Belmont Derby, Oaks draw O’brien quartet
ELMONT, N.Y. – They may not be the very best horses in his arsenal, but trainer Aidan O’brien looks to have a strong hand in both the Belmont Derby and Belmont Oaks, the pair of Grade 1 turf events that highlight Saturday’s Stars and Stripes card at Belmont Park.
O’brien, who finished second in the 2014 Belmont Derby with Adelaide, will send out Deauville and Long Island Sound in this year’s $1.25 million Derby. O’brien, who finished third in last year’s Oaks with Outstanding, has the duo of Ballydoyle and Coolmore to run in Saturday’s third edition of the $1 million Oaks. Both races are scheduled for 1 1/4 miles on the inner turf course. The Oaks offers a fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita in November.
“He tries to separate them the best he can,” T.J. Comerford, an assistant to O’brien, said Wednesday after all four horses galloped over the Belmont main track. “It’s hard to bring them here when you’re trying to win races in Europe as well, but these are very good horses we’re bringing.”
Deauville, a son of Galileo, was a Group 3 winner at 2. This year, he was beaten a neck in the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York before running a disappointing 11th in the Epsom Derby on June 4.
“The race at York, he ran very well,” Comerford said. “If he comes with that run again, he’ll be very hard to beat.”
Regarding the Epsom Derby, Comerford said Deauville may not have cared for the soft ground at Epsom, and the competition might have been too tough.
“You’re going a mile and a half against the best horses in a couple of countries,” Comerford said. “He wasn’t up to that.”
Deauville, who will be ridden by Jamie Spencer, drew post 13. He will run with Lasix for the first time, as will all of O’brien’s runners, according to Comerford
Long Island Sound is a Kentucky-bred son of War Front. His dam, Treasure Trail, is a half-sister to Zenyatta. Long Island Sound won his first three starts before finishing third, beaten four lengths by Hawkbill, in the Group 3 Tercentenary at Royal Ascot. Hawkbill has won six consecutive races, including the Group 1 Coral Eclipse at Sandown last weekend.
“He ran well at Ascot on ground that probably didn’t suit him,” Comerford said. “He’ll definitely be better on better ground.”
Colm O’donoghue will ride Long Island Sound from post 7.
Humphrey Bogart is the other European-based runner in the Derby field. He finished fifth in the Epsom Derby before running sixth in the Group 2 King Edward at Royal Ascot.
The North American contingent for the Derby is led by Camelot Kitten and Highland Sky, the 1-2 finishers in the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge here on June 4. Camelot Kitten, who breaks from post 6, is joined by stablemates Call Provision (post 12), third in the Pennine Ridge, and Beach Patrol (post 9). All three are trained by Chad Brown.
Airoforce, Applicator, Aquaphobia, Ralis, Surgical Strike, and Toughest ‘Ombre complete the field.
O’brien’s top turf fillies include Minding and Alice Springs, who remained in Europe. But Ballydoyle’s form suggests she belongs in that group and makes her a top contender in the Belmont Oaks. Ballydoyle finished second behind Minding and in front of Alice Springs in the English 1000 Guineas in May at Newmarket. Most recently, Ballydoyle finished sixth in the Group 1 Prix de Diane on June 19 at Chantilly, beaten 3 1/4 lengths.
“The last time in France, she ran on softish ground from a bad draw,” Comerford said.
Coolmore actually finished one spot in front of Ballydoyle in the Prix de Diane, her best race this year. At age 2, she won a Group 3 in Ireland.
“She ran a blinder; she was up there all the way, she came home well, she stayed on there at the finish,” Comerford said. “That was a very good run for her for this year. She’s starting to come back to herself.”
O’donoghue will ride Ballydoyle from post 7, while Spencer has the call on Coolmore from post 13.
Catch a Glimpse, a winner of seven straight for trainer Mark Casse, drew post 12, while Time and Motion, who is 3 for 3 this year, including a half-length victory in the Wonder Again Stakes, drew post 4. Harmonize and Last Waltz, second and third in the Wonder Again, are back in this field.
Also entered were Auntie Joy, Decked Out, Land Over Sea, Magnanime, Pricedtoperfection, Noble Beauty, and Secure Access.
