It's the calm before the storm. There are only a handful of Saturday Stakes races a week before The Breeders' Cup! Make sure you check these pages on a regular basis as we will have full coverage of the Breeders' Cup all during the week leading up to the big races.
But before we get to The Breeders' Cup, we'll take a look at Belmont Park and three stakes races with prize money of at least $100,000.
Belmont Park Race 4 - $100,000 AWAD STAKES
Belmont Park Race 8 -$100,000 ENGLISH CHANNEL STAKES
The Awad Stakes is one-mile on the turf with a field of six two-year-olds, plus three main-track-only entrants in case track conditions don't allow turf races. With these baby boys, anything can and usually does happen when two-year-olds leave the gates.
EMPIRE OF WAR
"EMPIRE OF WAR made his first start on grass last out and blew out to a new high-speed rating. If he runs the same race, most likely same result. ORDER AND LAW also broke his maiden in his first run on turf at 6-furlongs. He closed hard, so the extra distance should help. A THREAD OF BLUE finished 2nd on the turf and got his first W on an off dirt track last out, both suggest turf is preferred surface. TILL THEN is top choice if race moves off grass."
Our second race, the 100,000 ENGLISH CHANNEL STAKES is for three-year-olds, again at one-mile on the turf. THERAPIST is the name horse in the field. He won last year's AWAD Stakes at Belmont. In fact, he has some serious Belmont credentials, three races with three wins. It doesn't get much better than that.
THERAPIST joins eight other contenders and is the lukewarm, morning-line favorite at 5/2. That means the ENGLISH CHANNEL STAKES should be a good betting race. In fact, the way we see it, THERAPIST's perfect Belmont record might be in jeopardy.
"HIZEEM probably has two straight turf wins if he isn't bumped between horses in his last. He'll be closing hard for trainer Chad Brown, who wins at 28% with jockey Javier Castellano in the last 60-days. THERAPIST has three races on Belmont turf and three wins. SAND DANCER is making his third start off the bench. Has a second by a length and a win in his has two Belmont grass runs. GOLDEN BROWN should benefit from drop in class. He's always flirting with an in-the-money finish."
We wrap our Saturday Stakes review with the Grade 3 BOLD RULER HANDICAP. The ninth race showcases the racing skills of six, three-years-old and upwards running 7-furlongs on the dirt. If you read our BIAS Report: Belmont Park Shows its Hand, then you know "The distance has the strongest post BIAS, 15 of the 28 seven-furlong winners started the race in lane one or two (54% or lower than even odds)."
"Eleven of the 28 were wire-to-wire winners, with eight of the 11 breaking from the inside two posts. A horse that likes the lead running from the inside two posts has won at 28.5%. If you can get 3-1 odds or better, take them."
The rail horse, NO DOZING (ML 2-1), normally doesn't take the lead. He typically runs in the shadows of the front-runners and makes his move the stretch. Number two, BON RAISON, on the other hand, has a history of 1s in his past-performance profile. He could be nice for payouts as well, with morning-line odds of 30-1.
If not for taking more than a year-off, COAL FRONT (PP: 4 ML 7/5) would be our favorite too. Instead, our view is that another might find his way to the winner's circle, a place he is familiar with. "DELTA PRINCE won 50% of his turf races so far and has never gone three races without a W. COAL FRONT would be top choice but hasn't run in more than a year. A recent workout says he's fit but might need a tune up race first. TRUE TIMBER's front running style plays well on dirt at Belmont. NO DOZING gets 25% winning rail, would be better if he raced on lead."