Belmont Day Features Two Breeders’ Cup Challenge Races
Belmont Day Features Two Breeders’ Cup Challenge Races: On Saturday, June 6, 2015, not only does the chase for the Triple Crown end but the challenge series for the Breeders’ Cup begins at Belmont Park. While winning the Belmont Stakes does not earn a berth into the Breeders’ Cup Classic, two of the undercard races do offer an automatic start to two lucky horses. The winners of the Grade I Ogden Phipps and the Metropolitan Handicap (aka the Met Mile) will earn themselves automatic starts in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on October 30-31 at Keeneland, respectively.
Both fields for the 2015 Ogden Phipps and Met Mile are star-studded to the max. The Ogden Phipps has served as a stepping-stone to greatness for some. Fillies and mares such as Ta Wee (1961), Personal Ensign (1988), Sky Beauty (1994), Heavenly Prize (1995), Serena’s Song (1996), and Ashado (2005) have all won the Ogden Phipps in the past. This year, the 2014 Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Untapable looks to return to the winner’s circle with a win over a tough field. Stopchargingmaria is coming in off a strong win in the Grade III Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes on the Black Eyed Susan undercard. Stopchargingmaria will be making her third start off a layoff for Todd Pletcher and new owners Town and Country Farm Corp.
My Miss Sophia is coming into the Ogden Phipps without a win in over a year. Her last start was on May 1 in the La Troienne (Grade I), but she finished an uneventful fifth behind two rivals she is likely to face in the Ogden Phipps: Molly Morgan and Sheer Drama. Molly Morgan is a six-year-old mare who broke onto the graded stakes scene with a win in the Grade II Fleur de Lis Handicap last summer. Since then, Molly Morgan has been highly competitive and recently graduated to become a Grade I winner in taking the La Troienne in her last start. (**Update: Shortly after the release of this article, trainer Dale Romans reported via twitter that Molly Morgan has been retired.)
Dame Dorothy is another possible entry for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. This daughter of Bernardini has never finished worse than third and is coming in off a very good win in the Humana Distaff (GI) on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Running in the colors of Bobby Flay, keeping this one out of a trifecta may be a mistake given her track record.
The Metropolitan Mile has been a historically significant race. In 1913, Whisk Broom II won the Met Mile. Other horses such as Equipoise (1932-1933), Devil Diver (1943-1945), Gallorette (1946), Stymie (1947-1948), Tom Fool (1953), Native Dancer (1954), Kelso (1961), Buckpasser (1967), In Reality (1968), Forego (1976-1977), Fappiano (1981), Gulch (1987-1988), Criminal Type (1990), Ghostzapper (2005), and Quality Road (2010) have all won the Met Mile and gone on to be exceptional sires (excluding Kelso due to his being a gelding and Gallorette as she was a filly). The Met Mile seems to be a stallion-shaping race rather than a career-building race.
This year, horses have come from every corner of the United States to compete in the Met Mile. While some of the luster was lost when Shared Belief was injured earlier in the year, several other stars fill the potential starting gate. Bayern is targeting the Met Mile after a dull return to the races on the undercard of the Kentucky Derby. The son of Offlee Wild was able to pull off a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2014, but can he rebound from his lackluster performance he displayed in his last race? If Bayern doesn’t show his colors, Tonalist will be there to pick up the pieces. The 2014 Belmont Stakes winner is making his return to the top after winning the Grade III Westchester Stakes. The stud colt by Tapit has never lost a race at Belmont, and there is not much reason to think that streak will end in the Met Mile. However, there are two other strong competitors who could easily make their presence known at the finish line. Honor Code is coming in off an uncharacteristically poor performance in the Grade II Alysheba Stakes on Kentucky Oaks day. However, this was the first time Honor Code failed to finish first or second in his career. He is likely to improve here, so don’t count him out.
Another strong contender is Wicked Strong, who won the Grade I Wood Memorial and Grade II Jim Dandy last year. This year, he has only managed a fourth and a third but has a lot of room to improve to be a top older horse. Other possible entries include the Grade I Cigar Mile winner Private Zone, Grade I-placed Social Inclusion, Grade I winner Sahara Sky, and undefeated Competitive Edge. Competitive Edge connections have also expressed strong interest in sending their colt to the seven-furlong Woody Stephens the same day.
Casey’s Belmont Day Picks: Adding in a bit of personal choice, in the Ogden Phipps, I would play an Untapable/Dame Dorothy exacta box. In the Met Mile, I would likely box Tonalist and Honor Code. I may also throw Private Zone in there as well as he has been a winning machine as of late. If Competitive Edge does run in the Met Mile, I would add him to round out a trifecta. If not, I would single him in the Wood Stephens.
The 147th running of the belmont Stakes takes place on Saturday, June 6, 2015 at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. The third and final jewel of the Triple Crown will be the eleventh race scheduled for 6:50 p.m. ET and will air on NBC. See full stakes schedule.
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