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Jun 14, 2013

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD BELMONT STAKES 2013

By: JOE GIRARDI


               Another year goes by and Affirmed’s Triple Crown in 1978 seems so far away. After this year’s derby when ORB scored a very easy victory there were many that thought the Triple Crown was going to be completed and the Belmont Stakes would be the least of the obstacles. Well as we all know now, ORB lost the Preakness as the 3-5 favorite so there would be no chance at a Triple Crown. The bettors were the beneficiary of this as there was a large field of 14 horses that went postward.

               As the gates broke, FRAC DADDY, whose trainer Ken McPeek said he was going to go to the lead was sent hard from the inside under jockey Alan Garcia while being challenged by FREEDOM CHILD and OXBOW. As they moved into the first turn those three continued to battle around the clubhouse turn with PALACE MALICE racing wide in fourth with the favorite ORB racing well back in 13th. As they moved into the backstretch FRAC DADDY began to tire and relinquished the lead to FREEDOM CHILD with the Preakness winner OXBOW moving up to challenge that runner with PALACE MALICE moving well in third. As they moved towards the far turn the fractions were hot, 23, 46:3, 1:10:4. OXBOW and PALACE MALICE started to get away from the field on the far turn with REVOLUTIONARY moving into third while ORB moved into fourth on the turn.

               As they entered the lane PALACE MALICE and jockey Mike Smith had taken over the lead and began to draw away from OXBOW and jockey Gary Stevens with ORB gaining some ground in third. As they continued to the wire PALACE MALICE went on to win by three lengths over OXBOW who held on for second easily over ORB he looked very tired in the lane and checked in third over INCOGNITO who raced evenly to finish fourth at 18-1, while REVOLUTIONARY tired some to finish fifth. The final time of the race was a slow 2:30:3, the final quarter mile in over 27 seconds.

               The Belmont win was only the second win in the career of PALACE MALICE who now ran his record to 2 wins from 8 tries with just under $900,000 in earnings. This Todd Pletcher trainee will take a brief break and point to some of the top three year old races this summer like the Travers at Saratoga. OXBOW, who danced all the dances throughout the Triple Crown for D. Wayne Lukas ran very well to hold on for second, that along with his win in the Preakness has him set up for a run at three year old champion if he can put together a solid summer. ORB who checked in third looked like a tired horse at the end of the race and will also be pointed to the summer stakes for three year olds.

               There were four other graded stakes races on Belmont day, two Grade I’s and two Grade II’s. The Grade II True North for three year olds and upward run over six furlongs. There was a field of six that went postward with an entry. The Zayat owned entry of JUSTIN PHILLIP and FAST BULLET was sent off as the 4-5 favorite. FAST BULLET was sent right to the lead, set solid fractions into the lane and held off his entry mate to score by more than two lengths in a final time of 1:08:1. His record is now 4 wins from 5 starts and will be pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, his only loss on his resume.

               The Grade I Just A Game was next for fillies and mares three year olds and upward with a field of six. MIZDIRECTION, a shipper from California and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint was sent to the lead but clearly didn’t handle the yielding course and tired in the lane to finish fifth. STEPHANIE’S KITTEN, the second choice in the race, got a perfect trip up the inside and gamed out the win by a half-length over BETTER LUCKY who was caught wide throughout.

               The Grade II Woody Stephens was next, for three year olds run over seven furlongs with a field of 11 going postward. LET EM SHINE, shipped in from California and was sent off as the slight favorite. The speedy runner was sent to the lead from post 11 and sent sharp fractions of 21:4, 44:3, 1:09:1, holding on until deep stretch before tiring to finish fourth beaten less than a length. FORTY TALES, a Todd Pletcher trainee closed well to get up for the win at 8-1 over a tough trip DECLAN’S WARRIOR, with CLEARLY NOW checking in third.

               In the Grade I Manhattan Handicap, for three year olds and upward run over the turf at 1 and ¼ miles.  A field of 8 went postward with POINT OF ENTRY going off as the 1-2 favorite. After stalking the leaders from fifth over a yielding course, POINT OF ENTRY moved up into the lane, he took over from the leader OPTIMIZER and edged away late. Unfortunately POINT OF ENTRY came out of the race with a slight fracture but as of now the connections are hopeful they can have him back for the Breeders’ Cup.

                



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