New York S. (G2) — Race 9 (5:15 p.m. ET)
Mean Mary faces a stellar cast in Friday’s $750,000 New York S. (G2) at Belmont Park, a race she dominated by more than five lengths last year over My Sister Nat. However, there might be too many classy fillies and mares in the 1 1/4-mile grass test this time around to expect as dominating performance.
However, the Graham Motion trainee will likely try on the front end following a season-opening win three weeks ago in the Gallorette (G3) at Pimlico over 1 1/16 miles.
“Her win was impressive, although we sort of had it handed to us,” Motion said of the lack of other speed in the Gallorette. “For me, it was perfect for her to have an easy go of it in her first race back. It worked out really well.”
Mean Mary could see pace pressure from Antoinette, who captured the Saratoga Oaks and The Very One (G3), and Traipsing. That might ultimately help the likes of Magic Attitude and Harvey’s Lil Goil, both of whom won Grade 1s at three last year and respectively won their season debuts in the Sheepshead Bay (G2) and Beaugay (G3).
The talent pool runs deeper with Flower Bowl (G1) heroine Civil Union looking to perform better than in recent outings in the Breeders’ Cup and Beaugay. Multiple graded stakes winner Always Shopping is another honest sort who was deposed as the favorite in both the Orchid (G3) and Sheepshead Bay, while the latter race’s runner-up, Mutamakina, captured the Long Island (G3) last fall at Aqueduct.
The added distance should help multiple graded stakes winner Micheline, while the Chad Brown-trained Virginia Joy steps up after an allowance win in her U.S. debut. In Germany, Virginia Joy was Group 3 winner and narrowly missed winning the German Oaks (G1).
Adding more depth is Irish invader Thundering Nights, a Group 3 winner last year and runner-up versus males in the Alleged (G3) at The Curragh in mid-April.
“She’s performed well on heavy surfaces and soft ground, as well, so she’s quite versatile from a ground standpoint,” trainer Joseph O’Brien said of Thundering Nights.
Belmont Gold Cup (G2) — Race 10 (5:48 p.m. ET)
Neither distance nor ground condition figure to be an issue for Irish invader Baron Samedi in the $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup (G2), a two-mile grass test for older horses. The Joseph O’Brien trainee has reeled off six straight wins over varying ground, including the Prix du Conseil de Paris (G2) at Longchamp and the Vintage Crop (G3) at Navan in his last two.
“He’s a horse that will stay well,” O’Brien said. “Tactically and ground wise, he’s shown that he is quite versatile.”
The likely pacesetter is Tide of the Sea, who ran below par in the Elkhorn (G2) last time after winning the W.L. McKnight (G3) and placing a close second in the Mac Diarmida (G2) at Gulfstream. Ziyad takes a useful drop in class after coming up empty in his season debut, the May 8 Man o’ War (G1), while Strong Tide was a solid third in the Louisville (G3) last out behind the classier Arklow and Red Knight.