• Irad Ortiz, Jr. to ride Incognito in Belmont
• Vyjack to remain at Belmont Park after Friday gallop, Belmont Stakes possible
• Bombaguia takes step up in Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan
• Shirreffs confirms Mr. Commons for G3 Jaipur
• Fields taking shape for Belmont Day stakes
• Brooklyn, Jaipur probables
Lukas said the duo will depart Churchill Downs at 4 a.m. on Monday and are scheduled to arrive at Belmont Park at approximately 6 p.m.
Yesterday, Brad Kelley’s Oxbow breezed six furlongs at Churchill in 1:14 3/5 and Willis D. Horton’s Will Take Charge, seventh in the Preakness, traveled the same distance in 1:15 4/5.
“They’re both doing great, or else I wouldn’t be putting them on a van,” said Lukas. “After they arrive at Belmont they’ll gallop up to the race. All of their major work is done.”
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Also confirmed for the Belmont Stakes is Incognito, most recently fifth, beaten less than a half-length for third, in the Grade 2 Peter Pan on May 11.
“Mainly, he wants the distance,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin of the colt, a son of 1992 Belmont winner A.P. Indy and multiple Grade 1 winner Octave. “It’s a big step up in class, but the 1 ½ miles is a big factor if you can’t get it. We’ll take a page out of our ex-boss’s [D. Wayne Lukas] book from the Preakness; we feel he deserves a chance.”
Incognito put together back-to-back victories at Aqueduct Racetrack in a maiden race and an optional claimer, both at a mile, before checking in 15 lengths behind Freedom Child, who won by 13 ¼ lengths.
“His last race was a throwout,” said McLaughlin. “He doesn’t face kickback well, and he got a lot of it in that race. We’ve got everything to gain, and nothing to lose, by running.”
McLaughlin said Incognito will race in the Godolphin silks and have the services of Irad Ortiz, Jr. for the Belmont, replacing injured jockey Mike Luzzi.
“Irad had good luck with [multiple Grade 1 winner] Questing in those silks,” he said. “We won the Belmont with a 19-year-old jockey [Fernando Jara aboard Jazil in 2006], we’re hoping we can win with a 20-year-old jockey.”
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Trainer Rudy Rodriguez shipped Vyjack to Belmont Park this morning from his base at Aqueduct Racetrack and said the gelding will remain at Belmont as he trains up to a possible start in the Belmont Stakes.
“He was looking around a little bit, more than I wanted, but it was his first day at Belmont,” said Rodriguez.
After winning the Grade 3 Gotham in March, Vyjack was third in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and 18th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.
“We’ve been very, very happy for the last two weeks with how he’s coming up,” said Rodriguez. “He looks very good, he’s filling up nice, and I think he was growing a little [coming into the Kentucky Derby] and it took a little more out of him than we were expecting, but he seems pretty good right now. He’s happy, and he’s enjoying himself.”
Rodriguez said he and owner David Wilkenfeld will make a final decision on Vyjack’s status for the Belmont Stakes after the gelding breezes at Belmont on Monday or Tuesday.
Joel Rosario, who rode Vyjack in the Gotham and Wood Memorial, could ride Vyjack in the Belmont Stakes if Orb’s connections opt out of the Belmont Stakes. If Orb does run, then Jose Lezcano or Cornelio Velasquez could ride Vyjack, Rodriguez said.
“We’re still hoping that maybe they won’t run Orb,” said Rodriguez. “That’s pretty much what we’re waiting for.”
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Trying Grade 1 company for the first time in next Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap will be GoldMark Farm’s Bombaguia, most recently a hard-luck second to Lubash in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy on May 4.
“It doesn’t get much worse than that,” said trainer John Kimmel of the gray gelding’s trip in the Fort Marcy, in which he was caught in traffic from the quarter-pole to the eighth pole, where he was forced to steady, then altered course twice before closing furiously to miss by a half-length. “I thought he ran a winning race. If he gets through there, he’s an easy winner.”
The Borrego gelding opened his 5-year-old campaign finishing second by a neck on a one-mile optional claimer at Gulfstream Park; at four, he was 2-2-1 from 10 starts, including a good second to Air Support in the Grade 2 Bowling Green at Belmont.
“Last year his best performance was running second to Air Support going 1 ¼ miles, and I think he’s a stronger, better horse this year,” said Kimmel. “I like the way my horse is coming into the race, and I think he deserves a chance.”
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Mr. Commons is slated to become John Shirreffs first stakes starter since the trainer brought a string to Belmont Park this spring, with the 5-year-old aiming for the Grade 3, $150,000 Jaipur on Friday, June 7.
Owned by St. George Farm Racing, Mr. Commons has made 14 consecutive starts going one mile on the grass. He’ll be cutting back in distance for the seven-furlong Jaipur off a third-place finish to Wise Dan and Data Link in his most recent start, the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile on April 12 at Keeneland.
