Empire Classic, Empire Distaff Highlight Saturday’s Empire Showcase Day At Belmont Park

A total of 109 New York-breds are entered for a special 11-race card on Saturday at Belmont Park to celebrate the best of New York for the annual Empire Showcase Day, featuring eight stakes races worth $1.2 million, topped by the $175,000 Empire Classic and $175,000 Empire Distaff.

Veteran New York-based owner-trainer H. James Bond will saddle a pair of contenders on the lucrative card, including Evaluator in the featured 45th running of the Empire Classic, and Rinaldi in the $150,000 Mohawk.

“The New York breds are showing up all over the country and doing very, very well. A day like this, to show the rest of the world how good they are, is important,” said Bond. “It’s usually full fields and it’s nice to show all our hard work and give the owners and breeders their due acknowledgement for all the good things they do for us.”

R and H Stable’s Evaluator will square off against multiple stakes winners Mr. Buff, Funny Guy and Sea Foam in a loaded renewal of the nine-furlong Empire Classic in Race 10.

Bred in the Empire State by EKQ Stables, the 5-year-old Overanalyze gelding captured the 2017 Sleepy Hollow in his first Empire Showcase Day appearance when conditioned by Michael Dilger. After finishing off-the-board in the 2018 Empire Classic, Evaluator was transferred to Bond’s care and picked up his first win in four starts last out with a 13-length score over Empire Classic-rival Our Last Buck in a nine-furlong optional-claiming tilt over a sloppy Saratoga strip.

“He’s a nice little horse. He’s had a few setbacks over the last year but he’s pulled through and he’s doing very well training-wise,” said Bond. “There will be a few tough horses in there to run against, of course, but it’s a good spot to run a mile and an eighth with him.”

Chester and Mary Broman’s Mr. Buff will look to defend his title for trainer John Kimmel. A 14-time winner from 39 career starts with more than $1.1 million in the bank, Mr. Buff enjoyed a profitable winter at Aqueduct winning the Alex M. Robb against state-breds in December and the open Jazil in January before romping to a 20-length score over state-breds in the Haynesfield at one mile on the Big A main.

Following a runner-up effort to Empire Classic-rival Funny Guy in the Commentator in June at Belmont, Mr. Buff has finished off-the-board in a pair of graded events.

Gatsas Stables, R.A. Hill Stable and Swick Stable’s Funny Guy was a last-out second to Complexity in the Grade 2 Vosburgh on September 26 at Belmont Park after finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Forego presented by America’s Best Racing on August 29 over a sloppy main track at Saratoga.

The John Terranova trainee, a son of Big Brown bred by Hibiscus Stables, will now stretch out to nine furlongs, a distance at which the four-time New York-bred stakes winner bested Empire Classic-rival Bankit in the 2019 Albany at Saratoga.

Watervillle Lake Stable homebred Sea Foam captured the 2017 Notebook at Aqueduct, the 2018 New York Derby at Finger Lakes and the 2018 Albany at Saratoga for trainer Christophe Clement. The seven-time winning son of Medaglia d’Oro, who was seventh in last year’s Empire Classic, enters on a two-race win streak.

West Point Thoroughbreds, Chester and Mary Broman, Woodford Racing, Siena Farm and Robert Masiello’s Chestertown, a $2 million purchase at the March 2019 OBS Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, matched a career-best 85 Beyer Speed Figure last out in a three-quarter length score in the Albany on September 4 at the Spa under Jose Ortiz for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

The Tapit grey graduated at second asking in December and wintered at Fair Grounds in Louisiana, where he was off-the-board in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. He entered the Albany from a distant sixth in the Grade 3 Peter Pan at Saratoga.

“He’s been doing well. Everyone was very excited about him at the beginning of the year and Steve has managed him very well,” said Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds. “He’s a bit of a challenge and he’s not a straightforward horse. That’s one reason why we gave him to Steve. He has a proven track record with Tapits and they can be a challenge to train. Jose will ride him back following the win in the Albany.”

Additional Empire Classic contenders include Winston’s Chance [David Donk], Our Last Buck [Michelle Nevin], and Bankit [Asmussen].

Veteran New York-based trainer Jeremiah Englehart will saddle four Empire Showcase Day stakes hopefuls, including Captain Bombastic [Hudson] and Party At Page’s [Maid of the Mist], along with Makingcents and Critical Value in the co-featured Empire Distaff for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going 1 1/16 miles over Big Sandy in Race 6.

