Jul 5, 2020
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Belmont Park Notes 7.05.20

by NYRA Press Office

  • G1 Runhappy Met Mile hero Vekoma could return in G1 Forego
  • Brown proud of G1 Manhattan-winner Instilled Regard; turf stars train
  • Social Paranoia pointed to Fourstardave; Dr Post breezes in preparation for G1
  • Frank's Rockette, Tacitus emerge from stakes win in good shape; eye G1 action at Saratoga
  • G3 Kent-winner Gufo could be bound for Saratoga Derby next
  • Cross Country Pick 5 handles $259K
  • Belmont Week 6 stakes probables

Owner Randy Hill was still on cloud nine Sunday morning, the day after Vekoma went gate-to-wire in the Grade 1, $500,000 Runhappy Met Mile at Belmont Park.

"What a horse," an emphatic Hill said. "I'll never own another horse like this. I've watched the race about 20 times and it just gives me goosebumps. I really wish I could have been there, but I'd rather win than be there and lose them."

Owned by Hill in partnership with Gatsas Stables, Vekoma's win earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure. Vekoma controlled the pace before being confronted around the far turn. He shook off his competition when asked by Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano and drew off to a 1 ¼-length score, keeping his record as a 4-year-old unblemished in three starts for trainer George Weaver.

Prior to the Runhappy Met Mile, Vekoma won the Sir Shackleton at Gulfstream Park in his 2020 debut before an impressive 7 ¼-length win in the Grade 1 Runhappy Carter on June 6 at Belmont Park, netting a 110 Beyer.

The Grade 1, $300,000 Forego presented by America's Best Racing on August 29 at Saratoga Race Course could be the next start for Vekoma, Hill said. 

Hill also mentioned the possibility of Vekoma training up to the Breeders' Cup World Championships on November 6-7 at Keeneland Race Course.

Vekoma has earned an automatic entry into both the Breeders' Cup Sprint and the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile when taking the Runhappy Carter and Runhappy Met Mile, which are both Breeders' Cup "Win And You're In" events.

"I think he's the best older horse in the country," Hill said. "George is thinking about the Forego or training right up to the Breeders' Cup and we leave all of that up to him. The horse will tell us. He's such a warrior."

Blair Golen, who oversees Weaver's Belmont string, reported that the Runhappy Met Mile hero emerged from Saturday's triumph in good shape.

"He came out of it in good order," Golen said. "What impressed me last time and this time was that he wasn't that tired. When he ran here at seven furlongs, he recovered fast and was really on the muscle, and it was the same again this time too."

Bred in Kentucky by Alpha Delta Stables, Vekoma is by multiple-champion producing stallion Candy Ride out of the Speightstown broodmare Mona de Momma who, like Vekoma, also was a Grade 1-winner going seven furlongs.

Brown proud of G1 Manhattan-winner Instilled Regard; turf stars train

Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown enjoyed a tremendous day at the races on Saturday's Runhappy Met Mile Day card by notching four wins, highlighted by a one-two finish in the Grade 1, $400,000 Manhattan with Instilled Regard and Rockemperor.

Brown leads all trainers at the Belmont spring/summer meet with 22 wins heading into Sunday's card; a tally boosted Saturday by allowances scores with Tribhuvan and Fortin Hill, as well as a visually-appealing maiden score by Publication.

OXO Equine's Instilled Regard, piloted by Belmont's leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr., demonstrated a tremendous turn of foot to weave between rivals and collar stablemate Rockemperor in the final jump of the 1 ¼-mile inner turf test. The 5-year-old Arch bay, bred in Kentucky by KatieRich Farms, matched the 102 Beyer Speed Figure from his prior score in the Grade 2 Fort Marcy at Belmont.

"The horse really deserved to win a Grade 1. He ran a great race yesterday," said Brown. "He had been knocking on the door of winning a big race. I'm really proud of the horse. He's improved a lot."

Instilled Regard launched his career on dirt for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, finishing third in the 2017 Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity and fourth in the 2018 Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.

Brown has transformed the talented dark bay into a top-flight turf runner posting solid Grade 1 efforts when third in the 2018 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar and third again in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Park to kick off his 2020 campaign.

Brown said Ortiz, Jr, who has earned the last two Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Jockey, is instrumental in the success of Instilled Regard as well as other barn stars such as Grade 1 Runhappy Met Mile runner-up Network Effect.

