Belmont opens with Turf Triple races
By NY Hot List Staff
Summer may not be officially over, but a large chunk of it came and went during the eight weekends at Saratoga that ended on Labor Day.
The scene shifted to Belmont Park on Friday and the first weekend of action back on Long Island features the final legs of the New York Racing Association’s Turf Triple series for colts and fillies.
The Jockey Club Derby and Oaks top Saturday’s card with lengthy turf tests that close out series which started during the Stars and Stars Racing Festival on July 6.
For colts, Saturday’s test is the $1 million Jockey Club Derby, a 1 ½-mile contest which caps the Turf Trinity that started with the 1 ¼-mile Belmont Derby and continued with the 1 3/16-mile Saratoga Derby.
The opening legs featured different winners with Henley’s Joy prevailing in the Belmont Derby and A Thread of Blue triumphing in the Saratoga Derby.
Of the two, only Henley’s Joy (5-1 morning line) participated in both legs of the Turf Trinity. He scored by three quarters of a length in the Belmont race but then failed to fire at the Spa and checked in fifth in the Saratoga stakes for trainer Mike Maker.
Given his performance in the Belmont Derby, the mile and a half distance might suit Henley’s Joy, though both he and A Thread of Blue are newcomers at the distance.
A Thread of Blue (4-1) sat out the Belmont Derby, then notched a gate-to-wire one-length victory in the Saratoga Derby that inspired trainer Kiaran McLaughlin to try 12 furlongs with the speedy son of Hard Spun.
“It would be fabulous to win two legs, but we’re just happy to be in it with a big chance,” said McLaughlin, whose colt has four wins in his last six starts.
Weather could play an important role in the outcome with rain in the forecast for Friday. Should there be soft turf, it could work against A Thread of Blue, who is winless in two starts on yielding turf.
“We’re not too sure about the distance and a few days ago there was no rain in the forecast, but now we have rain. He prefers it firm, so hopefully it doesn’t get too soft,” McLaughlin said. “He’s trained great coming into it and he’s run very well. We hope it stays firm. It will be a fresh new course.”
A soggy turf course could also work against one of the three Europeans in the race, Spanish Mission (3-1). Accomplished at the 1 ½-mile distance, Spanish Mission prefers firm turf, even though he has been racing in Europe where soft courses are commonplace.
The 5-2 favorite, Digital Age, has started five times, with a second in the Saratoga Derby and a fourth in the Belmont Derby for trainer Chad Brown, but traveled over a firm course each time.
The Turf Tiara for 3-year-old fillies seemed destined to have a Triple Crown winner but after Concrete Rose won the Belmont Oaks and Saratoga Oaks in convincing fashion, she suffered an injury that will sideline her for the remainder of the year.
In her absence, Edisa, who placed in group 2 and 3 stakes in Europe in her last two starts, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite.
Another European, Wonderment, is the 7-2 second choice.
Both races can be seen on NBC during a 4:30 to 6 p.m. show.