“We had a chance to go in either the Jaipur or the [Grade 1, 1 ¼-mile] Manhattan [Handicap on June 8], and we chose to go in the shorter race,” said Shirreffs. “He ran really well going 6 ½ furlongs down the hill at Santa Anita [in his second start]. A mile and a quarter would have been a little too far.”
Shirreffs said he hopes the Jaipur sets up Mr. Commons for longer races this summer.
“I want to run him longer, but the Manhattan is a particularly tough race, a Grade 1,” said Shirreffs. “That’s a tough race to experiment in, so we’d rather have him in a race we know he’s capable of handling. I do want to stretch him out at some point, but it’s his first race back after a while.”
Mr. Commons is seeking his first victory since taking 2011 Grade 2 Sir Beaufort and 2012 Grade 2 Arcadia at Santa Anita in consecutive starts.
“He’s a very consistent horse; he always runs his race,” said Shirreffs. “He’s been the victim of sometimes bad pace, sometimes traffic. We really feel hasn’t had the perfect trip yet. With a little bit of luck, he should be right there.”
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The 145th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes will be supported on Saturday’s card by the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap, the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Just a Game, the Grade 2, $400,000 Woody Stephens and the Grade 2, $400,000 True North Handicap.
Heading the field of probables for the Woodford Reserve Manhattan is the Phipps Stable’s Point of Entry, who opened his five-year-old campaign with a 1 ¼-length victory in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, in which he earned a career-best 107 Beyer Speed Figure. Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, Point of Entry has won five of his past six appearances, with his only loss during that time a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Also pointing to the 1 ¼-mile race, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, are Grade 3 Fort Marcy runner-up Bombaguia; Hyper, making his first American graded stakes start for trainer Chad Brown; Optimizer, most recently third in the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico Race Course; Speaking of Which, sixth in the Fort Marcy, and Twilight Eclipse, winner of the Grade 2 Pan American at Gulfstream Park last time out. All Squared Away and Sky Blazer are possible.
Mizdirection, owned in part by sports commentator Jime Rome, is one of five Grade 1 winners who are among the probables for the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Just a Game for filly and mare turf horses. Best known for her success going short, Mizdirection, the 2012 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint heroine, will aim for her second graded stakes score at one mile when she competes in the Longines Just a Game. The race is also expected to attract Grade 1 winners Better Lucky, Centre Court, Dayatthespa, and Stephanie’s Kitten, as well as Hungry Island and Laugh Out Loud.
In what would be his 63rd career start, 8-year-old Caixa Eletronica is probable to defend his title in the Grade 2 True North Handicap. Trained by Todd Pletcher for Mike Repole, the millionaire son of Arromanches opened his 2013 campaign with a victory in the Uncle Mo at Aqueduct Race Course, and most recently finished fifth in his quest for a repeat win in the Charles Town Classic.
Pointing as well to the six-furlong race are Zayat Stables’ Justin Phillip, winner of the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park last time out; Laurie’s Rocket, most recently third in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap; Pass You Bye Bye and Lucky’s Dream, first and second, respectively, in the Decathlon at Monmouth Park; Off the Jak, most recently a winner of an optional claimer at Churchill Downs; Reload, making his graded stakes debut for trainer Shug McGaughey, and Maryland Sprint Handicap winner Sage Valley, who is seeking his fifth straight victory. Delaunay and Fast Bullet are possible.
Grade 3 Bay Shore winner Declan’s Warrior will look for his fourth straight victory as he heads the field of probables for the seven-furlong Woody Stephens. Trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito, the 3-year-old Majestic Warrior colt dead-heated to win an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park on March 9 and most recently took the Gygistar overnight stakes at Belmont on May 22.
Also targeting the Woody Stephens are Forty Tales and Capo Bastone, first and second, respectively, in the Grade 3 Derby Trial; Clearly Now, second to Declan’s Warrior in the Bay Shore; Honorable Dillon, who beat older horses in an optional claimer last time out; Merit Man, most recently third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby; Salutos Amigos, fourth in the Bay Shore; recent maiden winner Trinni Heart, and Whiskey Romeo, winner of the Trippi overnight stakes at Belmont on April 26 last time out.
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Belmont Park will conduct the Grade 2, $200,000 Brooklyn Handicap the day before the Belmont Stakes. Calidoscopio, the 2012 Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner, looks to rebound off a fifth in the Grade 3 Tokyo City Cup on March 23 at Santa Anita and is slated to face Eldaafer and Birdrun, the respective victors of the 2009 and 2011 Brooklyn Handicaps. Probables also include Fast Falcon, Flashy Sunrise, Keep Me Informed, and Quick Casablanca.
Mr. Commons’ competition in the Grade 3, $150,000 Jaipur at seven furlongs on the turf is expected to include a pair from the Bruce Brown barn in Night Officer, victorious in the Around the Cape overnight stakes on May 16 at Belmont, and Spring to the Sky, second in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint on May 17 at Pimlico. Also in the provisional field are Artest, Big Screen, Joes Blazing Aaron, Next Question, Summer Breezing, and Travelin Man. Beau Choix is questionable.