"He's a really important part of the team. He keeps improving and he's a super talented rider," said Brown. "He showed that yesterday with several of his rides on our horses. He got the best out of Network Effect in the Met Mile. With Instilled Regard, after getting shuffled on the turn, he was able to get him to rebreak for him again and find his way through traffic to get there. That was a super, super ride."

Ortiz, Jr. tops the Belmont rider tables with 34 wins heading into Sunday's card, seven more than his brother, Jose.

Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, Wonder Stables, Michael E. Kisber and Bethlehem Stables' Rockemperor earned a career-best 102 Beyer for his Manhattan effort under Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez.

The 4-year-old Holy Roman Emperor colt arrived at the Manhattan off a similar narrow defeat in the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham in May at Santa Anita when second by nose to United before being placed third via disqualification.

Brown said Rockemperor, bred in Ireland by Haras du Mezeray, has a top-flight win in his future.

"You'd think so," said Brown. "He was unlucky to lose yesterday. He probably never saw that horse coming. He ran a super race but he just got nailed on the wire."

Klaravich Stables' Network Effect saved ground in third position under Ortiz, Jr. in the Runhappy Met Mile. With no room to bid inside of Vekoma as the field straightened away, Ortiz, Jr. tipped Network Effect out and rallied inside of Warrior's Charge before outbattling Code of Honor for second by a neck. The effort marked the third occasion where Network Effect ran second to Vekoma including the last out Grade 1 Runhappy Carter at Belmont and the 2018 Grade 2 Nashua at the Big A.

Brown said the 4-year-old Mark Valeski chestnut is likely to make his next start in the Grade 1, $300,000 Forego, presented by America's Best Racing, a seven-furlong sprint for 4-year-olds and up on August 29 at Saratoga.

"I think the Forego would be on his radar," said Brown.

Brown sent a number of his stable stars to breeze on the Belmont turf on Sunday including Peter M. Brant's Sistercharlie who worked five furlongs in 1:02.55 in company with Etoile.

Sistercharlie, a 6-year-old Myboycharlie bay, earned Champion Turf Female honors in 2018 after winning 4-of-5 starts, including Grade 1 wins in the Jenny Wiley at Keeneland, the Diana at Saratoga, the Beverly D. at Arlington Park and the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs.

She won 3-of-4 starts last season while defending her titles in the Diana and Beverly D. and adding the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational to her ledger. She last raced in November at Santa Anita when third in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Etoile, previously trained by Aidan O'Brien for Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith, posted her third breeze for Brown. The Kentucky-bred War Front bay won the Group 3 Coolmore Stud Irish EBF Sprint in May 2019 on debut at Naas in Ireland. She was off-the-board in her next two starts when eighth in the Group 1 Juddmonte Cheveley Park at Newmarket and last out in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in November at Santa Anita.

Brown said Sistercharlie will make her seasonal debut in the Grade 2, $200,000 Ballston Spa, a 1 1/16-mile turf test for older fillies and mares slated for July 25 at the Spa.

"She's going to go to the Ballston Spa. She's training very well," said Brown regarding Sistercharlie.

The Brant-owned Raging Bull breezed four furlongs in 50.33 in tandem with John D. Gunther and Eurowest Bloodstock's Without Parole.

Raging Bull, a 5-year-old son of Dark Angel, hit the board in three Grade 1s to close out his 2019 campaign when third in the Manhattan at Belmont, second in the Fourstardave at Saratoga and elevated to third in the Woodbine Mile.

He returned in May with a five-wide rally to capture the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mike at Santa Anita.

Without Parole, still in search of his first win for Brown after three starts, was third in the Shoemaker Mile. The 5-year-old Frankel bay won the Group 1 Qatar Sussex in 2018 at Goodwood for former trainer John Gosden.

Both Raging Bull and Without Parole are headed to Keeneland for the Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile on July 10.

"It was their final small piece of work just a few days out from their race at Keeneland. I thought it went perfect," said Brown. "As long they come out of the work good tomorrow they'll fly out to Keeneland."

They will be joined on the flight by e Five Racing's Rushing Fall, a four-time Grade 1-winner, who will look to defend her title in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes on July 11 at Keeneland.

