ELMONT, N.Y. – A pair of top contenders for internationally acclaimed trainer Aidan O’Brien arrived at Belmont Park on Wednesday in Stone Age and Concert Hall for the 10-furlong first legs of the lucrative Caesars Turf Triple series.
Stone Age, bred and co-owned by Peter Brant with Coolmore partners Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Westerberg, will line up in the 13-horse Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational for sophomores; while Westerberg, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith’s Concert Hall takes on nine other rivals in the Grade 1, $700,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational for 3-year-old fillies.
Stone Age was a prominent winner of the Group 3 Derby Trial in May at Leopardstown over 10 furlongs before finishing sixth last out in the 12-furlong Group 1 Epsom Derby on June 4.
O’Brien said he was impressed by the performance of Stone Age in the Derby Trial.
“He showed plenty of pace that day. He traveled very strongly and galloped through the line very well. There’s a chance that going back to 10 furlongs might suit him better,” O’Brien said. “We thought he would have no problem with the mile and a half [last out], but there might be a chance that it was too far for him. He seems to have come out of the Derby well.”
The Galileo colt ran a strong second as a maiden in the Group 1 Criterium International in October at Saint-Cloud before graduating in March over 10 furlongs at Navan in his seasonal debut.
O’Brien said Stone Age is a well-built colt and should have the tactical ability to make a trip when leaving the outside post under returning rider Ryan Moore.
“He’s a good moving horse and a good, strong traveler,” O’Brien said. “He’s very happy to be forward and to take the lead. He’s drawn wide, but he’s very uncomplicated, we think.”
O’Brien and Moore teamed up last year to sweep both the Belmont Derby and Belmont Oaks with Bolshoi Ballet and Santa Barbara, respectively. He also captured the 2016 renewal of the Belmont Derby with Deauville in rein to Jamie Spencer.
O’Brien said the Belmont Derby provided a unique opportunity for Stone Age to race against fellow sophomores rather than take on older company in the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse won last weekend at Sandown by Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club-winner Vadeni over multiple Group 1-winning older horse Mishriff.
“We had the choice of going here [to New York] or going to the Eclipse and we decided to come to your race, which is a race we thought would suit him well,” O’Brien said. “Your race suits perfectly to give him another chance against his own age and then we can step up again against older horses after if we want.”
O’Brien will seek his third Belmont Oaks victory when sending out Group 1-placed Concert Hall, who enters off two fourth-place finishes at Group 1 level in the 12-furlong Epsom Oaks on June 3 and most recently when elevated from fifth in the 10-furlong Pretty Polly on June 26 at The Curragh.
O’Brien said Concert Hall ran deceptively well last out in a roughly run race won by La Petite Coco.
“She didn’t have much luck inside the last couple of furlongs,” O’Brien said. “She got a bad enough bump and squeeze and had to stop and go back to last and come around them again. She was staying on well at the line.”
As a 2-year-old, Concert Hall won The Curragh’s Group 3 Weld Park going seven furlongs and in April captured the listed Salsabil over 10 furlongs at Navan. She picked up Group 1 blacktype with a third-place finish in the one-mile Irish 1000 Guineas in May at The Curragh.
“She’s straightforward,” O’Brien said. “She ran a great race in the Oaks at a mile and a half. She won her Oaks trial over a mile and a quarter. She’s a Group 3-winner over seven furlongs. So, she’s versatile and I think somewhere around a mile and a quarter might be her best trip.”
O’Brien said Concert Hall, a bay daughter of European classic winners Dubawi and Was, should appreciate the American style of racing with firm ground expected when she exits the outermost post 10 under Moore.
“She’s a good mover. She’s a compact filly and has a genuine way of galloping with her head out and down,” O’Brien said.
The Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational will again launch the male division of the Turf Triple series that encompasses the Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational at 1 3/16-miles on August 6 and the Grade 3, $1 million Caesars Jockey Club Derby Invitational at 12 furlongs during the Belmont fall meet.
The Belmont Oaks Invitational commences the female division of the Turf Triple series, which will be followed by the Grade 3, $700,000 Saratoga Oaks at 1 3/16-miles on August 7 and conclude with the Grade 3, $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks at 11 furlongs during the fall.
NYRA Press Office