Weekend Lineup Presented By BetMakers: Belmont Bonanza - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Weekend Lineup Presented By BetMakers: Belmont Bonanza

Rich Strike at Belmont Park

A total of nine Grade 1 races highlight this weekend's Belmont Stakes Racing Festival in Elmont, N.Y., with one Friday and eight on Saturday's blockbuster card. Though the field sizes may leave something to be desired, there is no shortage of stars lined up to show off for horse racing fans.

Among the top matchups is that of the Met Mile, featuring the brilliant but lightly-raced Flightline stretching out to face off against another triple-digit Beyer earner Speaker's Corner, as well as Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Aloha West.

In the Ogden Phipps, the 2021 champion older mare Letruska will be taken on by last year's champion 3-year-old filly, Malathaat, in what figures to be a major showdown on the track.

Undefeated sophomore colt Jack Christopher returns in the G1 Woody Stephens, while champion 2-year-old filly Echo Zulu cuts back to a mile in the G1 Acorn.

Trainer Chad Brown has a bevy of entries in the weekend's turf races, from the pricey French purchase Rougir in Friday's G1 New York to three entrants in the G1 Just A Game and four in the G1 Manhattan.

Of course, the third jewel of the Triple Crown is the final Grade 1 race on Saturday's card at Belmont Park. Eight sophomores have been entered in the 1 1/2-mile contest, including longshot Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike and the talented but quirky Peter Pan winner We The People.

Don't forget that next week, beginning on Tuesday, June 14, the international horse racing action heats up with the Royal Ascot meeting.

Here's a quick look at some of this weekend's graded stakes:

Friday

5:50 PM – Grade 1 New York Stakes at Belmont Park

After making the competition blush in her seasonal debut, Rougir returns in Friday's featured $750,000 New York (G1), a 10-furlong inner turf test for older fillies and mares at Belmont Park.  Chad Brown will saddle four entrants, all owned fully or in part by Peter Brant: Rougir, Flighty Lady, Bleecker Street, and Virginia Joy, as the conditioner searches for a record-tying fourth New York win.

New York Entries

Saturday

12:33 PM – Grade 1 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park

Breeders' Cup winner and reigning Eclipse Award Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Echo Zulu will look to recapture the dominant form she displayed in her first five starts when cutting back to a one-turn mile in the Grade 1, $500,000 Acorn for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday.

While Echo Zulu will be cutting back in distance, Godolphin homebred Matareya will be stretching out for trainer Brad Cox following three consecutive wins in sprints.

Dream Lith will return to the main track after running fifth in her turf debut in the Grade 2 Edgewood on May 6 at Churchill for trainer Robertino Diodoro.

Acorn Entries

1:08 PM – Grade 1 Just A Game Stakes at Belmont Park

Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Just a Game drew a field of five talented older fillies and mares to tackle one mile over the Widener turf course. Named in honor of Peter Brant's 1980 Champion Female Turf Horse, Brant will be represented by a trio of capable Chad Brown trainees in search of his first Just A Game score.

Leading the charge is 6-year-old dual Grade 1 winner Regal Glory, a daughter of Animal Kingdom who has won six of her past eight races with her worst effort being a fourth in this race last year behind Godolphin's Althiqa. She exits consecutive victories in the Grade 1 Matriarch in November at Del Mar; the Grade 3 Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf in January at Gulfstream Park; and the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley in April at Keeneland. Regal Glory will be ridden by Jose Ortiz from post 2.

Speak of the Devil, a $2.2 million Arqana December Breeding Stock Sale graduate, and In Italian, who has yet to finish out of the exacta in five starts, are Brant's other two entrants.

Just A Game Entries

2:22 PM – Grade 1 Woody Stephens at Belmont Park

Saturday's Grade 1, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun drew a field of six swift sophomores to sprint seven furlongs over Belmont's main track, topped by undefeated rising star Jack Christopher. Jack Christopher has yet to be tested in a trio of tries, winning by a combined total of 15 1/4-lengths.

The Todd Pletcher-trained Wit was third in the Champagne behind Jack Christopher, but boasts two New York graded stakes on his resume. The winner of last summer's Grade 3 Sanford at The Spa opened his 3-year-old account with a determined win in the Grade 3 Bay Shore on April 9 at Aqueduct Racetrack. Twice placed in Grade 1 company, he seeks to break through at the top level when he leaves post 3 under Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Mark Casse-trained Grade 2 winner Pappacap reopposes on Saturday, breaking from post 2 under Flavien Prat. The Steve Asmussen-trained duo of Grade 3 Gotham winner Morello [post 4, Joel Rosario] and Oaklawn allowance winner Chasing Time [post 5, Tyler Gaffalione], who adds blinkers, complete the lineup.

Woody Stephens Entries

3:05 PM – Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park

The Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps has had no shortage of legendary matchups in its 53 editions and will continue that pattern this year as defending race winner Letruska will face the formidable Malathaat in the 1 1/16-mile test for older fillies and mares at Belmont Park.

