Belmont Park has five graded stakes carded on Saturday’s program, including the Grade 1 Man o’ War Stakes featuring the return from Europe of last year’s winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf and Eclipse Award turf male champion Yibir.
The Godolphin homebred 4-year-old colt by Dubawi, installed as the even-money morning line favorite in the Man o’ War, will have regular rider William Buick in the saddle for trainer Charles Appleby.
The Man o’ War is carded as the eighth race on a 10-race program that has a 1 p.m. ET first post. The G3 Vagrancy Handicap kicks off the stakes action at 2:05 p.m., followed by the G3 Runhappy Stakes, Man o’ War, G3 Peter Pan Stakes andG3 Beaugay. The races will comprise NYRA’s Cross Country Pick 5.
Weather forecast calls for a 50 percent chance of rain on Friday, but no precipitation is anticipated on Saturday in Elmont, N.Y., where Belmont Park is located on Long Island.
The only other graded stakes on Saturday is the G3 Santa Barbara at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.
Sunday’s only graded stakes is the G3 Jacques Cartier at Woodbine in Toronto, Ontario.
2:05 PM – G3 Vagrancy Handicap at Belmont Park
Bella Sofia, winner of the G1 Test for 3-year-old fillies last summer at Saratoga, was installed the 4-5 favorite for the Vagrancy, which serves as the 2022 debut for the daughter of Awesome Patriot. Trained by Rudy Rodriguez, Bella Sofia comes into the Vagrancy with a strong series of works at Belmont Park and a record of four wins from six starts, including the G2 Gallant Bloom on this track last September. Eric Cancel will ride.
Stakes veteran Frank’s Rockette is winless in her last five starts and is coming off a second-place finish as the 1-2 favorite in a non-graded stakes at Oaklawn on April 2. The William Mott-trained mare by Into Mischief has been 1-2-3 in 18 of 20 career starts, including eight victories – two of them at Belmont Park from three tries. Flavien Prat, aboard Frank’s Rockette for the first time at Oaklawn, has the return mount.
3:06 PM – G3 Runhappy Stakes at Belmont Park
Only six older sprinters go in the eighth running of the Runhappy Stakes, which for its first four runnings was known as the Diablo. The Runhappy appears wide open, with the morning line ranging from 5-2 for pre-race favorite Chateau and two horses – Answer In and Mr Phil – pegged at 6-1 as the longest shots in the field.
Rob Atras-trained Chateau knows one way to run: on the front end. Jockey Kendrick Carmouche will send the 7-year-old gelding by Flat Out from the rail and there might not be anyone in the field to keep pace with him early. Chateau has won eight of 40 starts, with 11 seconds and 10 thirds, but he didn’t break his maiden until his 16th race. Chateau’s victories include the G3 Tom Fool Handicap in 2021.
Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained Officiating won this year’s Tom Fool, rallying past Chateau in the stretch to win going away by 5 1/2 lengths under Manny Franco, who rides the 4-year-old Blame colt back in the Runhappy. Officiating failed to fire in his last start, a non-graded stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on March 27 in which he finished fourth as the 7-5 favorite.
4:46 PM – G1 Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park
Yibir made a successful invasion of Belmont Parak last year when winning the Jockey Club Derby Invitational in September, then returned to the U.S. with a rousing stretch-running victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar at odds of 8-1. A Group 2 winner in England last year, Yibir has finished twice in both of his 2022 starts: losing narrowly to Shahryar in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic in March and then falling 1 1/2 lengths short of Living Legend in the G2 Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket on April 29.
Gufo, second choice at 7-5 on the morning line, finished an uncharacteristic 10th behind Yibir in the Breeders’ Cup in his only off-the board performance in 15 career starts that includes eight victories. The Christophe Clement-trained 5-year-old son of Declaration of War is a two-time G1 winner, including last year’s Sword Dancer at Saratoga. Joel Rosario rides the stretch-running Gufo.
Todd Pletcher-trained Abaan may try to steal the Man o’ War under Luis Saez. Among his four victories is a gate-to-wire win in the ungraded H. Allen Jerkens Stakes going two miles at Gulfstream Park in December.
The wild card in the race is French-bred Easter, making his second U.S. start for Graham Motion after winning two of eight starts in his native country. To be ridden by Flavien Prat, the 4-year-old gelding by Exosphere closed from last to be third in an April 15 allowance race at Aqueduct going 1 1/16 miles. He may appreciate the added distance of the Man o’ War.
