The European Presence in Saturday's $700K Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (G1) is unignorable, to say the least. A field of eight will line up to run 1 mile and 1/4 in Belmont's Inner Turf course. Three of the eight had primarily raced in Europe, and the stand-out Euro is an Aiden O'Brien trainee, SANTA BARBARA, who is pegged as our even-money favorite.
Let's take a look at the starting field:
The $700K Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (G1) — 1 mile 1/4 , Turf, Three-year-old Fillies, Post Time is 4:06 PM ET.
CON LIMA: 5-1
HIGHER TRUTH: 12-1
SPANISH LOVEAFFAIR: 12-1
SANTA BARBARA: 1-1
PLUM ALI: 7-2
GAM'S MISSION: 8-1
Even-money favorite SANTA BARBARA will be ridden by regular rider Ryan Moore. This is a talented filly by CAMELOT, who is making her U.S. debut for Aiden O'Brien. She was last seen finishing second by a narrow neck to THUNDERING NIGHTS in the Pretty Polly Stakes (G1), which was over this classic, one mile and one-quarter distance. Recall that THUNDERING NIGHTS is the talented filly who almost caught and defeated MEAN MARY in the New York Stakes (G2) but missed by a nose.
PLUM ALI for trainer Christophe Clement could make it very interesting with regular rider Joel Rosario onboard. She has not won since her two-year-old season, but is gradually improving her figures and rising up to her top level form. Although she lost to CON LIMA last time out, she did endure a wide trip. Her late speed figures make her competitive here.
CON LIMA for trainer Todd Pletcher aims for a third win in a row. Flavien Prat won aboard this filly last time out in the Wonder Again Stakes and he flies from California to ride her again today.
SPANISH LOVEAFFAIR for trainer Mark Casse beat the "now" horse, CON LIMA (above), three races back in the Herecomesthebridestakes (G3), impressively. But SPANISH LOVEAFFAIR has suffered two consecutive losses since then, and did not deliver as the odds-on favorite last time out. Hopefully she does well on her first start at Belmont Park.
CIRONA is one of the other European Invaders for trainer Ferland Christophe. She finished 10th last time out in the Prrix de Diane Longines (G1), but prior to that, had a string of solid efforts. Two races back, she finished second in a Grade 1 by a head, and it was over this 1 mile 1/4 distance. Three races back, she won a Grade 1 by a head, going a mile. If we continue back in time, we see she never finishes worse than second in her three earlier races. At 12-1, and crossing out her puzzling 10th place finish last time out, CIRONA is a live longshot!
HIGHER TRUTH for trainer Chad Brown is 2-for-2 at Belmont Park. The daughter of Galileo has strung together two consecutive wins, but will be stepping way up in class. To her credit, both of those wins were over the one mile and one-quarter distance. Jockey Jose Ortiz is back for the task.
GAM'S MISSION for trainer Cherie DeVaux breaks from post position eight, and has regular rider Adam Beschizza back onboard. Here's an interesting player going for her fourth consecutive win. Yes she's stepping up in class, but has already tousled and towered over a talented competitor in SPANISH LOVE AFFAIR, beating her last time out in the Regret Stakes (G3).
Lastly, we have NAZUNA, the third Euro horse for trainer Roger Varian. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez gets the call. This filly finished second last time out in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes (G3), which was her comeback race off a seven-month layoff. We can expect her to be much sharper this time around. Note that the Grade 3 race she exits was rated tougher than any race PLUM ALI, SPANISH LOVE AFFAIR, HIGHER TRUTH, CON LIMA, and GAM'S MISSION have entered—which is significant considering the fact NAZUNA is pegged 20-1 on the morning-line.