Belmont Derby (G1) — Race 9 (5:12 p.m. ET)
American-based three-year-olds have held the recent advantage in the $1 million Belmont Derby (G1), winning six times since the race became an international attraction in 2014. However, Europe’s biggest stables are strongly targeting the 10-furlong grass test on Saturday.
Stone Age, who races for Peter Brant and Coolmore and is trained by two-time Belmont Derby winner Aidan O’Brien, will break from post 13. The Galileo colt shortens up after failing to see out the demanding 1 1/2 miles of the Epsom Derby (G1), in which he finished a distant sixth after attracting a lot of support. Stone Age previously won the Leopardstown Derby Trial (G3) by more than five lengths.
Also exiting the Epsom Derby is Nations Pride, who had won four in a row prior to his eighth-place finish in the Blue Riband. One of those was a seven-length triumph in the 1 1/4-mile Newmarket S. over Derby runner-up Hoo Ya Mal.
“He just didn’t stay in the English Derby. It’s as simple as that and the ground would have been a question,” said Charlie Appleby, who trains the Teofilo colt for Godolphin. “The quicker the ground, the better for him and he’s proven that already at Meydan’s quick, sound surface. More importantly, coming back to the 10 furlongs will suit.”
Group 2 winner Royal Patronage was 16th at Epsom following a second-place finish behind eventual Derby scorer Desert Crown in the Dante (G2) at York. Invading from France are Machete and Implementation, who both placed in the Prix de Guiche (G3) behind Vadeni, subsequent winner of the Prix du Jockey-Club (G1) and Eclipse (G1).
Trainer Kenny McPeek saddles Grade 2 scorer Tiz the Bomb for his first grass test of the year after two stakes wins over the Tapeta at Turfway Park and a ninth-place run in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Tiz the Bomb notably won the Bourbon (G2) and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) last fall.
McPeek also sends out the speedy Classic Causeway, the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner who weakened to third in the Ohio Derby (G3) two weeks ago in his debut for McPeek.
The top three finishers from the Pennine Ridge (G3) — Emmanuel, Napoleonic War, and Limited Liability — are all back, while Sy Dog renews acquaintance will fellow Grade 3 scorer Grand Sonata and his recent American Turf (G2) conqueror Stolen Base.
Suburban S. (G2) — Race 4 (2:32 p.m. ET)
First Captain earned his biggest win to date on Preakness weekend in the Pimlico Special (G3), and the improving son of Curlin will attempt to take it to the next level in the $400,000 Suburban S. (G2) at his home track, over which he is 3-for-3.
First Captain is trained by Shug McGaughey, who has trained four Suburban winners but none since Hall of Famer Easy Goer earned his final career stakes victory in 1990.
Only four others will join First Captain in the historic 1 1/4-mile test. Dynamic One is seeking his first graded win, though he beat a graded quality field last time in the nine-furlong Blame S. at Churchill Downs for Todd Pletcher. Pletcher also sends out Pimlico Special third Untreated, who might prove dangerous in a race that lacks much in the way of pace on paper.
“He found himself on the lead at Pimlico, which might not be his preferred running style,” Pletcher said. “He’s kind of proven that he’s right on the verge of breaking through in the handicap division and I think the mile and the quarter should suit him.”
Max Player won the Suburban and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) last season, but has lost by wide margins in three interim starts for Steve Asmussen.