Champagne tops big slate of stakes at Belmont
By Bob Ehalt
One big weekend of Breeders’ Cup preps down, one more to go at Belmont Park.
The upcoming three-day holiday weekend will determine a bunch of New York contenders for the World Championships at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2-3 through a collection of nine stakes, eight of them graded.
The most important might be the $500,000 Grade 1 Champagne Stakes on Saturday afternoon.
The Champagne produced last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, Good Magic, and the latest edition offers yet another talented field in the one-turn mile.
The morning line favorite is Klaravich Stable’s Complexity (5-2), who is coming off a powerful maiden win at Saratoga. The daughter of Maclean’s Music hails from the barn of Chad Brown, who trained Good Magic, runner-up in last year’s Champagne, and Practical Joke, the 2016 Champagne winner.
Brown also trains Aurelius Maximus, a winner by 7 ¾ lengths in the slop in his second start.
“They both trained well together and they are ready for the Champagne,” Brown said. “They both seem to be training well on the main track. They both seem like they are top-quality, so I’m confident in both them.”
Endorsed (7-2), a maiden winner in quick time at Saratoga, and undefeated Saratoga Special winner Call Paul (4-1) shape up as two of the main rivals in the field of 10.
The rest of the field includes Trophy Chaser (10-1), Achilles Warrior (15-1), Listing (15-1), Successful Zip (20-1), Code of Honor (6-1) and Casa Creed (30-1).
Saturday’s card also are features the $400,000 Beldame, $500,000 Hill Prince and $150,000 Belmont Turf Spring Invitational.
On Sunday, the $500,000 Flower Bowl highlights the card, with Glens Falls winner Lady Montdore seeking back-to-back stakes wins.
“When I first got her, there wasn’t too much to her,” said Tom Albertrani, who trains Lady Montdore. “She’s got a light frame and was just kind of light in general, but as I started to train her more and more, she started to get my attention. We got to really liking her as we got closer to starting her. Even before she ran the first time, I really thought she would run well. I think it just took some time for her to really mature.
“We were very lucky with the way she came out of her first race and were able to go on to win the Glens Falls, where she was impressive again,” he continued. “In her first race, Joe (Bravo) rode her and she rated kindly for him through the whole race. Last time, Joe had to go to Kentucky, so Manny picked up the mount. He just kind of inherited the lead with her and she just galloped around. It’s nice to have that tactical speed, where, with a horse like Sadler’s Joy, you’ve got to worry about him coming from 15 lengths back. It’s good that she’s got the kind of speed where she can place herself accordingly.”
Sunday’s card also includes the $400,000 Frizette and $150,000 Futurity.
The Monday program is topped by the $250,000 Knickerbocker and the $150,000 Matron.