Six stakes, five Grade 1s, worth $3.4 million highlight Saturday's Super Saturday card at Belmont Park. The stakes will be run as races five through 10. Post time is 1:05 p.m. Many of the contenders ran this summer in Saratoga, including 3-year-old classic winners Orb and Palace Malice, Whitney winner Cross Traffic, two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Flat Out, and 2012 Travers and this year's Woodward star Alpha. I'm going with Cross Traffic, whom I think is that good.
The most anticipated head-to-head matchup pits two-time Eclipse-award winning mare Royal Delta, coming off a sensational win in the Personal Ensign at the Spa, vs. leading 3-year-old filly Princess of Sylmar, who captured two Grade 1s in Saratoga, the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama. Handicappers are giving Royal Delta, the 3-5 morning line favorite, the edge. Her running style would seem to give Royal Delta a tactical advantage based on the speed-favoring nature of the Belmont strip so far this fall, but the Princess has the heart to post a 'royal' upset.
There are plenty of other compelling story lines. A couple of personal favorites:
In the Kelso (1 mile on the dirt). Jackson Bend, who was pummeled and nearly killed in a training accident two years ago, made a dramatic and unexpected crowd-pleasing comeback in the Forego on August 31, finishing a very close second. The 6-year-old, who has won 9 of his 32 career starts, takes on Todd Pletcher's Graydar, a winner of 4 of 5 lifetime including the Grade 1 Donn last winter. Graydar, a striking gray son of Unbridled's Song, has been on the shelf since winning the New Orleans Handicap on March 30.
In the Vosburgh (6 furlongs, dirt). Drawing Away Stable's Strapping Groom, who nipped Jackson Bend in the Forego, squares off against Vanderbilt winner Justin Phillip, and The Lumber Guy, last year's Vosburgh winner. TLG was off for six months after a disastrous two-race experiment in California, and tuned up with an ok second at Saratoga. Strapping Groom's unlikely win smacked of divine intervention, as it took place a day after Drawing Away's beloved win machine, Saginaw, was put down after suffering catastrophic injuries in an optional allowance race.
Here are photos of many of Saturday's stakes contenders:
$1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup, 1 1/4 miles
Ron The Greek
$400,000 Beldame Stakes, 1 1/8 miles fillies and mares
And Why Not
Princess of Sylmar
$400,000 Kelso, 1 mile
$600,000 Turf Classic, 1 1/2 miles Turf
Big Blue Kitten
$400,000 Vosburgh Stakes, 6 furlongs
The Lumber Guy
$600,000 Flower Bowl, 1 1/4 miles Turf fillies/mares