Belmont Park Notes

May 6, 2021

Channel Cat hoping to pounce to a Grade 1 score in Saturday’s Man o’ War; Lexitonian possible for G1 Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap

Pacific Gale hopes third times the charm in G3 Vagrancy

Maracuja could target G1 races at the Spa; Musical Heart possible for G2 Brooklyn

G1 Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap ‘in play’ for Dr Post

Sadler’s Joy skips G1 Man o’ War in favor of two-mile G2 Belmont Gold Cup

Belmont Park Week 4 stakes probables

ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Jack Sisterson will saddle Calumet Farm homebred Channel Cat in search of a first Grade 1 score in Saturday’s $700,000 Man o’ War, an 11-furlong inner turf test for older horses at Belmont Park.

The 6-year-old English Channel horse made the grade under the care of newly minted Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher in the 2019 Grade 2 Bowling Green at Saratoga Race Course. The victory came as part of a profitable season in which the chestnut finished third in both the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park and the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at the Spa.

Transferred to Sisterson’s care last year, Channel Cat finished a closing fifth in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale in December at Gulfstream Park and followed with an even fifth in the Grade 3 William L. McKnight traveling 1 1/2-miles at the same oval in January.

Last out, Channel Cat was a prominent second in the 12-furlong Grade 2 Elkhorn on April 17 on the Keeneland turf.

Sisterson said a revised training schedule for Channel Cat heading into the Elkhorn made a world of difference.

“We were disappointed with his effort in the McKnight in Florida. Usually, second off the layoff in our barn is a big step forward and not a regression,” said Sisterson. “I think he was breezing too fast in the mornings leading up to the McKnight, so we backed off on him and gave him two weeks off after that race to focus on the Elkhorn at Keeneland. We slowed his works right down and he thrived off that.

“His coat started to change and he put on weight,” added Sisterson. “He ran a great second in the Elkhorn and Corey Lanerie was really happy with him. He came out of that race and put on weight and looked better coming out of it than he did going into it.”

To win the Grade 1 event, Channel Cat will have to topple a field that includes the North American debut of Sovereign, a gate-to-wire winner of the 2019 Group 1 Irish Derby, and last year’s Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational-winner Gufo.

Sisterson said he will leave race tactics in the capable hands of Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who will guide Channel Cat from post 5.

“The good thing with Channel Cat is that he can be forwardly placed or save ground and relax and come from off the pace,” said Sisterson. “A lot of people would agree that a European horse with speed is a lot different from an American horse with speed, so It will be interesting to see what Irad Ortiz, Jr. does with Sovereign, who has shown speed in Europe.”

Sisterson is hoping to saddle a trio of horses Saturday at Belmont, including Calumet Farm’s Anejo, a first time starter by Freud out of the Thunder Gulch mare Tiffany Twisted.

Anejo, bred in the Empire State by SF Bloodstock, is listed as the first also-eligible entrant in a six-furlong turf sprint for state-bred maidens 3-years-old and up in Race 5. Luis Saez will have the call should Anejo draw into the field.

“He was such a big 2-year-old that we backed off on him and let him grow into his frame,” said Sisterson. “He’s big, but he shows a lot of speed as well. He had been working forwardly on the dirt and we don’t usually win first time out, but he showed enough foundation to get him going on Saturday if he gets in.”

The New York-bred sophomore colt, purchased for $150,000 at the 2019 Saratoga Preferred New York-bred Yearling Sale, is a half-sibling to multiple stakes winner Twisted Tom.

Sisterson will also be represented by Calumet Farm homebred Scarabea in Race 11, a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight on the Widener turf for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up. By American Pharoah, Scarabea is out of the multiple graded stakes winning Galileo mare Starstruck.

The well-bred chestnut, a half-sister to stakes winner Turf War, will make her fourth career start out of a closing fourth in a nine-furlong turf event at Keeneland on April 7.

“It may not be her best distance on Saturday. I think she’s better at a mile and an eighth, but they might go a touch quicker up front at the shorter distance Saturday which would help her out,” said Sisterson.

Sisterson said a good effort on Saturday could propel Scarabea to the Grade 3,$200,000 Wonder Again, a nine-furlong turf test for sophomore fillies on June 3 at Belmont.

“She’ll stay all day long and whether she breaks her maiden or not on Saturday, we’ll see. If she does, we might try the Wonder Again,” said Sisterson. “If she doesn’t, we’ll be patient with her and look to break her maiden. She’s definitely a filly that as she gets older and the races stretch out a bit, she could be a force in those longer distance turf races.”

Jose Lezcano is named to ride from post 3 in a field of 10.

Sisterson said Calumet Farm homebred Lexitonian is possible for the Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day on June 5, following a strong second in the Grade 1 Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day when defeated a head by Flagstaff.

