Next Saturday is the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Monmouth Park; today is the Empire Classic at Belmont Park. And just like the former, the latter could determine Horse of the Year, New York style.

A competitive group has been assembled for the centerpiece of Showcase Day and is our custom, we’ll look at three major contenders, from the inside, out: Run Red Run (12-1), Naughty New Yorker (2-1) and Indian Hawke (5-2).

Run Red Run peaked last year in his third start following a layup, the same scenario as today’s. Further, it was on a wet track, the expected conditions this afternoon. And it came at the 9 furlong distance.

Naughty New Yorker clearly is the proven class, has excellent performance figures and has earned them with consistency, his racing in what might be career form and has been carefully pointed toward this by Pat Kelly, himself enjoying an excellent season. He has tactical speed and kick; made to order for whatever comes his way this afternoon. J J Castellano rides him back of his recent score.

Indian Hawke was claimed two starts back and might start here as the favorite, such was the improvement he showed in his first start for Tony Dutrow, 30 percent efficient with new acquisitions. He earned the best recent figure in that score, handles any footing and is nicely drawn outside. Cornelio Velasquez accepts the re-ride here.

We’ll go for the class and consistency of Naughty New Yorker at early line odds of 2-1 or more and an exacta key box with the likely favorite and price shot contender.

Running Totals: (124) 44-28-13. Dollar Return: $261.50 [based on win selections only]