Englehart said Empire Showcase Day is circled on his calendar as a key day each year.

“It gives us a chance to show off some of our better New York-breds. We focus on buying New York-breds year in and year out, so it’s always nice when you have horses that can make these races,” said Englehart. “We’ve been fortunate the last few years to have won some of these races. Hopefully, these horses will represent our team well on Showcase Day.”

The stakes-winning Makingcents, a Goldencents sophomore, ran twice at the just-concluded Saratoga summer meet, including a last out win in the Fleet Indian going a two-turn nine furlongs on September 4.

“I think it will be a little easier for her at Belmont than at Saratoga,” Englehart said regarding Saturday’s one-turn test. “I don’t know if she likes to go that far but she likes to run and she tries. I just hope she shows up and runs her race. It seems like her best race was at Belmont even though that was a very nice race she won at Saratoga.”

Ten Strike Racing’s Critical Value captured the Bouwerie in June at Belmont when sprinting in her seasonal debut ahead of an off-the-board effort in the two-turn Fleet Indian in September at Saratoga.

Last out, the Bodemeister sophomore was a game third against older fillies and mares in a one-turn mile open allowance on September 27 at Belmont.

“I thought that was probably one of her better races even though she ended up being third,” said Englehart. “The circumstances of the race and who was in there, I thought she ran a really big race. Hopefully it doesn’t take too much out of her coming into this race.”

Two-time stakes winner Ratajkowski will look to repeat in the Empire Distaff. Owned by Gary Broad and trained by Graham Motion, the 6-year-old Drosselmeyer mare won the Critical Eye going one mile on June 18 at Belmont in her last appearance on the track and won last year’s Empire Distaff when it was contested at one mile.

Other contenders include last-out allowance winner Singular Sensation, trained by Mark Hennig; Forever Changed [Charlton Baker]; Mrs. Orb [Michael Miceli]; and Lucky Move [Juan Carlos Guerrero].

The $150,000 Maid of the Mist kicks off the stakes action in Race 2 featuring a field of seven 2-year-old fillies going one mile over the main track.

Englehart, who saddled Critical Value to victory in last year’s edition, will be represented by Gold Star Racing Stable and Emcee Stable’s Party At Page’s.

The Gemologist bay, bred by T/C Stable, graduated at second asking in an off-the-turf sprint at Saratoga and followed with a head score in the Lady Finger on October 5 traveling six furlongs at Finger Lakes that garnered a field-best 67 Beyer.

“She’s doing well. It’s a little quick back for her but we thought she wouldn’t have any issue with stretching out, so we’re going to give her a shot and go from there,” said Englehart. “I think a lot will depend on how the race shapes up. I think she’s pretty versatile and we can ask her to do different things.”

Other contenders include impressive maiden winner Frost Me [Kimmel]; two for Hennig, including last-out Miss Grillo fourth Mashnee Girl and maiden winner Infringement; a pair for conditioner Mitchell Friedman in Chasing Cara and Cara’s Dreamer; and Laobanonaprayer for owner-trainer Danny Velazquez.

The Terranova-trained Breadman was an impressive debut winner on September 26 at Belmont, and the $340,000 purchase at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale will step up to stakes company in the $150,000 Sleepy Hollow for juveniles going one mile on the main track in Race 3.

Breadman, the son of Constitution, will face stakes-winner Hold the Salsa, the Richard Lugovich-trained victor of the Bertram F. Bongard on October 2 going seven furlongs at Belmont. The Hold Me Back colt won his debut at Belmont on July 12 before running ninth in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special on August 7.

Trainer Rudy Rodriguez entered Eagle Orb and Let’s Workout, while Brooklyn Strong, third in the Bertram F. Bongard, will make his second consecutive stakes appearance for Velazquez. Boss Bear [Mike Maker] and Masked Marauder [Rob Atras] will also vie for supremacy.

Myhartblongstodady will put her three-race winning streak dating to November 2019 on the line in the $150,000 Ticonderoga for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going 1 1/16 miles on the turf in Race 4.

Trained by Jorge Abreu, the 5-year-old Scat Daddy mare won the Yaddo last out going the Ticonderoga distance on the Saratoga turf on September 4.

Clement will send out the Yaddo runner-up Wegetsdamunnys, who was second over grass labeled “good” that day also ran third in the Dayatthespa on July 29 over firm going.