“On his day, he can compete with the best of them. He’s a fighter and he puts his heart on the line,” said Sisterson.

Lexitonian entered the Churchill Downs from an even fourth in his seasonal debut in an optional-claiming sprint at Gulfstream Park in March.

“The goal was always the Churchill Downs and he had time between starts and we were able to work him three times,” said Sisterson. “We knew second off the layoff is good with him. This was the first time since we’ve had him that he didn’t win second time off the layoff for us, so we thought it would be a much improved performance, which it was.”

The 5-year-old Speightstown chestnut boasts a record of 17-4-2-2 with purse earnings of $465,182. Lexitonian made the grade in the 2019 Grade 3 Chick Lang at Pimlico Race Course.

Sisterson said the Metropolitan Handicap and the Grade 1, $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up on July 31 at the Spa, are potential targets.

“Timing wise, the Met Mile would be perfect,” said Sisterson. “If he trains forwardly we would consider it. There’s also the Aristides [May 29] at Churchill as a prep for the Vanderbilt at Saratoga for him. I just want to space his races accordingly, so he can get the Grade 1 because I think he deserves it.”

Sisterson said True Timber, who was last seen winning the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap at the Big A in December under Kendrick Carmouche, is enjoying some downtime.

“True Timber has been turned out at my barn here at Keeneland since we decided to give him a break,” said Sisterson. “He’s a bright eyed, happy horse. Hopefully, we can get him back going this month and back to Aqueduct at the end of the year to defend his Cigar Mile.”

The 7-year-old Mineshaft bay sports a record of 29-5-5-9 with purse earnings in excess of $1.2 million.

Bon Raison, who finished sixth last out in the Cigar Mile, is set to return to training next week. The 6-year-old son of Raison d’Etat, a Kentucky homebred, has a career ledger of 45-11-4-7 with purse earnings of $682,034.

“Bon Raison will be back on the work tab in a week or two and will come to Saratoga during the summer with us,” said Sisterson.

Pacific Gale hopes third times the charm in G3 Vagrancy

Holly Hill Stable’s Pacific Gale will make her third attempt to win the Grade 3, $150,000 Vagrancy on Saturday for trainer John Kimmel. 

The 6-year-old Flat Out mare finished second in the 2019 renewal of the 6 1/2-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares, and was third last year in a race won by returning rival Victim of Love.

Pacific Gale enters Saturday’s test in career form having won the Grade 2 Inside Information and Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie at Gulfstream Park to launch her 2021 campaign.

Kimmel said wintering at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida suited Pacific Gale.

“She enjoyed her time at Palm Meadows. She was doing her daily training on the jog path and not the main track,” said Kimmel. “When I brought her out to the main track and started breezing her, she was impressing me because not only was she doing it in a good time, but she was galloping all the way out to the half-mile pole.”

Kimmel said he decided to keep Pacific Gale in Florida for her final breeze, a five-eighths effort in 1:02.45 on April 30 on the Palm Meadows dirt.

“She liked it so much, I left her there up to her last breeze and we’ll be running her off the same program,” said Kimmel. “Hopefully, she’ll come back and run another “A” type race.”

Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who has the call from post 6 on Saturday, was aboard Pacific Gale for the Inside Information score.

“Johnny said that she’s always run well for him and that he likes to keep her behind horses and then when you do put her in the clear, she seems to jump out of there,” said Kimmel. “She’s coming into the race in good form and hopefully she can keep the streak going.”

On Saturday, Kimmel will also saddle New York-bred Fractorzation, a 4-year-old daughter of The Factor out of the stakes winning Smoke Glacken mare Lapsang. Jose Ortiz has the call from post 6 for Fractorzation’s seasonal debut in a six-furlong state-bred turf allowance.

A state-bred maiden winner at fifth asking in July on the Belmont turf, Fractorzation completed her sophomore season with a third in a state-bred allowance turf sprint in September.

“I’ve always thought she was a nice filly,” said Kimmel. “She had some issues that I associated with her not being as comfortable out there as she normally is, so we cleaned up her ankles and gave her some time off with an eye to the turf season. She’s been breezing very well at Palm Meadows and I think she’s ready to go. She’s bigger and stronger and looks to be in good form.”

Flanagan Racing’s The Reds, a sophomore son of Tonalist, was elevated to victory in the nine-furlong Federico Tesio following the disqualification of Excellorator last out on April 24 at Pimlico Race Course.

“He came with a pretty solid run and the horse on his inside came out into him. I thought we were going to run by him and then he didn’t get by,” said Kimmel. “I was mad we didn’t win and then the inquiry sign went up and I saw the head on and thought we had a good chance to get put up.”

Kimmel said the Tonalist chestnut, who was fifth in the Grade 3 Gotham at the Big A in March, is under consideration for either the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes at 12 furlongs on dirt on June 5 or the Grade 2, $200,000 Pennine Ridge, a nine-furlong turf test for sophomore on May 29.

