Baltas Contemplating Belmont Derby Invitational

September 23, 2020

Calvin Nguyen and Joey Tran’s graded-stakes placed Taishan is named on a list of 14 horses invited to the Grade 1, $250,000 Belmont Derby Invitational; a 10-furlong turf test for sophomores on October 3 offering a “Win and You’re In” berth in the Breeder’s Cup Turf on November 7 at Keeneland.

Trained by Richard Baltas, the Twirling Candy bay finished a rallying second last out in his turf debut on September 5 in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs.

“It’s looking a little tough, but we’re thinking about it,” said Baltas. “I’m pretty happy with how he ran the other day at Churchill.”

He said the Grade 2, $150,000 Hill Prince, a one-mile turf test for sophomores, might also come under consideration. Baltas won the Hill Prince last year with Neptune’s Storm.

“The Twirling Candys like the turf,” said Baltas. “We tried him on the dirt and did the best we could. He won an allowance race at Oaklawn and tried the Arkansas Derby on short rest which didn’t work.”

Bred in Kentucky by Nursery Place and Donaldson and Broadbent, Taishan is out of the multiple stakes-winning Woodbine Racetrack-based mare Grace Phil who won a thrilling renewal of the 2011 South Ocean on the synthetic as a 2-year-old and the Passing Mood on turf a year later.

Taishan made his first eight starts on dirt, graduating at second asking in a one-mile maiden special weight at Santa Anita. He opened his sophomore campaign with a fourth in the Grade 3 Sham at Santa Anita and a fifth in the Grade 3 Southwest at Oaklawn Park which was followed by a third in the Oaklawn Stakes.

After off-the-board efforts in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and Grade 3 Indiana Derby, Taishan overcame a troubled start to launch a strong stretch kick in the American Turf.

Ciaglia Racing, Highland Yard, River Oak Farm and Domenic Savides’ Venetian Harbor, second last out in the Grade 1 Longines Test on August 8 at Saratoga, worked a bullet five-eighths in 58.60 Tuesday at the San Luis Rey Training Center.

“She’s doing fantastic. She did that easy, just sat behind a horse and ran by her,” said Baltas. “We’re not sure where we’ll go with her next.”

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