for Dermot Weld. Father Christmas and Closing Bell are possible.
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Set to make his third start of the year for owner Robert S. Evans and trainer Christophe Clement, 4-year-old Tonalist will look to rebound in next Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 Suburban Handicap. Coming off a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day, the son of Tapit worked on the Belmont main track Friday morning, completing five furlongs in 1:01.22.
"Tonalist had a nice work," said Clement. "The plan is to go for the Suburban and everything is good."
Stretching back out to 1 Â¼ miles for the Suburban, a distance he previously won at Belmont Park, picking up a Grade 1 victory in last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup, Tonalist will also make a return to racing without blinkers for the first time this year while retaining the services of Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez, who rode the colt in the Met Mile.
Other contenders likely for the $500,000 Suburban include Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational Stakes winner Coach Inge for Repole Stable and trainer Todd Pletcher who also is likely to enter Mylute for Goldmark Farm; Effinex for Tri-Bone Stables and trainer Jimmy Jerkens , and V. E. Day,also trained by Jerkens for Magalen Bryant, who finished second to Coach Inge in the Brooklyn.
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Expected Grade 2 Suburban entrants Coach Inge and Mylute worked in respective company with Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes hopefuls Tommy Macho and Blofeld this morning at Belmont Park, ahead of their Stars & Stripes Day assignments for the Todd Pletcher barn.
Mike Repole's Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational winner Coach Inge turned in an easy maintenance move with Paul Pompa Jr.'s Tommy Macho. The duo breezed four furlongs in 50.90 seconds, ranking 61st of 84 at the distance.
"We're only doing some maintenance work with [Coach Inge] since he's coming out of a mile-and-a-half race," said Pletcher. "He seems to have come out of that well and he looks good. I wouldn't think he'd have any issues with [the 1 Â¼-mile Suburban] since he seems to like those types of distances. He has tactical speed and it should suit him."
Tommy Macho, meanwhile, will be making his stakes debut in the Dwyer after posting back-to-back victories over the local track, most recently with a 3 Â¼-length allowance score on Belmont Stakes Day. According to Pletcher, Irad Ortiz Jr. will pick up the mount on Coach Inge and Tommy Macho will be ridden by Javier Castellano.
Goldmark Farm's Mylute and Glencrest Farm LLC's Blofeld breezed five furlongs over the training track, covering the distance in a bullet-earning 1:01.75.
Undefeated in three starts as a juvenile, including Grade 2 scores in Belmont's Futurity Stakes and the Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct, Blofeld finished third in his 3-year-old debut in the William Walker Stakes at Churchill Downs last April. Hall of Famer John Velazquez has been aboard the grey Quality Road colt in his four previous starts and will retain the mount in the Dwyer.
Like his younger workmate, the 5-year-old Mylute will be making only his second start this season, coming off of a 2 Â¼-length victory in a one-mile allowance race over the local track on May 29.
"Mylute's continued to train well since his allowance comeback," Pletcher said, noting that Javier Castellano will be named to ride the son of Midnight Lute. "I thought he ran well that day and he's put in some good breezes since then as well."
Starlight Racing's Itsonlyactingdad worked over the Oklahoma turf course at her Saratoga base yesterday, covering a dogs-up half-mile in 48.85 seconds. The sophomore daughter of Giant's Causeway is likely pointed to the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks, according to Pletcher, although the plans are still being finalized.
"We thought she ran pretty well in the Wonder Again considering it was a paceless race and she was pretty far back. She had the fastest final quarter mile [in the field], she just had too much ground to make up. It's definitely an ambitious spot, but there are few opportunities for 3-year-old fillies to run for a $1 million, so we thought we'd give it a try."
Others probable for the Grade 3, $500,000 Dwyer Stakes include Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red, who will be making his first start since being sidelined following his second-place finish in the Grade 2 San Vicente at Santa Anita on February 1; Smart Transition for Arnold Zetcher and John Shirreffs, who most recently finished third in a June 6 allowance race, four lengths behind Tommy Macho; March is also possible to join the field for Robert LaPenta and Chad Brown.