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Euros Invade on the 4th of July

the depth of turf racing runs deep in Europe
the depth of turf racing runs deep in EuropePhoto by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Belmont Park’s new and improved stakes schedule has already proven to be a successful idea. On Belmont Stakes day there were 10 stakes races on the card. The result of that was a record handle of over $150millon. This Fourth of July weekend will feature another great stakes card with some newly added stakes races: The G3 Belmont Sprint Championship, G1 Belmont Derby Invitational, and the G1 Belmont Oaks Invitational. The two new grade 1’s races are both worth seven digit payouts. The lucrative payouts have enticed a slew of European horses to test their talents on the Belmont turf.

This time of year, the contingent of European horses usually go to Woodbine to run in the Queen’s Plate, or Monmouth to run in the United Nations. Those races set up nicely for the Arlington Millions or the Sword Dancer, which take place later in the summer. Fortunately for NYRA they have taken the initiative to make the proper changes that will attract top quality racing back to NY. This idea first worked last year when the Cigar Mile added a new feature of an incentive bonus for horses that won a Breeders’ Cup race.

As a result the big turf races succeeded in getting nine horses to hop a plane and fly over the pond to run on Star’s and Stripe’s day. The Belmont Derby Invitational is the seventh race on the card which kicks off the late pick 4, and is scheduled for a post time of 4:34 PM. The Belmont Oaks is the ninth race, which is scheduled for 5:45 PM. All in all there are four stakes races on the card, the first one being the Dywer Stakes, which is the fourth race with a 2:56 PM post time, and the G3 inaugural running of the Belmont Sprint Championship, which will be the six race, scheduled for 4:01 PM. The running of the Belmont Oaks will be aired on NBC.

Belmont Derby Invitational

Toast of New York – appropriately is the favorite for the inaugural running of the Belmont Derby Invitational. Although he is technically a Kentucky Bred, he will be making his first start in the states after a stellar early career notching 3 wins in 5 races, including the $2 million UAE Derby. Toast of New York breaks from the one post in what looks to be a very competitive race run at a mile and a quarter on the Belmont turf. Although he is the favorite he will bring some speculation with his post time odds. That is because his 3 wins are all on synthetic surfaces. The only turf race he ran in his career was his first one in which he got 5th out of 10 runners that day.

In the short history of synthetic surfaces, there has been a positive statistical correlation between horses that have transitioned between the turf rather than dirt runners. Greatest example can be made for the 2008 Breeders’ Cup when Euro turf invaders cleaned up on the poly turf at Santa Anita. Nevertheless Toast of New York will have to be exceptional to transfer his synth form into a win on Saturday because he will be facing a strong field, particularly in the European horses coming over for the $1.25 million up for grabs.

Adelaide – would be coming into this on a two race winning streak had he not gone up against a buzz saw in Eagle Top in the Group2 King Edward Stakes. The question that will be answered is whether Eagle Top was much the best that day, or did he benefit from a fast pace. In that race the very talented Eagle Top drafted behind some open runners sitting wisely in the back of the field until the stretch run. By then Adelaide had already made his move and may have been caught flatfooted by Eagle Top.

Adelaide is out of all world sire Galileo. Big stakes wins are nothing new to Galileo, who had a great career as a thoroughbred and has had an even better one as a sire. His last race as an athlete was in the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Classic where he was the ‘other’ European horse to ‘Arc’ winner Sakee. Galileo finished his career with 6 wins in 8 races. On turf, his natural surface, Galileo won four out of five races including 3 Group 1’s.

As a sire, he is widely considered the greatest in the world producing 293 stakes winners. In 2008 he would stamp that moniker after producing Frankel, the pinnacle of equine engineering. A master miler; Frankel was a perfect 14 of 14, as well as running a Racing Post Rating of 143 the highest ever recorded.

The 10 horse Global View is also sired by Galileo. Back in May Global View won the American Turf at Churchill Downs.

Flamboyant – French bred is mixed with a daddy from Japan. Sire Peer Gynt is from the deep pool that Sunday Silence created when Japanese businessmen purchased him. Flamboyant also has the advantage of having run his last two races in the U.S. and his last one at Belmont. Although that race did nothing to encourage laying money on him as he gave up the lead in deep stretch to Gala Award in the Pennine Ridge Stakes.

Gailo Chop – If the turf is soft on Saturday and the jockeys are apprehensive about running on the pace, then Gailo Chop can be a very dangerous horse. The French bred, brings a four race-winning streak into Saturday, with all four races being at or around the 1 ¼ distance. However, Saturday he will step up to Grade 1 competition, as his previous two wins were in Group 3, and before that he had won some overnight stakes. Although for the record, back in October he did best Flamboyant for place honors.

Pornichet - Another horse bred in France is Pornichet, who will be adding blinkers for the first time to his arsenal. In his last race, Pornichet held on for third, which was a Group 1 at Longchamp. After that race he was switched from trainer Nicolas Clement, to owner Gail Waterhouse.

The best chance from the American runners may come from the (3) horse, Bobby’s Kitten. The Ramsey owned son of Kittens Joy is trained by Chad Brown, and will be ridden by Javier Castellano. That combination of jockey/trainer scores at a 31% rate so far this year. In his last race, Bobby’s Kitten toyed with an eight-horse field in the Penn Mile, winning easily by over two lengths.

Belmont Oaks Invitational

Goldy Espony (Fr) - Another from the Vespone line. After winning two races in a row this filly met her match in the Group 1 Pour Moi Coolmore Prix Saint Alary finishing a tired 7th. Previously trained by Henri-Alex Pantell, she was picked up in the states by the aforementioned Chad Brown, who sports impressive stats in any category including winning 24% of races with 1st time North American runners. For this one however he will give the leg up to Jose Lezcano. Sire Vespone, Irish Bred is beginning to hit his stride as a sire. In his first three years as a sire Vespone had only 6 winners in 129 races , since then he compiled 14 wins in the last year and a half.

Flying Jib - Juddmonte filly out of Oasis Dream (GB), Flying Jib has won three races in a row, all at distances no further than seven furlongs to a mile. However it would be tough to deny that she was a very impressive winner in her last race, winning the G3 Conford Cliffs Stakes. Coming up the rail, Flying Jib was very game and very professional when spiting between the rail and the lead horse very smoothly to win going away. Here she’s going to have to handle two turns and the added distance to get into the winners circle.

Xcellence (Fr) - from the super solid Champs Elysees, who closed out his career winning the Grade 1 Canadian International Stakes at Woodbine. Xcellence is no stranger to deep competition as her last four races have all been respectable showings in deep Group 3 and Group 1 races. In her last race, she ran third in the Prix de Diane Longines. That race, which was a 16th of a furlong longer than Saturday’s mile and a quarter, Xcellence toke lead late lead but yielded to get third. Her form compliments her name here, as she is a clear stand out, and definitely the horse to beat in this field.

Wonderfully - Another successful offspring from Galileo. Wonderfully also happens to be trained by all world trainer Adien O’Brian. Although she is yet to hit the board in Group 1 races, the Irish bred will be stretching out an extra two furlongs in additions to getting Lasix for the first time. Since winning the Group 3 Silver Flash Stakes as two-year-old back in July, Wonderfully has had her hands full running in five straight Group 1 races. The results have not been that great either as the best she could muster was a fourth in the Shadwell Fillies Mile. Perhaps the added distance, and the addition of Lasix could help her results.