Saturday’s Belmont card looked full of quality and interest and that’s what it turned out to be. The inclusion of a number of shippers from Ireland and the UK certainly added spice to the invitational events and, not for the first time, the shrewd Irish handler, Aidan O’Brien, did not leave the track empty handed. Let’s look at the big races in chronological order.
The valuable grade 3 Dwyer stakes saw Economic Model go off a short price (6/5) favorite on the back of a very impressive win in the Easy Goer Stakes, which earned him a Beyer of 101. A reproduction of that form looked sure to earn him the winner’s purse but, as we pointed out, Fish Trappe Road also brought some good credentials to the table and looked a value price.
Last time out Fish Trappe Road went from the front and folded in the stretch although still filling the place position. This time a wide stalking trip was used and, when he hit the front 2 furlongs out, he stayed on strongly to win by 1 ¼ lengths. Economic Model made his move up the inside and, with hindsight, these tactics looked injudicious. When switched out wide he made ground into second but never got to the winner, whose future options include the Kings Bishop and Jim Dandy Stakes.
Next up was the first of the big turf Grade 1 invitational events, the Belmont Derby. Aidan O’Brien shipped two horses from his Irish headquarters for this race, Long Island Sound and Deauville and Long Island Sound was generally expected to have the best chance of the two. However, it was Deauville, under an excellent ride from British jockey Jamie Spencer, who took the spoils at a shade over 6/1.
Despite being drawn wide in 13, the jockey managed to get a good stalking spot behind Toughest ‘Ombre from the start. Deauville hit the front about 2 furlongs out and, despite wandering in the finish, he stayed on to beat the stout stayer Highland Sky by a neck. Deauville didn’t get the trip in a soft ground Epsom Derby (1 ½ miles) and this distance and ground showed him in a much better light.
The next race on the card, the $500,000 Grade 2 Suburban handicap gave the talented but inconsistent Effinex the chance to show his recent poor run was all wrong and the horse took that chance in no uncertain terms.
Effinex stalked the game front-running Samraat from the off before jockey Mike Smith launched a wide attack as they came into the straight and the pair fought it out throughout the stretch drive with the game Effinex just prevailing by a neck to make it back to back victories in this prestigious race. Trainer Jimmy Jerkins said the next outing for this talented son of Mineshaft could be the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga so long as the horse comes out of this race in good order.
In the second big Grade 1 turf race of the evening, the Belmont Oaks, many experts were concerned that the undoubted star of the show, Catch A Glimpse may struggle to get the mile and a quarter trip. As a result, she was pretty friendless in the market with the punters making the Irish shipper, Ballydoyle, the 2/1 market leader.
However, Catch A Glimpse wasn’t to know this and she led virtually from gate to wire for a ½ length win. From an unpromising draw of 12, jockey Florent Geroux bounced her out to grab the lead and then she put in a burst of speed entering the straight to take 3 ½ lengths out of the field. Although Time and motion finished well to shorten the lead to a ½ length, Catch A Glimpse was never going to be caught in her pursuit of her 8th win on the spin, notably in a time faster than that achieved by the boys in the Derby.
The card concluded with the Belmont Sprint Championship over 7 furlongs and all eyes were on Private Zone to see if he could come back from a long lay off to record back to back wins in this race. Although the backers liked his chances and sent him off at 7/5, this did look a tough ask in a hot race and so it proved to be.
Private Zone broke well and, not unnaturally, ran very fresh after his long lay-off and fought his jockey for much of the race. As a result, there wasn’t much left at the business end and the horse faded to finish fourth, beaten 6 lengths.
AP Indian had looked an interesting contender before the race and he duly ran out a game head winner. He tracked the pace well off the (slow) rail early on, challenged turning for home and hit the front 2 furlongs out. Marking laid down a strong challenge but AP Indian hung tough to keep the second favorite at bay.