“I think he’s going to improve with added distance and we’re trying to come up with a plan for him. We’ve been contemplating the Pennine Ridge because I think he’d enjoy the turf,” said Kimmel. “The Belmont is certainly on the radar, too. If the mile and a half looks like it will be too deep, we may try the Pennine Ridge.”

Chester and Mary Broman’s New York-homebred Mr. Buff is in line to make his fourth appearance in the $200,000 Commentator, a one-turn mile for state-breds on May 31 at Belmont.

Last out, Mr. Buff earned a 100 Beyer in a third-place effort under Edgard Zayas in the one-turn mile Grade 3 Westchester on May 1 on Big Sandy.

“He ran a good number, but to me he looked so comfortable down the backside I thought the rider could have gone on and got him off his inside lead turning for home,” said Kimmel. “When he gets on the inside lead, he’ll give you a whole other gear. Down the backside, as easy as he was going, I thought he was going to win easy.”

Mr. Buff has contested the last three renewals of the Commentator finishing eighth [2018], third [2019, and second a year ago. The 7-year-old Friend Or Foe gelding, who owns a record of 45-17-8-5, boasts purse earnings in excess of $1.3 million.

Maracuja could target G1 races at the Spa; Musical Heart possible for G2 Brooklyn

Trainer Rob Atras enjoyed a productive Friday when saddling Beach Haven Thoroughbreds’ Maracuja to a closing seventh in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and sending out Michael Dubb and Michael Caruso’s Musical Heart to a front-running score in the Flat Out at Belmont.

A maiden winner at third asking sprinting 6 1/2-furlongs in February at Aqueduct Racetrack, Maracuja earned a berth in the Kentucky Oaks by closing to finish second to Search Results in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Gazelle on April 3 at the Big A.

With regular pilot Kendrick Carmouche up in the nine-furlong Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, Maracuja saved ground from post 2 and rallied up the rail from 11th position to finish seventh.

“We were shuffled back a little further than we wanted, but she did came running at the end and put in a decent effort,” said Atras. “She came back in real good shape.

“A little sharper break would have helped,” added Atras. “Kendrick said she wasn’t real comfortable at the start and was taking a lot of dirt. She didn’t get into running mode until halfway down the backside and then she started picking off horses. I thought she finished up well. there’s a lot of positives to it.”

Atras said he’d like to find a race at Belmont for Maracuja to use as a springboard to possible Grade 1 starts at Saratoga, including the nine-furlong $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 24 and the $600,000 Alabama at 10 furlongs on August 21.

“I don’t have any firm plans, yet,” said Atras. “The races at Saratoga in the summer are two we’d like to get to – the CCA Oaks and the Alabama – if she’s good enough and in good form. We’d like to find a spot before that though.”

The next logical spot for Maracuja on the Belmont stakes calendar is the Grade 1, $500,000 Acorn at one-mile on June 5 during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. Another consideration would be the Grade 2, $250,000 Mother Goose at 1 1/16-miles on June 26.

“I’ve spoke to the owners about the Acorn and she’ll be nominated,” said Atras. “We’ll see how she trains and whether or not we get to it. There’s a number of possible spots.”

Atras settled in the Churchill Downs grandstand to watch the Flat Out on his mobile phone with his wife, Brittney, and exercise rider Cristian Gaete, as Musical Heart won the 11-furlong event gate to wire under Trevor McCarthy.

The 6-year-old Maclean’s Music gelding saw his 5 1/2-length advantage at the head of the stretch reduced to three-quarters of a length by the late run of the Todd Pletcher-trained Ajaaweed.

“The Pletcher horse really came running, so we were all holding our breath to the wire,” said Atras.

Musical Heart garnered a career-best 100 Beyer in victory, finally breaking through for Atras after hitting the board in four prior starts at the Big A off the claim for $62,500 in November.

The long-running chestnut ran second in the Queens County at first asking for new connections in December, before finishing third behind Mr. Buff in the Jazil and Stymie. He entered the Flat Out from a strong second in the 11-furlong Stud Muffin on New York Claiming Championship Day on March 27.

“That’s the race we were looking for,” said Atras. “It didn’t work out prior when we hooked Mr. Buff a couple times and I was starting to question how far this horse would go and what his preferred distance was.

“But after he dug in gamely in the starter stakes, I thought it seemed like he could stay,” continued Atras. “I was really looking forward to running him in that race and I thought Trevor rode a perfect race.”

Atras said the 12-furlong Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn on Belmont Stakes Day on June 5 is a possible next spot.

“The Brooklyn seems logical,” said Atras. “We’ll see how he comes out of it and point there. It’s going to be a lot tougher being a graded race.”

G1 Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap ‘in play’ for Dr Post.

