Weekend Stakes Preview
Happy Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Day!
This Belmont card features three graded stakes races; the Grade III Matron, the Grade I1 Vosburgh, and the Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.
Race 5 – The Vosburgh – Grade II
Six Furlongs on the Dirt for Three Year Olds and Upward
October 9th, 2021
This compact field of five includes stalwart Firenze Fire and Baby Yoda who exploded last out at Saratoga for a 114 Beyer.
Jalen Journey: Steve Asmussen enters this one off a win by DQ in the Grade III Frank De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel. He is speedy and likes to be up near the front. But is he speedy enough for these? Doesn’t seem so. Did post a 102 Beyer two back at the Spa in a key race where he drew off nicely in the N3X race. In a typical Grade II race this one would be 10-1, but in this thin field, he is third choice. Possible underneath play.
Good Effort: Ships in from Europe where he won on the poly at Deauville in August going six and a half furlongs. He has mainly been a turf and poly horse with three dirt starts in Meydan last winter. This year he is one for seven and was not competitive in the two Group 1s and Group 2 he attempted. Finished a close second in a Golden Shaheen prep last winter but got buried in the big race. Is this an attempt to start a dirt campaign for next year’s Golden Shaheen? Interesting choice to ship here for this race. Likes to be on the front end but will be up against it given the speed drawn to his outside. Looking elsewhere.
Baby Yoda: Well, what can you say about a three year old horse with the 114 Beyer. WOW! That 114 Beyer is tied for the highest Beyer of the year to date at any distance, surface, or age. The two starts since Bill Mott took over the training of this one has seen exponential improvement. Is it possible for Bill Mott to get into the Hall of Fame again? He certainly deserves it. Turns back a half furlong, which should only help him. Gets a sterner test today but against a field that is not very deep. Don’t sleep on Bill Mott trained runners on the dirt. He is one of the all-time great American trainers, period. Trainer Stat: Bill Mott wins at 24% on the NYRA circuit in graded dirt stakes over the past five years. If this one repeats his last out effort everyone is running for second. The Pick.
Firenze Fire: If you have not watched the replay of the Forego – go watch it. I have never seen a horse savage a rival like that. It also probably cost Firenze Fire the race as he had the momentum before the incident occurred. After that race – who knows what will happen next. But one thing is for sure – Firenze Fire loves Belmont Park where he has seven wins from eleven starts and is the defending champion of this race. Kelly Breen has done wonderfully with this horse since taking for Jason Servis some twenty months ago. With so much speed entered here and his outside draw, Firenze Fire will likely sit off the early speed and come running late. Cagey veteran will certainly hit the board and probably completes a very short exacta.
Following Sea: This Pletcher trainer colt faced some tough ones in his last two attempts running third behind Jackie’s Warrior in the H. Allen Jerkens and Hot Rod Charlie in the Haskell. Did hit a triple digit Beyer territory three back against allowance company. Cuts back to six panels for this race. His lone six furlong effort may have been his best when he broke his maiden at Oaklawn with a 97 Beyer. He should be near the front early on. Outside draw will assist in setting up tactical options for Joel Rosario. Gets a slice.
Race 7 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic – Grade I
One Mile and One Half on the Widener Turf for Three Year Olds and Upward
October 9th, 2021
Bill Mott has Channel Maker entered here and looks to extend his lead in the record books to five career wins in this Grade I. This competitive field features five runners coming out of the Sword Dancer Stakes including the first four finishers of that race.
Serve The King: Last out winner in the John’s Call at the Spa and he gets a slight turn back here from thirteen furlongs. Consistent runner has four wins from nine lifetime starts but needs to step up a level to best this group. This closer draws inside and should be able to sit a trip. But is he good enough to finish in front of these? I don’t think today is the day.
Arklow: This one ran a very strong second at Kentucky Downs over a taxing course in the Turf Cup at twelve furlongs last out, but came up a neck short to Imperador. He certainly can handle the distance of ground with five career wins and four seconds from fourteen starts at today’s distance. At age seven has father time caught this one a bit when he faces top level competition? Maybe, but he can still get a piece.
Gufo: He is in career best form for Christophe Clement and is coming off a win in the Sword Dancer with a 104 Beyer. Just an amazingly consistent horse, he has never finished off the board in twelve career starts. Should sit deep and make one run. In the Sword Dancer he got a great ride by Joel Rosario saving ground around the first two turns and then was put to drive for a good half mile to steadily make progress and pass the field and still had enough in the tank to hold off a fast closing Japan. He is two for two at today’s marathon distance. He’ll be right there.
Rockemperor: Ran an even fourth last out in the Sword Dancer behind three of his rivals today. Prior to that he finished second in the Bowling Green (99 Beyer) behind Cross Border. Doesn’t find the winners circle a lot and has zero wins from twelve starts in Graded/Group Stakes races. Having said that, he does pick up pieces with plenty of seconds and thirds. For those keeping score at home – this is the “Other Chad”. Blinkers come OFF. He is training forwardly in advance of this race but that is not atypical for him. He’s a half-step below these.
Cross Border: Winner of the last two renditions of the Bowling Green Stakes, both with 100 Beyers but has no wins in his nine other most recent starts. He loves the Saratoga turf but was left chasing in the Sword Dancer last out and was a no threat third to Gufo and Japan. He prefers to press the pace and make the first move turning for home. Channel Maker should give him a target. Zero for six at today’s marathon distance. Potential for a minor award, maybe.
Channel Maker: Last fall Mott started putting this one on the lead and that change resulted in two Grade I wins and very good third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf along three consecutive 108 Beyers. But that was last year. In 2021 he has no wins from four starts. Dueled with Tribhuvan last out in the Sword Dancer as he went way to fast early eventually finishing sixth of seven. At the end of his seven year old year I think it fair to ask if this Champion horse has seen his best days. But he is likely to be loose on the lead here today and that makes him a very real threat to wire the field at a bit of a price. Using.
Japan: This Aiden O’Brien runner has two wins, a second, and a third from five starts this year. The two wins were both in European Group III races. Last out he ran a good second in the Sword Dancer with a 104 Beyer and was closing quickly on Gufo but couldn’t get to the winner before the wire. A touch of traffic trouble in the lane may have made the difference that day. Was off form last year, but in 2019 he won two Group Is including the Juddmonte International. He will get the pace he likes to aim at. The Pick.