by Keith McCalmont
Bortolazzo Stable's You're to Blame will lead a compact but talented field in Friday's inaugural running of the $80,000 Miner's Mark, a 12-furlong stamina test for 3-year-olds and upward on Big Sandy, on Opening Day of the 27-day Belmont Park fall meet.
The meet, which runs through Sunday, November 1, will be highlighted by 22 graded stakes, featuring seven Grade 1 events and seven Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" qualifiers to the two-day Breeders' Cup 2020 World Championships to be held November 6-7 at Keeneland Race Course.
Following opening weekend at Belmont, live racing will be conducted Thursday through Sunday with the exception of Columbus Day weekend, when live racing will be offered on Monday, October 12 and will resume on Friday, October 16.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, fresh off winning his 14th H. Allen Jerkens training title for the Saratoga summer meet, You're to Blame will look to pick up his first win of the campaign in his fifth start this season.
The 6-year-old Distorted Humor bay began his campaign in March at Gulfstream Park when sixth in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Hal's Hope. He then caught a pair of sloppy tracks when fourth in the Sunday Silence in May at Gulfstream and fifth in the Flat Out in June at Belmont.
Last out, travelling 1 3/4 miles over a fast Saratoga main track in the Birdstone, You're to Blame completed the exacta behind well-regarded stablemate Moretti.
"He's been a straightforward horse for us and always seems to try hard. He's one of those long-distance horses and we're hoping for a big effort," said Byron Hughes, Pletcher's Belmont-based assistant.
You're to Blame, who boasts a record of 29-6-7-4 with purse earnings of $680,378, has continued to train at Saratoga, posting a half-mile breeze in 49.96 seconds on September 11 over the Oklahoma training track.
The well-bred horse is out of the multiple stakes winning Malibu Moon mare Bon Jovi Girl, who is a half-sister to multiple Eclipse Award-winner Gio Ponti.
Hughes said You're to Blame has consistently trained to his impressive pedigree since arriving at the Pletcher barn in the winter of 2017.
"He trains with class and he's a feel-good horse, too. He shows a lot of energy in the mornings," said Hughes. "He's the type of horse that if you don't see him full of energy you'd be a little worried, but on a daily basis he always seems to show good energy for us."
Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who captured his 200th Grade 1 win when guiding Authentic to victory in the Kentucky Derby on September 5 at Churchill Downs, will have the call from the inside post.
Centennial Farms' Rocketry will return to the scene of one of his best career performances for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.
The 6-year-old Hard Spun bay posted a remarkable effort in the 2018 Temperance Hill Invitational where he covered the 1 5/8-mile distance in 2:40.18, besting Man o' War's 98-year-old track record of 2:40 4/5.
He followed that score with a three-quarter length win in the Grade 2 Marathon at Churchill Downs in November 2018 but has yet to return to the winner's circle in eight starts since.
Last out, Rocketry finished a game third in the Birdstone just a nose back of runner-up You're to Blame. Junior Alvarado will pick up the mount from post 4 as Rocketry looks to improve on an impressive record of 24-5-5-4 that includes purse earnings of $660,110.
Matthew Schera's Petit Fils will make his dirt debut for trainer James Lawrence off a $62,500 claim from an off-the-board effort in a 1 3/16-mile optional-claiming event on the Spa turf on August 14.
The 5-year-old Makfi gelding captured the 2019 Group 3 Prix d'Hedouville in his native France on the turf at Longchamp. He was transferred to the care of conditioner Christophe Clement last fall and was off-the-board in a trio of turf starts in the Grade 3 Red Smith at Aqueduct in November and the Tiller in June at Belmont ahead of being claimed last out.
Petit Fils owns a modest record of one win and two seconds in four synthetic starts in France and he breezed five furlongs in 1:03.20 on September 8 over the dirt at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland.
Kendrick Carmouche will take the reins from post 5.
Rounding out the field are Six Column Stables' allowance winner Counter Offer for trainer Ian Wilkes, who will exit post 2 under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano; and Noda Brothers' six-time winner Danny California, a New York-bred son of Afleet Alex who will emerge from post 3 under Manny Franco for trainer Orlando Noda.
The Miner's Mark is slated as Race 4 on Friday's 10-race program, which offers a first post of 1:00 p.m. Eastern. America's Day at the Races will present daily television coverage of the 27-day fall meet on FOX Sports and MSG Networks. For the complete America's Day at the Races broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Belmont Park, and the best way to bet every race of the 27-day fall meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, NYRA Bets is currently offering a $200 new member bonus in addition to a host of special weekly offers. The NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.