Day two of a steeplechase double header at Belmont Park showcases the open stakes horses with the $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap Thursday, and they’ve all got Winston C to beat.
The Irish-bred seized control of the division with back-to-back Grade 1 triumphs at Saratoga, and can take a commanding lead in the earnings race with another win Thursday. The Lonesome Glory is the first race of the day with a 3 p.m. post time and a field of nine. Trained by Jonathan Sheppard for Hudson River Farm, Winston C shoulders 160 pounds and concedes weight to the likes of 2017 jump champion Scorpiancer (158), multiple European winner Bedrock (152) and three-time stakes winners Moscato (148) and Surprising Soul (144).
It’s been quite a ride for the son of Rip Van Winkle, who started 2019 as a maiden over hurdles with English trainer Harry Fry. Winston C won at Wincanton in January, Sandown in February and Kelso in March. Fifth in a classy novice hurdle at Aintree in April, he was purchased for U.S. racing by Swyer and done nothing but climb. Third in the Nashville novice, he won the A.P. Smithwick in July and returned to trounce seven others in the New York Turf Writers in August. Tom Garner takes the return call at 7-5 on the morning line.
Second choice Scorpiancer won the 2016 Lonesome Glory, and was champion steeplechaser of 2017 with two Grade 1 wins. The Irish-bred missed 2018 but returned to win the Grade 1 Iroquois in May. Rested by trainer Jack Fisher for the summer, the 10-year-old looks for his seventh lifetime win and leads the field with $543,090 in earnings. Sean McDermott rides the son of Scorpion.
Like Scorpiancer, the English-bred Moscato races for Fisher and Bruton Street-US and rates a look off a late-running third in the Iroquois in May and a Grade 3 win in April. Two years ago, the gray son of Hernando won novice hurdle stakes at Saratoga and Belmont but missed 2018 with a tendon injury. Michael Mitchell gets back aboard at 7-2 on the morning line.
Moscato opened 2019 with a win in the Temple Gwathmey at Middleburg, but settled for third after getting stopped at the top of the stretch in the Iroquois. He made up ground late to just miss second, but could have won.
“I rode the rail, and sometimes you live and die by the rail,” said Mitchell of that trip. “Just unlucky. The gap got closed and it took too much out of him to change like that. He came on well, but there was too much to do. When you miss that bit of a jump against horses like that, it’s hard to catch them.”
Surprising Soul finished second by a length to Scorpiancer at level weights in the Iroquois and gets a big shift for the Belmont race. Bred by Chuck Fipke, the 7-year-old has won five of 15 over jumps including two of three starts last year. Trained by Ricky Hendriks for his mother Wendy, the son of Perfect Soul thrives on a lighter schedule and makes his first start since May.
“He wants time between his races,” said his trainer. “He doesn’t let you know that. He’ll be all fired up afterward, but his races take a lot out of him. I messed up a little bit (in 2017) when I ran him that much. I can’t believe I ran him so many times. He’s much better when you can space them out.”
Surprising Soul opened that 2017 schedule with three wins, then lost his next four. Ross Geraghty rides again at 8-1, and a repeat of the Iroquois effort would be enough to factor.
“I’m really happy with the weights and he’s doing great,” Hendriks said. “I almost ran him at Saratoga and had to talk myself out of it a couple times. He probably would have been second there, or I think he would have.”
Irv Naylor’s Bedrock makes his second start in the U.S. for trainer Leslie Young, who taps Irish jockey Rachael Blakemore (who won twice aboard the horse last fall with trainer Iain Jardine) for the 6-year-old Fastnet Rock gelding. Young will also be represented by Saratoga novice winner Redicean, who gets Jack Doyle and carries 148. The 5-year-old won the Jonathan Kiser at Saratoga after winning three times over hurdles in England.
Third in the Turf Writers, Belisarius is 20-1 on the morning line but was a nose form finishing second and is plenty capable on his best for trainer Kate Dalton. Veterans All The Way Jose and Hinterland complete the field.
And the picks…Everybody had Snap Decision yesterday.
Joe: Moscato, Winston C, Surprising Soul.
Sean: Redicean, Winston C, Moscato.
Tom: Moscato, Winston C, Scorpiancer.