Poker S. (G3) — Belmont Park Race 9 (5:12 p.m. ET)
Trainer Chad Brown, unsurprisingly, has Sunday’s $250,000 Poker S. (G3) at Belmont Park surrounded, primarily with his multiple Grade 1 winner Raging Bull, who will break from the rail in the one-mile test on the Widener turf.
Although inconsistent at reaching the winner’s circle in recent seasons, the Peter Brant-owned six-year-old enters with a tremendous class advantage. A top-level winner in three of his four campaigns to date, he enters off a two-length victory in the April 9 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland.
“We had planned on going out to California, but there were some traveling complications that got in the way,” said Brown, referring to last month’s Shoemaker Mile (G1) at Santa Anita, a race Raging Bull won in 2020. “But we’re glad that we’re able to run him out of his own stall. It should be a good steppingstone moving forward to the Fourstardave (G1).”
Brown also saddles Front Run the Fed, a head second to Casa Creed in the Elusive Quality S. last time, and French import Veronesi. The latter, also owned by Brant, has not raced since finishing fourth in the 2019 Prix Niel (G2) won by Sottsass, Brant’s 2020 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner.
“I think this is a good starting point for him,” Brown said. “He showed some promise overseas and unfortunately was injured. He’s come back good and strong and we’re ready to get going with him.”
Among the likely pace players is Get Smokin, who’s won three stakes in his last five outings, including the Hill Prince (G2), Tampa Bay (G3), and the course-and-distance Seek Again S. on May 22. The veteran mare Oleksandra is a perfect 3-for-3 over the Belmont turf, including a come-from-behind score in the 2020 Jaipur (G1). She was scratched from her title defense of that race two weeks ago after the course came up wet.
The Poker honors the Ogden Phipps-owned colt who famously toppled his Hall of Fame stablemate, Buckpasser, in the 1967 Bowling Green H. at Aqueduct. He was later the broodmare sire of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew and dual classic winner Silver Charm, both Hall of Famers.