Also breezing on the turf Sunday through four furlongs in 49.38 for Brown were Klaravich Stables' Grade 2-winner Digital Age and Shadwell Stable's Mutakatif, a last-out allowance winner at Gulfstream Park in February.

Social Paranoia pointed to Fourstardave; Dr Post breezes in preparation for G1 Haskell

The Elkstone Group's Social Paranoia matched a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure for his wide-rallying score in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Poker, a one-turn mile on the Widener turf course at Belmont Park.

Trained by Todd Pletcher and reunited with Jose Ortiz, who guided the colt to victory in the Grade 3 Appleton in his seasonal debut at Gulfstream, Social Paranoia made a four-wide move at the three-eighths following the runs of Seismic Wave and Value Proposition.

With a clear run from the top of the lane, Social Paranoia picked off his rivals one-by-one as she won by a single length.

Pletcher said the turnback in distance following an off-the-board effort in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Fort Marcy was beneficial.

"It was good to see him get back in the winner's circle. I think he enjoyed the mile distance and being off the pace a little bit," said Pletcher. "I think Jose sensed a slow pace and wanted to get him out in plenty of time to get his run together. It worked out well."

Social Paranoia is likely to take aim at the Grade 1, $400,000 Fourstardave Handicap set for August 22 at Saratoga.

Repole Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbreds' Moretti followed up on his June 11 Flat Out romp with a runner-up effort in the Saturday's Grade 2 Suburban won by 8 3/4-lengths by Tacitus. The 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro colt, with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano up, tracked the early pace from fourth and battled gamely to the wire to complete the exacta by a neck over Parsimony.

"I was proud of him for fighting it out for second. It seems like he's continuing to improve as he gets older. The winner was very good on the day," said Pletcher.

Pletcher said the $100,000 Birdstone at 1 3/4-miles on August 2 and the 10-furlong Grade 1 Woodward Handicap on September 5 loom as possible options at the Spa for Moretti.

"We'll keep all our options in place. He seems to thrive at longer distances," said Pletcher. "The Birdstone is out there and the mile and a quarter Woodward would be something to keep an eye on as well."

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Chrysalis Stables and Robert V. LaPenta's stakes-placed Farmington Road breezed a half-mile in 49.60 Saturday on the Belmont inner turf.

The Quality Road colt was off-the-board last out in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes and Pletcher said a turf debut is under consideration.

"He seemed to handle it well. We'll see how he breezes back," said Pletcher. "We're exploring some options and don't have any firm plans yet."

The second running of the $500,000 Saratoga Derby, part of the Turf Triple Series for 3-year-olds, is scheduled for August 15.

St. Elias Stables' Dr Post, runner-up in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, breezed a half-mile in 49 flat Sunday on the Belmont training track in company with Happy Saver, a 3-year-old Super Saver chestnut who dazzled on debut on Belmont Stakes Day when 5 1/2-lengths the best in a seven-furlong maiden.

"It was their work back since they both ran on Belmont Day," said Pletcher. "It was a good work with an energetic gallop out. I was happy with both of them."

Pletcher said Dr Post is likely to make his next start in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 18 at Monmouth Park.

"We'll see how he bounces of this. I'll talk to the connections but right now I'd say we're likely for the Haskell," said Pletcher.

Frank's Rockette, Tacitus emerge from stakes win in good shape; eye G1 action at Saratoga

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott enjoyed a successful Saturday afternoon in taking two of the five graded stakes carded for Runhappy Met Mile Day at Belmont Park.

Mott sent out Frank's Rockette and now three-time graded stakes winning multimillionaire Tacitus to respective victories in the Grade 3 Victory Ride and Grade 2 Suburban. He reported that both of his graded stakes heroes exited their triumphs in good order.

"They both ran really well and really hard, but the good thing is they look great this morning," Mott said.

Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Tacitus registered a 100 Beyer Speed Figure for the 8 ¾-length victory under Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez, which ended a seven-race slump for the 4-year-old Tapit gray. During his sophomore campaign last year, Tacitus won the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs and Grade 2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct en route to placings in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.

Mott made an equipment change with Tacitus for the Suburban, adding blinkers.

"It seemed to help quite a bit. The maturity and the blinkers all kind of seemed to come together," Mott said.

Mott said Tacitus would target "one or the other" between the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney at nine furlongs on August 1 or the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodward at ten furlongs at Saratoga.

