While much of the attention at Belmont Park Saturday will be focused on those races that are part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge – the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and Champagne Stakes (G1) – a pair of turf stakes on the card might also produce runners for the World Championships.
The $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational isn’t even graded, but the six-furlong inner turf affair attracted Disco Partner as part of the five-horse field. That five-year-old son of Disco Rico set a new world record for six furlongs when capturing the Jaipur Stakes (G3) on Belmont’s main turf June 10.
The Christophe Clement trainee earned a stellar 108 BRIS Speed rating for that effort, which was sandwiched between scores in the Elusive Quality Stakes and Forbidden Apple Stakes. Disco Partner returned last out to be fourth in the Fourtstardave Handicap (G1) over yielding turf at Saratoga on August 12, the same spot he filled in this race last year. The New York-bred gray will try to do better than that this time around with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. taking back the mount.
“He’s doing great and I’m excited to see him run,” Clement said. “His last race was obviously disappointing. We had soft turf with a passing storm right before the race. I think he loves Belmont Park and it’s exciting to run him back here.”
Lining up against Disco Partner in this spot are last-out stakes winners We Deer You and Snowday.
The former scored in the Lucky Coin Stakes last out at Saratoga, which followed a runner-up effort while making his stakes bow in the Vigil Stakes (Can-G3) at Woodbine on July 16. We Deer You gets John Velazquez aboard for the first time here.
“He’s trained very well since the Lucky Coin and I think it’s been adequate time since then,” trainer Michael Trombetta said. “I like the distance for him at three-quarters (of a mile), and expect him to run his usual race stalking the pace and making a run late.”
Snowday gutted out a head victory in the Laurel Dash Stakes most recently, which followed a half-length third in the Turf Monster Stakes (G3) at Parx Racing and a 2 3/4-length triumph in the My Frenchman Stakes at Monmouth Park. The Willard Thompson trainee is a Group 3 winner in his native France, and receives the services of jockey Jose Ortiz in this spot.
Completing the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational field are Grade 2 hero Ready for Rye, fifth in the Lucky Coin last out, and multiple stakes winner Bold Thunder, just three parts of a length behind in fifth in the Turf Monster most recently.
Later on the card, nine sophomore turf runners will go 1 1/8 miles on the inner green in the $500,000 Hill Prince Stakes (G3). Frostmourne brings a two-race win streak into the contest for Clement and gets Irad Ortiz Jr. back in the saddle.
The Speightstown colt first teamed up with Jose Ortiz to break his maiden last year at Saratoga, then was fifth with Manuel Franco aboard in the Pilgrim Stakes (G3) next out. He closed out his juvenile campaign posting a 3 1/2-length victory in the Awad Stakes with Jose Ortiz in the irons once again.
Frostmourne and Irad Ortiz Jr. paired up for his seasonal bow on April 22 in the Woodhaven Stakes, running second by a half-length, then captured the June 3 Penn Mile (G2) next time. The Kentucky-bred romped by six lengths in the July 15 Kent Stakes (G3) last out under Joel Rosario, but Clement decided not to send his pupil to the Secretariat Stakes (G1) at Arlington Park in August as originally planned.
“He’s training well. We missed the summer,” Clement explained. “I didn’t think he was training that well for the Secretariat. He’s had a little bit of time off and he’s a fresh horse. I hope I’ve got him fit enough, but his works have been good.”
Bricks and Mortar is one of Frostmourne’s rivals in the Hill Prince. That Chad Brown trainee just suffered his first career loss last out when third by three parts of a length in the Saranac Stakes (G3) at Saratoga. Prior to that, the Giant’s Causeway colt captured the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (G2) and Manila Stakes under returning regular rider Josel Rosario.
Yoshida finished second behind Bricks and Mortar in the Hall of Fame, but turned around and held that rival by a half-length last out in the Saranac. The Bill Mott-conditioned colt was only a neck back of the winner that day and seeks a return to the winner’s circle, having not visited that spot since taking the James W. Murphy Stakes at Pimlico in late May. Manuel Franco has the call.
“He’s coming off a couple good races,” Mott said. “He’s run a couple of winning efforts, he just hasn’t won. I think it’s a satisfactory distance for him. He seems effective from a mile to a mile and an eighth. This last time, he had to wait a little bit. The time before I guess he was kicked wide. They weren’t horrible trips, but it could’ve been enough to make a difference I suppose.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out Hieroglyphics here off a pair of wins, including the Better Talk Now Stakes in his black-type debut last out. The Pioneerof the Nile colt brings along jockey John Velazquez for the ride.
“We always felt like he’d handle that distance and now it’s time to see if he can step up into graded stakes,” Pletcher said. “He’s gradually been improving. He’s always run competitively but I thought the Better Talk Now was kind of a breakthrough performance. It seemed like a higher-level race than what he’d been running. It’s another step forward. Hopefully he can take it.”
Lucullan makes his stakes bow for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in the Hill Prince off a two-length allowance win going a mile on Belmont’s main turf. The Hard Spun colt gets the services of jockey Kendrick Carmouche Saturday.
“He’s a nice horse, ran huge last time so we’re hopeful,” McLaughlin said. “The mile and an eighth we hope he’ll like, and straight three-year-olds is good, because three-and-up in a two-other-than is tough, so we’re excited to try it.”
Completing the Hill Prince field are Secretary at War, second in the Franklin-Simpson Stakes at Kentucky Downs last out; Better Talk Now runner-up Small Bear; Palm Beach Stakes (G3) winner Ticonderoga, a one-paced ninth in the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) most recently; and Rocketry, fourth in the Saranac.