The Derby, Oaks, and Grade 2 Suburban will be shown live during a 90-minute broadcast on NBC beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.
It has been five years since trainer Neil Howard last started a horse at Belmont Park. But he returns here Saturday with Eagle, a top-flight contender in the Grade 2, $500,000 Suburban Handicap.
Eagle, a son of Candy Ride, is running back just three weeks after he finished second, a halflength behind Bradester, in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. Though the Suburban means running him back on short rest, Howard said the opportunity to run Eagle 1 1/4 miles “was appealing.”
Howard added, “Until they do it, you don’t know for sure, but we felt it was something within his grasp.”
Howard trains Eagle for
William S. Farish. They teamed to win the 2003 Suburban – then a Grade 1 – with Mineshaft, who was voted Horse of the Year.
Eagle has finished second in four of the last six stakes in which he’s competed. He won the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland and finished fourth, but was placed third via disqualification, in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds. Eagle has been extremely consistent since returning from an eightmonth layoff last September.
“With this horse, more than anything, it’s been his maturity,” Howard said. “He was a little bit of a playboy for a while. He always ran well, but he needed to mature and grow up a little bit. To say [he’s matured] is an understatement.”
Brian Hernandez will ride Eagle from post 4.
Effinex, last year’s Suburban winner and the 122-pound highweight this year, will break from post 5 and be reunited with Mike Smith. Noble Bird drew the rail, followed by Mubtaahij, Shaman Ghost, Eagle, Effinex, Turco Bravo, Samraat, and Tapin Mojo.
Trainer Eric Guillot won the Dwyer Stakes three years ago with Moreno, who was coming off a maiden victory three weeks earlier. This year, Guillot will try to win the Dwyer with Laoban, who, despite having competed in four graded stakes, remains a maiden.
Laoban, a son of Uncle Mo, finished third in the Grade 3 Sham at Santa Anita in February and second in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct in March. After finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Blue Grass, he didn’t have enough points to make it into the Kentucky Derby field. He ran in the Preakness and finished sixth.
On Saturday, Laoban will be backing up to a one-turn mile while putting blinkers back on. Laoban did not wear blinkers in the Preakness.
“He needs them,” Guillot said. “I like this horse backing up and freshened. He didn’t run that bad in the Preakness considering he hated the mud, was eight wide, and stumbled out of the gate.”
John Velazquez will ride Laoban from post 4. He is one of two speed horses in the race. Fish Trappe Road, the runnerup in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens Stakes on Belmont Stakes Day, is the other speed and will break from post 8.
Private Zone will finally get to make his 7-year-old debut in Saturday’s Grade 3, $500,000 Belmont Sprint Championship, a race he won last year.
Private Zone was entered in the Grade 2 True North on June 10 but had to scratch after trainer Brian Lynch surrendered his license due to failing a random drug test. Lynch has since been reinstated.
Private Zone has not raced since finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile last Nov. 28. He has been working extremely well and shows a trio of bullet works for his return. He will break from post 2 under Martin Pedroza.
Among the challengers are Joking, who upset the True North to give trainer Charlton Baker his first graded stakes victory, and A. P. Indian, the winner of the Don Levine Memorial at Parx. Completing the field are Anchor Down, the runner-up in the Met Mile, Ready for Rye, Roxbury N Overton, Marking, Nubin Ridge, and Green Gratto.
Lost Raven showed a new dimension when she rallied from eighth to win the Grade 3 Miss Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20. That off-thepace style might suit her well again in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong race that has plenty of speed types in its nine-horse field.
Lost Raven, a daughter of Uncle Mo, won the Cicada Stakes at Aqueduct on the lead prior to the Miss Preakness. She will break from post 8 under John Velazquez.
The Victory Ride is loaded with speed, including Behrnik’s Bank, Coppa, and Appealing Maggie. Completing the field are One True Kiss, the runner-up in the Miss Preakness, Blast, Flatterywillgetyou, Stradivarius, and Malibu Stacy.
The Victory Ride is the first leg of an all-stakes pick six that has a $300,000-guaranteed pool. First post is 12:30 p.m. Eastern.