Take a deep breath. Ten stakes, including the 151st running of the Belmont Stakes, bring the curtain down on the 2019 Triple Crown season Saturday at Belmont Park.
The star-studded card brings together just about every division not counting 2-year-olds – they ran Thursday and Friday – on dirt and turf, short and long. The long comes in the form of the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, which drew a field of 10 led by Preakness winner War Of Will and Wood Memorial winner Tacitus. They’ll vie for favoritism with potential longshots lurking for an upset, including Japan’s Master Fencer, Preakness runner-up Everfast and Todd Pletcher’s duo Intrepid Heart and Spinoff.
The undercard features a monstrous menu led by the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, which on paper looks like one of the best races in any division and on any surface in years. Then there’s the Grade 1 Manhattan and Just A Game, a pair of turf stakes, and the Grade 1 Acorn for 3-year-old fillies and Woody Stephens for 3-year-olds going 1 turn on the main track.
Ben Gowans picked a pair of winners Friday – Fore Left in the Tremont and Homerique in the New York – to break a tie at the top and heads into Saturday with 11 winners.
John Shapazian, the perennial leader at The Saratoga Special, welcomed the return to New York and tabbed three winners Friday. Shapazian picked Catalina Cruiser in the True North, Homerique and Amade in the Belmont Gold Cup to increase his season total to 10. He’s tied with Tom Law, who picked Homerique to raise his total to 10.
Sean Clancy inched closer to the top with a pair Friday – Catalina Cruiser and Homerique – to raise his total to eight. John Cox took the collar Friday and ranks fifth with seven wins while Joe Clancy, who tabbed Catalina Cruiser, trails with six.
Here are the picks for the 10 stakes Saturday at Belmont. Enjoy and good luck.
Easy Goer. $150,000, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles. 12:47 p.m. EDT
Remember Alwaysmining? Of course you do, he ran three weeks ago in the Preakness and now he’s back. The last time he ran one turn the son of Stay Thirsty won the Miracle Wood going 1 mile at Laurel. He’s actually won his last four starts going one turn on the main track.
Joe: Outshine, Alwaysmining, Grumps Little Tots.
Sean: Outshine, Alwaysmining, Dream Maker.
Tom: Dream Maker, Alwaysmining, Outshine.
John S.: Alwaysmiling, Majid, Outshine.
John Cox: Majid, Outshine, Dream Maker.
Ben: Dream Maker, Outshine, Alwaysmining.
Just A Game (G1). $700,000, 4-year-olds and up, fillies and mares. 1:22 p.m.
Time to roll out the brigade of Grade 1 stakes. Small field of just seven but what a group. Rushing Fall, Beau Recall, Got Stormy and Daddy Is A Legend headline annual fixture.
Joe: Rushing Fall, Beau Recall, Daddy Is A Legend.
Sean: Rushing Fall, Got Stormy, Beau Recall.
Tom: Rushing Fall, Daddy Is A Legend, Environs.
John S.: Rushing Fall, Beau Recall, Daddy Is A Legend.
John Cox: Rushing Fall, Beau Recall, Got Stormy.
Ben: Rushing Fall, Daddy Is A Legend, Got Stormy.
Ogden Phipps (G1). $700,000, 4-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles. 2:01 p.m.
Another small and select field, no doubt because of the presence of Midnight Bisou. The winner of last year’s Grade 2 Mother Goose at the track and trip, she gets a rematch here with Escape Clause. Those two put on a great show in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom in mid-April at Oaklawn and come in fresh against Come Dancing, Pacific Wind and Mopotism.
Joe: Midnight Bisou, Come Dancing, Pacific Wind.
Sean: Midnight Bisou, Come Dancing, Escape Clause.
Tom: Midnight Bisou, Come Dancing, Mopotism.
John S.: Midnight Bisou, Come Dancing, Escape Clause.
John Cox: Come Dancing, Midnight Bisou, Escape Clause.
Ben: Come Dancing, Midnight Bisou, Escape Clause.
Jaipur Invitational (G1). $400,000, 4-year-olds and up, 6 furlongs, turf. 2:41 p.m.
Are you hyper for the Jaipur? Ok, we’ve used that line before but it’s a classic. Hopefully you’ll be excited for a bigger field with seven lining up to take on World Of Trouble (Gidu entered but won Friday). The favorite will be very tough, riding a four-race win streak, a win at the track and a stellar career mark (8-for-12). Disco Partner won’t go quiet, nor will Belvoir Bay.
Joe: World Of Trouble, Disco Partner, Belvoir Bay.
Sean: World Of Trouble, Disco Partner, Belvoir Bay.
Tom: World Of Trouble, Disco Partner, Undrafted.
John S.: World Of Trouble, Belvoir Bay, Om.
John Cox: World Of Trouble, Belvoir Bay, Dirty.
Ben: Belvoir Bay, World Of Trouble, Disco Partner.
Acorn (G1). $700,000, 3-year-olds, fillies, 1 mile. 3:22 p.m.
Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress faces tall order in first trip to New York since finishing fourth in last year’s Grade 3 Schuylerville at Saratoga. She’s a much different filly since then, with blowout victories in four stakes and her front-running score in the Oaks. The main opposition figures to be Guarana, a 14 3/4-length winner in her only start at Keeneland for Chad Brown, unbeaten Fancy Dress Party for Ben Colebrook and California shipper Ce Ce for Michael McCarthy.
Joe: Fancy Dress Party, Serengeti Empress, Guarana.
Sean: Fancy Dress Party, Guarana, Ce Ce.
Tom: Serengeti Empress, Guarana, Ce Ce.
John S.: Guarana, Serengeti Empress, Cookie Dough.
John Cox: Fancy Dress Party, Serengeti Empress, Guarana.
Ben: Cookie Dough, Guarana, Queen Of Beas.
Woody Stephens (G1). $400,000, 3-year-olds, 7 furlongs. 4:04 p.m.
Mind Control excels at the 7-furlong trip – he won the Grade 1 Hopeful last year and Grade 3 Bay Shore in April going the distance – and meets several with significant question marks in newly minted Grade 1. Complexity won the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont last October and flopped as the second choice in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He hasn’t run since and figures to be tough along with stablemate Honest Mischief, Nitrous, Landeskog, Lexitonian and Wendell Fong.
Joe: Honest Mischief, Mind Control, Nitrous.
Sean: Mind Control, Nitrous, Complexity.
Tom: Complexity, Mind Control, Honest Mischief.
John S.: Mind Control, Honest Mischief, Complexity.
John Cox: Honest Mischief, Lexitonian, Mind Control.
Ben: Honest Mischief, Mind Control, Much Better.
Metropolitan H. (G1). $1.2 million, 3-year-olds and up, 1 mile. 4:46 p.m.
Race of the day, maybe race of the year. Mitole, McKinzie, Firenze Fire, Thunder Snow, Coal Front and more. Wow. Mitole figures to be the favorite off six straight wins, including stylish performances in this season’s Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint and Grade 1 Churchill Downs. He stretches out beyond 7 furlongs for the first time against proven Grade 1 winners going longer in McKinzie and Thunder Snow. The good ones find a way regardless of the distance
Joe: Coal Front, Mitole, Thunder Snow.
Sean: Mitole, McKinzie, Coal Front.
Tom: McKinzie, Mitole, Thunder Snow.
John S.: Firenze Fire, McKinzie, Mitole.
John Cox: Mitole, McKinzie, Coal Front.
Ben: McKinzie, Firenze Fire, Mitole.
Manhattan (G1). $1 million, 4-year-olds and up, 1 1/4 miles. 5:36 p.m.
How about a re-run of the Grade 1 Old Forester Turf Classic from Derby Day? You’ve got it here with Bricks And Mortar, Qurbaan and Raging Bull, the first, second and fourth finishers. Throw in Arlington Million winner Robert Bruce, Olympico and Channel Maker and it’s very strong.
Joe: Channel Maker, Bricks And Mortar, Olympico.
Sean: Bricks And Mortar, Channel Maker, Olympico.
Tom: Bricks And Mortar, Channel Maker, Robert Bruce.
John S.: Bricks And Mortar, Robert Bruce, Qurbaan.
John Cox: Channel Maker, Bricks and Mortar, Olympico.
Ben: Robert Bruce, Bricks And Mortar, Olympico.
Belmont Stakes (G1). $1.5 million. 3-year-olds, 1 1/2 miles. 6:37 p.m.
The end of the road for the 2019 Triple Crown and the longest of the three American classics brings together a field of 10 led by War Of Will and Tacitus. They’re on the far outside and hold the class edge. Master Fencer ran well through the lane and late in the Kentucky Derby to finish 4 lengths behind disqualified winner Maximum Security and he’s the buzz horse on the grounds. The others? Well, if you like one you should get a price.
Joe: War Of Will, Tacitus, Intrepid Heart.
Sean: Tacitus, Spinoff, War Of Will.
Tom: War Of Will, Tacitus, Intrepid Heart.
John S.: Tacitus, Joevia, Sir Winston.
John Cox: Everfast, Sir Winston, Tacitus.
Ben: Tacitus, Sir Winston, Intrepid Heart.
Brooklyn Invitational (G2). $400,000, 4-year-olds and up, 1 1/2 miles. 8:00 p.m.
Don’t hit the exit after the Belmont, or even after the race between the feature and this one. Strange position on the card as the finale for one of America’s most historic races but we’ll stick it out. You’re To Blame ran on well late in the 10-furlong Pimlico Special and is a proven commodity at the 12-furlong trip. He meets stablemate Marconi, Rocketry, Campaign and Sonneteer, all proven distance specialists.
Joe: Marconi, Campaign, Rocketry.
Sean: Rocketry, Campaign, Marconi.
Tom: Marconi, Rocketry, You’re To Blame.
John S.:You're To Blame, Marconi, War Story.
John Cox: Campaign, Sonneteer, War Story.
Ben: Campaign, Marconi, You’re To Blame.