This summer’s race to the 2016 Breeders’ Cup in early November at Santa Anita Park heats up this Saturday at Belmont Park with a full card of major graded stakes races.
The field for year’s Belmont Derby should be packed with as many as 14 horses listed as probable. This race highlight’s a Belmont card that features six major graded events as warmups for fall’s Breeders’ Cup card of 13 events over two days of racing. The following is a look at my top two sport picks for Saturday’s main event. Let's check the sport odds provided by BetOnline.
Belmont Derby Invitational- Belmont Park
This Grade 1 event with a total prize purse of $1.25 million is open to three-year old thoroughbreds and up competing in the Turf Division for the Breeders’ Cup. It will be contested on the turf track at Belmont over a distance of 1 ¼ miles.
The horse at the top of my list in what should be a very crowded field for this year’s Belmont Derby is Airoforce. Trained by Mark Casse, this three-year old Kentucky-bred colt has been one of the most dominant turf horses the past two years starting with his victory in the Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland as a juvenile in early October over a distance of 1 1/16 miles. He went on to place second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf behind Hit It A Bomb.
He comes into this race fresh-off a solid second place run in this year’s Grade 3 Penn Mile at Penn National on June 4. He was second to Catch a Glimpse over the one mile run on turf. Airoforce has the highest Horse Racing Nation rating in Saturday’s field at 6.36.
My second choice for this race would be Camelot Kitten with a HRN rating of 5.56, which is fifth-best in this field. This Kentucky-bred colt has been a solid money maker as a three-year old under the careful guidance of trainer Chad Brown. He brings a two-race winning streak into the Belmont Derby after placing first in both the Grade 2 American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs in early May and in the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge Stakes at Belmont on June 4.
This horse has made some tremendous strides since posting a disappointing 12th-place finish in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf as a pedigree of Kitten’s Joy, who turned in a stellar career of his own in the early 2000’s.
Belmont Oaks Invitational - Belmont Park
The Belmont Oaks is a “Win and You Are In” event for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. It is a Grade 1 event open to three-year old fillies and up with a total price purse of $1 million. This race will be contested on turf over a distance of 1 ¼ miles.
The field for this Breeders’ Cup qualifier is shaping up to be a good one with 15 fillies listed as probable. Catch a Glimpse should go off as a prohibitive favorite to win this race and I would have to agree. She is head and shoulders above the rest of the field with a HRN rating of 8.46 as the 19th ranked active horse on the list. This three-year old Kentucky-bred filly is trained by Mark Casse and undefeated in her last seven events dating back to a victory in an Allowance race at Woodbine in August of last year.
Her biggest win as a two-year old was in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf and her last time out on June 4 she won the Penn Mile to keep the current winning streak alive.
In a crowded list of strong contenders, I am going with Cheekaboo as my second choice. This three-year old California-bred filly is coming off an impressive run on the turf at Santa Anita Park on June 19 to win the Grade 2 Honeymoon Stakes over a distance of 1 1/8 miles. She has now finished in the money in five of six career events.
Trained by Peter Eurton, she comes into this race with a HRN rating of 6.73, which is fifth-best on the current board, but I like the fact that she knows how to stay in the mix right down the stretch to the finish line.