Following a triumphant return to action in the Grade 3 Westchester on May 1 at Belmont Park, Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said he has the Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap under consideration for Dr Post.

Owned by St. Elias Stable, the dark bay 4-year-old made his first start in eight months in the one-turn mile at Belmont Park with his last start taking place in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on September 5 at Saratoga, where he finished fourth to Mystic Guide as the beaten favorite.

In the Westchester, Dr Post tracked the pace, came under some coaxing around the seven-sixteenths, took slight command in mid-stretch and ran home a 1 ½-length winner.

“He ran very well going a mile so that would be the next logical target,” Pletcher said. “I think he just needed a bit of a freshening. He didn’t need quite as much time off as we gave him, but the idea was to be able to have a fresh horse for the summer and fall. It appears that he’s come out of his race well so far.”

Pletcher won the 2014 Met Mile with 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, as well as with Quality Road, the sire of Dr Post, in 2010.

Following a maiden triumph last March at Gulfstream Park, Dr Post made his stakes debut a winning one in the Unbridled the following month at the South Florida oval.

Bred in Kentucky by Cloyce C. Clark, Dr Post is out of the graded stakes winning Hennessy broodmare Mary Delaney. He was purchased for $400,000 from the Hunter Valley Farm consignment at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Sadler’s Joy skips G1 Man o’ War in favor of two-mile G2 Belmont Gold Cup

Heavy rain near the Elmont area over the last week has prompted trainer Tom Albertrani to skip Saturday’s Grade 1 $700,000 Man o’ War with Sadler’s Joy and instead target the Grade 2, $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup on Friday, June 4.

The 8-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy was listed as a probable for the 1 3/8-mile Man o’ War to be contested over the inner turf course. But Sadler’s Joy will now target the marathon two-mile Belmont Gold Cup on the day before the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.

“He’s been doing really good,” Albertrani said. “We were thinking about the Man o’ War, but with all the rain we’ve seen in the last few days, we’ve already tested him of softer grass in the past and we know he doesn’t like it. So, we decided to skip this one and maybe we’ll go for the two-mile race.”

Sadler’s Joy, owned and bred by Woodslane Farm, has produced an uncanny knack to be a factor at the end of high-level races but has fallen just short of earning black type recently, finishing a competitive fourth in three consecutive starts.

Sadler’s Joy, 7-4-11 in 36 career starts, ended his 2020 with a fourth-place effort in the Grade 3 Red Smith and started the current year with similar finishes in consecutive 1 1/2-mile contests, starting with the Grade 3 W.L. McKnight in January at Gulfstream and following last out at the same distance and track in the Grade 2 Pan American on March 27.

In August, Sadler’s Joy crossed the wire first in the Grade 2 Bowling Green at Saratoga Race Course before being disqualified and placed fourth for interference. Consequently, the accomplished Kentucky bred, who has amassed more than $2.6 million in career earnings, has not won in 10 starts but has finished third on four occasions and fourth in his last five, dating to his last victory in the 2019 finale in the Grade 3 Red Smith at the Big A.

“He’s been very consistent and at 8-years-old he he’s still showing us he has that desire to run well,” Albertrani said. “He’s been a little unlucky. He finally won a race and was disqualified at Saratoga. But he’s an old warrior.”

Albertrani will still be represented in this weekend’s stakes by a horse who is on the other end of the experience spectrum compared to his half-brother in Sadler’s Joy, as Wolfie’s Dynaghost will compete in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3, $200,000 Peter Pan for sophomores in the traditional local prep for the Belmont Stakes.

Wolfie’s Dynaghost, also owned and bred by Woodslane Farm, won his debut in November going seven furlongs at Aqueduct. After a six-month layoff, the Ghostzapper colt will now make his return after training in the winter at Palm Meadows in Florida.

“We’re pretty excited getting him back. He showed so much promise first time he ran and in his works prior to that, he showed quite a bit of promise,” Albertrani said. “Being a half to Sadler’s Joy, we’re just hoping to continue training him and running him on the dirt.”

Wolfie’s Dynaghost drew post 4 in the six-horse Peter Pan field. Jose Ortiz will ride.

Albertrani said he’s been pleased with his charge’s improvement.

“He seems like he’s a little more mature,” Albertrani said. “The first time he ran, I thought he’d be a little green, but he certainly showed he had so much talent. He worked his way through it and ran pretty impressive.”

Belmont Park Week 4 stakes probables

Saturday, May 15, 2021

$100K Soaring Softly

Probable: Bye Bye (Christophe Clement), Candace O (Graham Motion), Hit the Woah (Clement), Invincible Gal (Motion), No Ordinary Time (Shug McGaughey), Star Devine (Jorge Abreu), Tobys Heart (Brian Lynch)

Possible: Sleek Lynx (Mark Casse)

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