Named after an ancient Roman senator, the Kentucky homebred Tacitus is out of 2014 Champion Older Filly Close Hatches and is a direct descendant of 1982 Broodmare of the Year Best In Show.

Mott reported that the Grade 1, $300,000 Longines Test on August 8 at Saratoga is an option for Frank's Rockette.

"We had talked about that as a plan, it will be based on how she comes out of this. It will take a two or three days," said owner Frank Fletcher. "She had been training really well and was at the top of her game and that's always the Test. She'll face some of these same horses again and more."

Fletcher knew that Saturday's race would be no easy task for his Into Mischief filly.

"I have a lot of respect for the other horses in the race. I knew it was going to be tough, but she had to fight," Fletcher said. "She came out of the gate a little slow for her, and she was not on the lead, had to fight to get her head in front and it appeared to be that she was in constant pressure the whole way. That's what I was scared of and worried about. There was never a chance for her or the other horses to catch a breath. She was running her heart out from the time she stepped out of the gate."

Fletcher watched the Victory Ride from his home in Little Rock, Arkansas alongside his family as well as his 5-year-old longhaired German Shepherd Rocket, who is the namesake behind all of Fletcher's horses.

"He was in there with us when we were watching. He goes crazy when we all go crazy. He was barking a lot," Fletcher said. "We were like 5-year-old children running around hugging each other. We had a steak dinner to celebrate. We wish we could have been there."

Frank's Rockette, a Kentucky homebred, is out of the graded stakes winning Indian Charlie broodmare Rocket Twentyone, who won the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Lassie in 2011.

G3 Kent-winner Gufo could be bound for Saratoga Derby next

Otter Bend Stables' Gufo won for the fourth consecutive time and improved to 3-for-3 in his 3-year-old campaign after winning the Grade 3 Kent on Saturday at Delaware Park.

Gufo ran third in his debut in November at Aqueduct Racetrack and has gone undefeated since, including a 1 ½-length score in the 1 1/16-mile English Channel on May 2 at Gulfstream Park before a half-length score in his graded stakes debut going 1 1/8 miles on the Delaware Park grass. Gufo covered nine furlongs on firm turf in a track record 1:46.94, lowering the previous course record of 1:47.19 set by American Patriot in the 2016 Kent.

Trainer Christophe Clement said the Kent effort, which resulted in a 90 Beyer Speed Figure, could set up a potential start in the $500,000 Saratoga Derby on August 15 at Saratoga Race Course.

The second running of the Saratoga Derby is part of NYRA's Turf Triple series for 3-year-olds and is contested at 1 3/16 miles.

"He's a nice horse and getting better," Clement said. "He'll be trained for the Saratoga Derby. We'll try to train him for that and go from there."

Before heading up to the Spa, Clement saw a plethora of turf workers breeze Sunday morning at Belmont Park.

Eight-time graded stakes-winner Pure Sensation breezed four furlongs in 50.55. The 9-year-old veteran posted his first work since running seventh in the Grade 1 Jaipur on June 20, Belmont Stakes Day, that marked his seasonal bow and first start since running fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint in November at Santa Anita.

"He looked good and worked well," Clement said. "He was very willing. The main thing is to go one step at a time. It was good to get a race. He seems to be sound and willing, so if everything goes well in the next week or two, we'll be looking for another race. There's a race in mid-July [Wolf Hill, July 18] at Monmouth."

Owned by Patricia Generazio, Pure Sensation is 14-5-7 with earnings of more than $2 million in 37 career starts.

Wegetsdamunnys and Olympic Games breezed four furlongs in 50.33 in company Sunday, setting up potential starts for both of them in the $80,000 River Memories on Closing Day of the Belmont spring/summer meet on Sunday, July 12.

Clement said they are both looking at the 1 ½-mile turf route in the River Memories. The French-bred Olympic Games, owned by Martin Schwartz, made her first North American start and first for Clement by running second by a neck to La Australiana, in the Treasure Coast on June 7 at Gulfstream. The 4-year-old daughter of Olympic Glory made her first five starts in France and raced once in Italy in November for trainer Jean-Claude Rouget before shipping over and being transferred to Clement's care.

Wegetsdamunnys, owned by Scott Krase and Peter Stokes, returned off a near seven-month layoff to beat optional claimers going 1 1/8 miles over the Belmont turf on June 8. She will look to start her 5-year-old year 2-for-2 and win her first stakes in the process.