“She’s been very consistent at the level,” Clement said. “She still hasn’t won a stakes yet, but she’s always been in the frame.”

War Canoe, trained by Brown and second in the Dayatthespa, will seek her first win in four starts of her 7-year-old campaign. Niko’s Dream [Barclay Tagg]; Short Pour [Hennig] and Pecatonica [Tom Bush] completes the field.

Team Hanley’s multiple stakes winner Captain Bombastic will represent Englehart in the 43rd running of the $125,000 Hudson going 6 ½ furlongs for 3-year-olds and up in Race 7.

The sophomore Forty Tales chestnut, bred in New York by Chester and Mary Broman, will look to add to a stakes ledger that includes wins this year in the Mike Lee at Belmont and the NYSSS Times Square at Saratoga along with a second-out score in the Sleepy Hollow last year Belmont. He finished sixth last out in the Grade 3 Chick Lang at Pimlico.

He posted a sharp half-mile breeze in 49.41 seconds on Big Sandy on October 16.

“The breeze was good. His exercise rider said he finished up very strong against the bridle,” said Englehart. “He’s a horse that always shows up. You’re confident in him when you bring him over there because he always shows up.”

A loaded Hudson field includes Arthur’s Hope [Marco Salazar], Big Engine [Linda Rice], Foolish Ghost [Ray Handal], Dugout [Larry Rivelli], My Boy Tate [Michelle Nevin], T Loves a Fight [Orlando Noda], Morning Breez [Robert Klesaris] and Tribecca [Chris Englehart].

Maker will send out a pair of formidable contenders in graded-stakes winners Somelikeithotbrown and Cross Border in the $150,000 Mohawk for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf course in Race 8.

Somelikeithotbrown has registered triple-digit Beyer in three of his last four starts, including a career-high 105 when second over a yielding Pimlico turf course in the Grade 2 Dinner Party on Preakness Day October 3. His last New York appearance was a victory in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch on July 26 over firm Saratoga turf, while stablemate Cross Border also enjoyed success at the Spa, crossing the wire second in the Grade 2 Bowling Green on August 1 before being elevated to first after Sadler’s Joy was disqualified for interference.

Cross Border then ran second to Channel Maker in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer on August 29 going a marathon 1 1/2 miles.

Rinaldi, owned and trained by Bond, enters off two wins, including a 2 1/2-length score in the West Point on September 4 at Saratoga, and will look to make the jump against a more accomplished field on Saturday.

“The waters are going to get deeper and deeper every time, but we’ll just keep marching forward and keep our fingers crossed that he keeps getting better,” Bond said.

Seven-times stakes-winner Therapist, third in the West Point, last ran at Belmont with a victory in the First Defence on June 7. Clement said the son of Freud hasn’t changed his demeanor much since he started his career 3-for-3 as a juvenile in 2017.

“He’s a fun horse and always has been,” Clement said. “I’m not that aggressive with him. He’s very consistent and he’s been just a pleasure to be around.”

Rounding out the field is Dot Matrix, second in the West Point last out for trainer Brad Cox; Opt [Robert Ribaudo]; Sanctuary City [James Ferraro]. Yankee Division [Rudy Rodriguez] is entered for the main track only.

The $125,000 Iroquois at 6 ½-furlongs for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up, set for Race 9, has been won by owners Chester and Mary Broman the last two years with Highway Star in 2018 and Pauseforthecause in 2019.

The popular owner-breeders will be represented by homebred Spin a Yarn, a five-time winner from six starts for trainer Christopher Progno. A sophomore daughter of Forty Tales out of the Elusive Quality mare Satin Sheeks, Spin a Yarn was a game second to Iroquois-rival Officer Hutchy in the NYSSS Park Avenue when making her stakes debut on September 3 at the Spa. Last out, she toppled a state-bred allowance field at Finger Lakes by 11 lengths.

Iroquois contenders include Newly Minted [Rice], Prairie Fire [Rice], Espresso Shot [Abreu], Timely Tradition [Handal], Fair Regis [Rob Atras], Officer Hutchy [Atras], Collegeville Girl [Richard Vega], Bertranda [Orlando Noda] and My Roxy Girl [Charlton Baker].

America’s Day at the Races will present daily television coverage of the Belmont fall meet on FOX Sports and MSG Networks. For the complete America’s Day at the Races broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.

The post Empire Classic, Empire Distaff Highlight Saturday’s Empire Showcase Day At Belmont Park appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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