Time to hear from our country's Turf stars! We've got great stakes action coming up at Belmont Park this weekend, highlighted by Sunday's 36th running of the Poker Stakes (G3) — a race where Chad Brown holds a strong hand and doesn't need to bluff!
All three weekend stakes races will be contested over the grass, ranging from a sprint to a mile distance. Let's preview what's to come:
The $150K New York Stallion Cupecoy's Joy (R6) — 7 furlongs, Turf, Fillies, Three-years-old. Post Time is 3:34 PM ET.
AVA'S GRACE is a formidable presence in this contest; the daughter of the late LAOBAN comes in off a second-place finish in the Fantasy Stakes (G3) two months ago at Oaklawn Park. She earned a new top speed figure, even while grudgingly giving way to the talented PAULINE'S PEARL and finishing second. This time, she shortens in distance and switches to the turf for this assignment. Jockey David Cohen will be in the irons.
SHAKER SHACK breaks from the three hole for trainer Patrick Reynolds with Jose Ortiz aboard. The daughter of BUSTIN STONES captured the New York Stallion Park Avenue Stakes at Aqueduct last time out. She showed early zip and battled for the lead before ultimately seizing it and shaking clear for the win. She's been training consistently at Belmont Park for this race, with a recent workout of 5F in 1:02.50 "Breezing", as the second fastest of 3 works at that distance.
SPORT MODEL from the fourth slot is an interesting player for trainer Christoph Clement. The daughter of FREUD broke her maiden last time out in a six furong $45K turf race at Belmont Park. She was angled three-wide into the stretch before charging forward to win by three lengths. She was 11-1 that day and defeated the $1.50 favorite who finished second. Jockey Luis Saez gets the call.
Rounding out the field are: SHOW ME THE HONEY, PROPER GRAMMAR, FUNWHILEITLASTED, BIG TIME LADY, ADRIATIC ROSE, SHESADIRTYDANCER, LOTOFHONEY, and BEACH BANKER.
The $150K New York Stallion Spectacular Bid (Race 9) — 7 furlongs, Turf, Three-year olds, Post Time is 5:12 PM ET.
Large field of 15 potential runners. DREAMER'S DISEASE is an interesting competitor breaking from the six hole for trainer Robertino Diodoro. The son of the late LAOBAN earned a new top speed figure last time out in the Texas Derby despite finishing fifth. He led every step of the way before weakening the last eighth of a mile. Well, he'll shorten distance for this assignment, and switch back to the grass, where he broke his maiden to begin with. Regular rider David Cohen is back on board.
Have a look at THUNDERBIRD CAFE from the three hole for trainer Linda Rice. She comes off a smart win at six furlongs over this track, taking that field gate to wire despite being pressured early. The daughter of FREUD has 21.95 quarter-mile speed to contend with, plus Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez aboard to nurse it.
STEP DANCER carries the top weight of 122lbs, breaking from the 13th slot for trainer Barclay Tagg. Experience is in this daughter of WAR DANCER's arsenal, having finished a respectable third in the Pilgrim Stakes (G2) last October at the Belmont. She's evolving her talent and comes off a race that earned her a new top speed figure. Dylan Davis gets the call.
The Poker Stakes (G3) — 1 mile, Turf, Four-year-olds and upward. (Probable field per HorseRacingNation)
RAGING BULL is a considerable force in this race for trainer Chad Brown. He was last seen winning the Maker's Mark Mile Stakes (G1) at Keeneland, which was his first start of the year. He rallied from off the pace to beat a talented bunch that included HIT THE ROAD, GET SMOKIN, SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN. In preparation for this race, he breezed 5F in the Inner turf of Belmont Park in 1:01.74, as the sixth fastest of 10 works at that distance.
GET SMOKIN for trainer Thomas M. Bush gets his chance to exact revenge on the foe (above) who defeated him. The son of GET STORMY was an impressive winner last time out in the Seek Again Stakes at Belmont Park, shrugging off all late challenges and going on to score wire-to-wire. He's as sharp as a tack — firing a 5F bullet work on the Belmont Inner turf, going 1:00.60 as the fastest of 10 workouts at that distance.
Can FLAVIUS for trainer Chad Brown turn the tables on GET SMOKIN? He was defeated last time as the $1.85-to-win favorite, although let's acknowledge GET SMOKIN was permitted an easy lead from the git-go that day. Props to FLAVIUS for still threatening as he did in the stretch, and unleashing a decent kick nevertheless. The son of WAR FRONT will be making his third start off a layoff, and use his Grade 2 experience to his advantage against this competitive group.
Rounding out the probables are: OLEKSANDRA, SANCTUARY CITY, PENALTY, and TELL YOUR DADDY.
Source: Equibase, Horse Racing Nation