December 6, 2022

Long Haul Bay, Recruiting Ready square off in Woody Stephens; Send It In tops Brooklyn

Recruiting Ready heads to the winner's circle after winning the Chick Lang Stakes at Pimlico on May 20, 2017, with Horacio Karamanos aboard (c) Photos by Z

The $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park on the Saturday is not the Belmont Stakes (G1), but includes in the 11-strong field some Triple Crown-nominated sophomores.

Among those is Recruiting Ready, who brings a three-race win streak into the seven-furlong Woody Stephens for trainer Horacio DePaz. The bay colt broke his maiden by 10 lengths at Laurel Park in May 2016, but wouldn’t visit the winner’s circle again until taking an allowance/optional claimer at that same venue on March 10.

The Algorithms colt then recorded a 5 1/4-length, front-running victory in the Bachelor Stakes and a 3 3/4-length wire job in the Chick Lang Stakes in his past pair. Horacio Karamanos was aboard for Recruiting Ready’s last three starts and retains the mount here.

“He’s certainly coming into this race in the right form,” DePaz said. “We only ran him long once, but hopefully he can get seven furlongs. We’re not going to try to change his style. He’s going to continue to run the same way he’s been running.”

Long Haul Bay puts his perfect two-for-two mark on the line in this spot for trainer Chad Brown. The Quality Road sophomore broke his maiden by a nose going six furlongs over Aqueduct’s inner dirt, then switched to that venue’s main track for a 3 1/4-length score in the Bay Shore Stakes (G3) on April 8. Manuel Franco stays in the saddle as the bay colt takes a step up in competition.

American Anthem is another Triple Crown nominee who appears to prefer shorter distances. The Bob Baffert trainee broke his maiden by a neck going six furlongs and just missed in the one-mile Sham Stakes (G3) by a head. The Bodemeister colt was well-beaten stretching out past eight furlongs in his next two, but got back to his winning ways when reverting to seven furlongs for the Lazaro Barrera Stakes (G3) on May 13. Mike Smith was aboard that day and will be holding the reins Saturday.

“That was a huge effort last time coming off of those other races,” Baffert said. “If he can run that race back he’s going to be very competitive. Eventually I want to stretch him out. I thought about the Easy Goer (on Saturday at Belmont) because of the mile and a sixteenth (distance), but the Woody Stephens is a big race so we’ll take a shot there.”

Another taking a shot is Wild Shot, who exits a four-length triumph in the Pat Day Mile (G3) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, May 6. The Rusty Arnold pupil broke his maiden under the Twin Spires last September and keeps Corey Lanerie in the irons.

Earlier on Saturday, a field of eight older runners will line up in the $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational (G2) at Belmont Park. The 1 1/2-mile affair drew Send It In, who has captured eight of his last 11 starts while placing in those three he didn’t win. Among the victories was a half-length score in the 1 1/4-mile Excelsior Stakes (G3) last out on April 8 under John Velazquez, who stays aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher in this marathon contest.

“We feel he’s well-suited to the 1 1/2 miles,” Pletcher said. “He’s the kind of horse that keeps plugging away, and he continues to improve. He’s got the right kind of disposition for a horse that wants to go a distance of ground; he settles in well and he’s not overly aggressive.”

Tu Brutus finished second behind Send It In while making his U.S. debut in the Excelsior, but returned on May 7 at Belmont to wire the 1 3/8-mile Flat Out Stakes by 11 lengths. The Chilean-bred son of Scat Daddy keeps Irad Ortiz Jr. in the pilot’s seat as he seeks to turn the tables on Send It In.

“This is a horse that has no bottom, he just keeps getting deeper and deeper,” trainer Gary Contessa said. “He takes a deep breath and starts all over again. You never know the competition he’s facing in Chile (finishing third in his other 12-furlong start). But the best thing about this horse is that he’s won stakes running clockwise and counterclockwise. He does it all. He’s just a cool horse to be around.”

One race before the Brooklyn, 10 three-year-olds will kick off the stakes action on Belmont Stakes Day in the $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes. The 1 1/16-mile affair attracted West Coast, a head second while making his stakes bow in the Lexington Stakes (G3) two back, and Outplay, winner of is last pair by a combined 10 lengths.

“I definitely think he’s maturing,” Pletcher’s assistant, Byron Hughes, said of Outplay. “We knew he had talent and in his last two starts he’s really put it together. He acts like a more professional horse in the mornings and afternoons.”