5:19 – Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park
Often used as a prep for late-developing 3-year-olds with an eye toward the G1 Belmont Stakes, the Peter Pan has several interesting candidates led by 3-1 morning line favorite We the People, who won his first two races impressively at Oaklawn and then was well beaten in his stakes debut in the G1 Arkansas Derby on April 2. Trained by Rodolphe Brisset, the Constitution colt was very wide early after breaking from the outside post in a field of nine and was never a factor at 2-1 odds. He won his debut by 5 3/4 lengths Feb. 12 and was five lengths best in a March 12 allowance race. We the People has been training at Keeneland for this engagement and will be ridden by Flavien Prat, who was aboard in the Arkansas Derby.
Mark Casse-trained Golden Glider has the most stakes experience, but has failed to hit the board in three consecutive graded stakes – the G3 Sam F. Davis, G2 Tampa Bay Derby and G1 Blue Grass Stakes – after winning his first two races at Woodbine and Tampa Bay Downs. The Ghostzapper colt will have Dylan Davis in the irons.
Richard Mandella is sending Set Sail east from California for the Peter Pan after ringing up an 89 Beyer Speed Figure while breaking his maiden last out in his second start at Santa Anita on March 27. The Malibu Moon colt has recorded four strong breezes since that win, including a seven-furlong work in 1:25.80 on May 7. He’ll be handled by Joel Rosario.
5:50 PM – Beaugay Stakes at Belmont Park
Chad Brown and Christophe Clement each has won the Beaugay four times, the same number of victories as the late Hall of Famer H. Allen Jerkens. Brown has the two favorites in the lineup on Saturday in French-bred Rougir (even-money on the morning line) and Irish-bred Lemista (5-2 odds). Clement has the 6-1 third choice, Plum Ali.
Rougir, a 4-year-old daughter of Territories who won the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera lastl Oct. 3 before finishing seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf for trainer Cedric Rossi, has not run since the latter race and is making her debut for Brown. Lemista, a Group 2 winner in Ireland in 2020, spent all of last year in Brown’s barn, but was winless in three starts, including a close second to Harveys Lil Goil in the Beaugay. Flavien Prat rides Rougir while Irad Ortiz handles Lemista.
Plum Ali has won five of 12 starts including the G2 Miss Grillo at Belmont Park as a 2-year-old in 2020. The First Samurai 4-year-old filly had a good tuneup winning the ungraded Plenty of Grace at Aqueduct on April 16 and will be handled by Manny Franco.
6:00 PM – Santa Barbara Stakes at Santa Anita
Queen Goddess, winner of the G3 Santa Ana Stakes going 1 1/4 on turf in March, tries to stretch out another quarter mile in the Santa Barbara for trainer Michael McCarthy. Set as the 6-5 morning line favorite, the 4-year-old Empire Maker filly will be ridden by Victor Espinoza as she goes for her fifth victory in her ninth career start. With little speed in the lineup, look for Espinoza to try to take command early and control the pace throughout.
French-bred Neige Blanche has turned into one of Southern California’s top turf fillies for Leonard Powell. She was third behind Queen Goddess in the Santa Ana but may have been handled too patiently that day by jockey Juan Hernandez, falling 10 lengths behind before making a strong stretch rally to fall 1 1/2 lengths short at the wire. She won two straight before that, including the G3 Astra at the Santa Barbara’s distance of a mile and a half.
4:59 PM – Jacques Cartier Stakes at Woodbine
The G3 Jacques Cartier won’t seem the same without the now retired Pink Lloyd, who won four consecutive runnings from 2017-’20 and finished second to Souper Stonehenge in 2021. The latter, a 6-year-old by Speightstown, will try to start his own streak in the race for trainer Mark Casse and jockey Patrick Husbands.
Nine others are set to line up against the defending champ, including Silent Poet, a 7-year-old gelding by Silent Name who does his best running on turf but has won over the synthetic main track on which the Jacques Cartier will be run. Trained by Nick Gonzalez, Silent Poet will be ridden by Justin Stein.
Casse has two others entered in the race: turf specialist Gretzky the Great and Tap It to Win, the latter of which has been effective going longer but had a good sprint tightener at Tampa Bay Downs March 27 in his 2022 debut.
Another interesting Jacques Cartier candidate is Josie Carroll-trained Striker, a War Front colt who didn’t debut until November of his 3-year-old season last year and won two straight sprinting on the Tapeta surface.