 Letruska, a 6-year-old daughter of Super Saver, was last seen earning a determined repeat victory in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 23 at Oaklawn Park. Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Letruska set the pace for the 1 1/16 miles and was met with a challenge by returning rival Clairiere at the top of the lane, but rebroke and dug in to secure the victory by 1 1/4 lengths.

Letruska will face no shortage of formidable foes, including the three-time Grade 1 winning Malathaat for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. Malathaat was a $1.05 million yearling purchase at the 2019 Keeneland September Sale and is out of the Grade 1 winning A.P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia, who won the 2012 Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont for Pletcher.

The bay daughter of Curlin enters from a gutsy win in the Grade 3 Doubledogdare on April 22 at Keeneland, her first race since she closed out her sophomore campaign with a close third-place effort in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff in November at Del Mar. In the Doubledogdare, Malathaat was rated 5 1/2 lengths off the pace in fifth under regular Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez and swung three-wide in the turn to inch away to her three-quarter length score over returning rival Bonny South.

Ogden Phipps Entries

3:53 PM – Grade 1 Jaipur Stakes at Belmont Park

Casa Creed returns to defend his title against a loaded field of 13 contenders in Saturday's Grade 1, $400,000 Jaipur, a six-furlong Widener turf test for 3-year-olds and up at Belmont Park.

Trainer Wesley Ward, who won the 2014 Jaipur with Undrafted, will saddle Arrest Me Red [post 5, Irad Ortiz, Jr.]. The 4-year-old Pioneerof the Nile colt matched a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure last out with a 1 3/4-length score in the Grade 2 Turf Sprint on May 6 at Churchill Downs.

Another entrant, True Valour, who has raced at distances ranging from 5 1/2-furlongs to 1 1/8-miles, seems to have found his niche in turf sprints for trainer Graham Motion. True Valour was a close-up sixth under Joel Rosario, defeated 2 1/4 lengths in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint in March 2021 at Meydan.

Jaipur Entries

4:43 PM – Grade 1 Met Mile at Belmont Park

The long anticipated showdown between two of the nation's fastest racehorses, Flightline and Speaker's Corner, will take place in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Hill 'n' Dale Metropolitan Handicap going a one-turn mile for 3-year-olds and upward at Belmont Park. A cumulative nine triple digit Beyer Speed Figures appear on the form of Flightline and Speaker's Corner, with both horses entering the Met Mile off open-lengths triumphs going one turn.

Trainer Wayne Catalano will also send up a formidable contender in Aloha West, the winner of last year's Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint. The Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners-owned 5-year-old Hard Spun dark bay was fifth behind Jackie's Warrior in the Grade 1 Churchill Downs last out on Kentucky Derby day.

Met Mile Entries

5:38 PM – Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont Park

Highland Chief, a 19-1 upset winner of the Grade 1 Man o' War last out, returns to Belmont Park for Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Manhattan, a 10-furlong inner turf test for older horses. Meanwhile, Gufo will look to avenge his Man o' War defeat and improve on last year's third-place finish in this event when closing to finish four lengths back of the victorious Domestic Spending.

Santin will look to double up in Grade 1 wins for trainer Brendan Walsh. The regally bred 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor enters from a hard-fought neck score over Mira Mission in the Grade 1 Turf Classic on May 7 at Churchill Downs.

Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown has won the Manhattan a record seven times, including the last three in succession. He will send out L'Imperator [post 1, Eric Cancel], Rockemperor [post 6, Irad Ortiz, Jr.], Adhamo [post 4, Flavien Prat] and Tribhuvan [post 7, Manny Franco] as he looks to extend his record.

Manhattan Entries

6:44 PM – Grade 1 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park

Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike will break from the fourth stall in Saturday's's Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes and was assigned morning line odds of 7-2. We The People, breaking from the rail, is the morning line favorite at 2-1 in the stamina-testing 1 1/2-mile classic run at Belmont Park.

Fan favorite Rich Strike, who won the Derby at odds of 80-1,  has been the focus of media coverage at Belmont Park throughout recent days, as he has stretched his legs in trademark long gallops since his arrival in New York on June 1.

Favored We The People will come to the race after a win in the Grade 3 Peter Pan and the rail position will give rider Flavien Prat options.

Todd Pletcher, three-time Belmont Stakes-winning trainer, will sent out Kentucky Derby fifth-place finisher Mo Donegal as well as Kentucky Oaks runner-up Nest, the only filly in the field of eight.

Barber Road ran sixth in the Kentucky Derby for trainer John Ortiz, and the grinding-style colt will now attempt the longer distance of the Belmont Stakes. Creative Minister returns off a Preakness third-place finish for trainer Ken McPeek, and Preakness fifth-place finisher Skippylongstocking also returns in the Belmont for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr.

Golden Glider, trainer by Mark Casse, completes the field.

Belmont Stakes Entries

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