"They are both coming into the race good and worked well this morning," Clement said.

Sophomore filly Logic N Reason made her first start of 2020 on June 14 at Belmont, running seventh against allowance company as she wiped off the rust in her first start since a sixth-place finish in the Tepin on December 5 at Aqueduct that was moved off the turf.

The Declaration of War filly, owned by The Elkstone Group, put in an impressive solo work, going five furlongs in 1:02.48 and galloped out strong. Clement said he hasn't decided on a firm target for her next start.

"I'm not sure yet, we're keeping the options open," Clement said.

Cross Country Pick 5 handles $259K

Saturday's Cross Country Pick 5, featuring all graded stakes races at Belmont Park and Delaware Park, paid $3,295 for selecting all five winners for the 50-cent wager. The total pool was $259,823.

Delaware Park hosted the first two legs, starting the sequence with a huge price when Project Whiskey captured the Grade 3, $300,000 Delaware Oaks in Race 8. The 1 1/16-mile dirt route for 3-year-olds saw Project Whiskey, trained by Robert Reid, Jr., win his graded stakes debut after going off at 38-1. Ridden by Frankie Pennington, Project Whiskey returned $79.60 on a $2 win bet.

The remainder of the Cross Country Pick 5 was more chalky, with favorite Gufo winning the Grade 3, $125,000 Kent in Race 9. Piloted by Trevor McCarthy, the son of Declaration of War was a half-length winner for Clement in the 1 1/8-mile turf route for sophomores. He paid $3.20.

Belmont hosted the final three legs, starting with a bang with Vekoma's 1 ¼-length win in the Grade 1, $500,000 Runhappy Met Mile - one of five graded stakes on Belmont Park's loaded card - in Race 9 to give trainer George Weaver his first win in the prestigious race. Vekoma stayed undefeated in his 4-year-old campaign, improving to 3-for-3 in defeating a talented field that included 2019 Grade 1 Runhappy Travers-winner Code of Honor and last year's Grade 1 Whitney winner in McKinzie. Ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who notched his third Runhappy Met Mile win, Vekoma paid $5.90.

Race 10 at Belmont saw another prestigious Grade 1, the $400,000 Manhattan, with trainer Chad Brown saddling the first-and-second-place finishers in Instilled Regard and Rockemperor. Instilled Regard [$6.30], under Belmont spring/summer meet-leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr., edged his stablemate by a neck to win the contest for 4-year-olds and up at 1 ¼-miles on the inner turf. It marked the sixth win in the Manhattan for Brown.

The concluding leg saw the top-two finishers of the 2019 Grade 1 Belmont Stakes rematch in the Grade 2, $200,000 Suburban in Race 11. Tacitus, who was runner-up in that Belmont Stakes, along with running second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and Runhappy Travers at Saratoga, finally earned a return trip to the winner's circle, romping to an 8 ¾-length win. Tacitus completed the 1 ¼-mile course in 1:59.51, never having been seriously challenged in the stretch, and returned $4.20. He was trained and ridden by a pair of Hall of Famers in Bill Mott and John Velazquez, respectively.

The minimum bet for the multi-track, multi-race wager is 50 cents. Wagering on the Cross Country Pick 5 is also available on track, on ADW platforms, and at simulcast facilities across the country. Every week will feature a mandatory payout of the net pool.

The Cross Country Pick 5 will continue each Saturday throughout the year. For more information, visit

Belmont Park Week 6 stakes probables

Saturday, July 11

Grade 2, $150,000 Ruffian

Probable: Afleet Destiny (Uriah St. Lewis), Monomoy Girl (Brad Cox), Overheated (Ray Handal), Piedi Bianchi (Carlos Martin), Vexatious (Jack Sisterson)

Possible: Always Shopping (Todd Pletcher), Bellera (Pletcher), Mother Mother (Bob Baffert)

Closing Day Sunday, July 12

$100,000 River Memories

Probable: Beale Street (Michael Matz), Beau Belle (Tom Albertrani), Dyna Passer (Albertrani), Lemon Zip (Niall Saville), Olympic Games (Christophe Clement), Pallas Athene (John Terranova), Roy Curls (Roy Lerman), Seeking Revenge (John Stephens), Wegetsdamunnys (Clement)

Possible: Civil Union (Shug McGaughey), Tass (James Lawrence)

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