State-breds get their day at Belmont Park
By Bob Ehalt
On Saturday at Belmont Park, a time normally reserved for graded stakes, New York State-breds will get their day in the spotlight.
Empire Showcase Day features a package of eight stakes, all of them for New York State-breds, with a combined value of $1.75 million.
The featured race is the $300,000 Empire Classic Handicap, a mile-and-an-eighth test.
Twisted Tom, coming off stakes wins against fellow 3-year-old state-breds in the Albany and New York Derby, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite. Prior to returning to state-bred competition, Twisted Tom finished sixth in the Preakness and won an open stakes at Laurel in the Frederico Tesio for trainer Chad Brown.
The 7-2 second choice, Governor Malibu, also has experience on the Triple Crown trail. He was fourth in the 2016 Belmont Stakes, but has just one win in his nine starts since then. That victory came in a state-bred allowance race in Set. 2016.
In his last start, the Christophe Clement-trained Governor Malibu finished second in the Evan Shipman Stakes for state-breds, winding up 11 ½ lengths behind Diversify, who went on to win the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Other threats include Papa Shot (5-1), who is back in the United States after finishing a distant third in the Korea Cup, Control Group (6-1), who is racing in a stakes for the first time after three straight allowance wins; and Can You Dig It (8-1), who was 4 ½ lengths behind Twisted Tom in second in the Albany.
The 11-race card, which starts at 12:25 p.m., also includes three $250,000 stakes.
The $250,000 Maid of the Mist for 2-year-old fillies features Pure Silver (2-1) and Berning Rose (7-2); the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow for 2-year-old males with Stoney Bennett (5-2) and Battle Station (7-2); and the $250,000 Empire Distaff Handicap for fillies and mares where Saratoga Dew winner Literata is a 4-1 favorite.
And if a full day of stakes action gets your motor racing, remember the Breeders’ Cup is just two weeks away with 13 Grade 1 races on Nov. 3-4 at Del Mar.