The Foxes won one of the more historically important Epsom Derby (G1) trials, the Dante (G2) at York, but didn’t quite stay the 1 1/2 miles of the Derby trip itself last month. On Saturday, the son of Churchill cuts back to a more suitable distance of 1 1/4 miles for the $750,000 Belmont Derby (G1). The Foxes will break from post 11 with regular rider Oisin Murphy aboard.
Winner of the Royal Lodge (G2) at Ascot at two, The Foxed finished second in his season opener, the Craven (G3) at Newmarket, before taking the Dante by a neck over eventual Derby third White Birch. The Foxes would go on to finish fifth of 14 at Epsom, 8 1/4 lengths behind Auguste Rodin, who has since landed the Irish Derby (G1).
“He’s a horse with a high-cruising speed and travels pretty well,” said trainer Andrew Balding, whose previous North American victories have all occurred at Woodbine in Canada. “It was a strong Dante this year and he hung across the track a little bit to his right, but I thought he was well on top at the end of the race. It was a high-class performance.”
Multiple Group 3 winner Silver Knott will be making his third North American appearance for Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby, connections presently mired in a cold streak on the other side of the Atlantic. They haven’t been much warmer in the States, either, as evidenced by Silver Knott’s loss as a 3-2 favorite in last month’s Pennine Ridge (G2), the local prep for the Belmont Derby.
The Pennine Ridge was won by the Chad Brown-trained Kalik, who is joined by stablemate Redistricting. The latter won his debut by nearly five lengths on the same afternoon as the Pennine Ridge and is obviously thought of enough to take his place against such a contentious field.
The domestic contingent also includes Far Bridge, who finished in between Kalik and Silver Knott in the Pennine Ridge after missing by a nose in the American Turf (G2) to Webslinger, who later added the Audubon S. at Ellis Park over Mendelssohns March. California invader Wizard of Westwood recently landed the Cinema S. at Santa Anita, while Boppy O recently sprung a surprise in the Jersey Derby over the odds-on Talk of the Nation.
Likely to be outsiders in the betting are stakes newcomers Mondego and Cyber Ninja, a collective 3-for-3 over the turf during the Belmont meet.
A modest renewal of the $350,000 Suburban (G2) is the other stakes open to males on Saturday. The historic 1 1/4-mile fixture has attracted last year’s Dwyer (G3) winner Charge It, who looks to return to better form after running out of the money in the Oaklawn H. (G2) and Metropolitan H. (G1) in his last two starts.
The Linda Rice-trained Tonal Impact steps up to stakes company following back-to-back allowance scores, while Ghostzapper (G3) winner Clapton was most recently third in the Pimlico Special (G3). Red Run is guaranteed to stay after placing in the Isaac Murphy Marathon and Brooklyn (G2), both over 1 1/2 miles.
“He seems to really like the big sweeping turns at Belmont,” said Rice of Tonal Impact. “He’s a big, tall, long-legged horse and he really seems to like the surface.”