Belmont Park hosts four stakes on Saturday, with much of the attention focused on the $500,000 Champagne Stakes (G1) and $400,000 Beldame Stakes (G1).
The Jason Servis trainee is two-for-two after breaking his maiden at Delaware Park and then traveling to Saratoga to take the Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) in front-running fashion on August 12. Irad Ortiz Jr. was aboard for that effort and retains the mount on the Friesan Fire colt Saturday.
Among those lining up against Call Paul are Complexity and Aurelius Maximus from the barn of trainer Chad Brown. Complexity, a bay son of Maclean’s Music, took his debut at Saratoga by 4 1/4 lengths on September 3 while Aurelius Maximus broke his maiden in his second try at Belmont Park on September 9. That Pioneerof the Nile colt was clear by 7 3/4 lengths while running a mile over a sloppy, sealed track.
“They both trained well together and they are ready for the Champagne,” Brown said, referring to a :47.89 in-company breeze the duo took on September 30. “They both seem to be training well on the main track. They both seem like they are top-quality, so I’m confident in both them.”
Jose Ortiz has the call on Complexity while Joel Rosario rides Aurelius Maximus.
Another contender in the Champagne is the Shug McGaughey-trained Code of Honor. The chestnut son of Noble Mission went gate-to-wire in his debut at Saratoga on August 18, scoring by 1 1/2 lengths. He gets new jockey Eric Cancel aboard here.
“He came out of his race great and has been training really well since then,” McGaughey said. “I think getting him stretched out will help him even more.”
Trophy Chaser holds the distinction of boasting the highest BRIS Speed rating in the Champagne field, earning a 102 figure when breaking his maiden by 15 lengths on August 25 at Gulfstream Park. Trainer Juan Avila has tabbed Junior Alvarado to pilot the Twirling Candy colt as he faces stakes rivals for the first time.
The Beldame is not a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) on November 3, but the 1 1/8-mile race is a traditional prep for that event. A well-matched field has been assembled this time around, including Teresa Z, Divine Miss Grey, Verve’s Tale, Wow Cat and Farrell.
Grade 3 winner Teresa Z enters here off a third-place effort in the Delaware Handicap (G2) on July 14. The Anthony Margotta Jr. trainee earned her only win of the year thus far prior to that when capturing the Obeah Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths a month prior. Joe Bravo will be in the saddle for the first time on the Smart Strike four-year-old.
Divine Miss Grey sandwiched a third-placing in the Molly Pitcher Stakes (G3) between a pair of stakes wins, including a 7 3/4-length score in the off-the-turf Dr. James Penny Memorial last out on September 8. Trainer Danny Gargan selected Junior Alvarado to ride that day and the jockey gets the call once again here.
“She’s doing good. Obviously, it’s a Grade 1, but she’s a tryer,” Gargan said. “She shows up every time we lead her over there, and she’s doing really well right now. It looks like a lot of speed in the race, but she’s fast, so we’ll see how it all falls out. It’s a long run down the backside here, and it’s a one-turn race. That’s a lot better for her.”
Farrell, Wow Cat and Verve’s Tale all faced off in the Shuvee Stakes (G3) on July 29 at Saratoga, and finished in that order on the wire; Farrell had a neck to spare on Wow Cat, who in turn was a head up on Verve’s Tale.
Unfortunately, Farrell was unable to duplicate that performance in the Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) last out, finishing a well-beaten fifth, and will attempt a return to the winner’s circle here under regular rider Channing Hill. Wow Cat, a multiple Group 1 winner and champion in her native Chile, followed her U.S. bow in the Shuvee with a third-placing in the Personal Ensign. Jose Ortiz takes the reins on Saturday. Verve’s Tale hasn’t competed since the Spa contest and gets Manny Franco back aboard for another go at her rivals.
Following the Beldame on Saturday at Belmont Park is the $500,000 Hill Prince Stakes (G2), which could also produce a runner for either the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) or Turf (G1) despite not being a “Win & You’re In” contest.
The top draw in the Hill Prince is once-beaten Raging Bull, who captured the Saranac Stakes (G3) at Saratoga last out on September 1. The Chad Brown pupil keeps regular rider Joel Rosario in the irons as he faces off against seven opponents, including Del Mar Derby (G2) victor Ride a Comet and Kent Stakes (G3) hero Golden Brown.
The $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational kicks off the stakes action on Saturday at Big Sandy, sending a field of eight six furlongs on the inner grass.
Defending champion Disco Partner will attempt to rebound in this spot after dropping his last two starts against stakes rivals, but will have to overcome fellow Christophe Clement trainee and recent Turf Monster Stakes (G3) conqueror Pure Sensation as well as the Michael Stidham-trained Proforma, winner of the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G3).
“Both horses are doing well,” said Christophe Lorieul, longtime assistant to Clement. “Obviously, Pure Sensation coming out of the win at Parx in the Turf Monster. He ran well that day, and Disco Partner has been a little bit unlucky in his last two starts. The firmness of the ground is a big factor for him but with the race going at his usual distance, we hope he gives a good account of himself.
“They have two different styles. Pure Sensation is usually close or on the lead and Disco Partner is more of a stalker. They both deserve a shot to run here and we’ll try to win it again.”