ELMONT, N.Y. – Boisterous will attempt to earn his fourth stakes win over the Belmont Park turf when he heads postward on Saturday as the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the Grade 3, $150,000 Knickerbocker at 1 1/8 miles.
Boisterous’ three Belmont stakes wins include a score in last year’s Knickerbocker, which preceded his victory in his 2011 finale, the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap in November at Aqueduct Racetrack. He also claims a win in the 2011 Three Coins Up overnight stakes at Belmont.
Following a fourth in a Gulfstream Park optional claimer in March, Boisterous competed twice at Belmont, winning the Grade 3 Fort Marcy by a length in May and finishing third by 1 ½ lengths in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap in June. The 5-year-old made a wide rally to miss by a neck in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap in July and enters the Knickerbocker off a ninth in the Grade 1 Arlington Million on August 18.
“It’s a different class of horses,” said Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey of Boisterous’ drop from Grade 1 company. “I just hope that if he goes over and runs his race that he’ll be good enough. They’re not going to go too fast and I don’t think he’ll be too far back, but there will be some speed in there. The ground should be perfect; he worked on yielding turf the other day and worked good. We’ve had a little rain since then, but I think it will firm up a little bit without being too firm.”
Jose Lezcano retains the mount aboard the Phipps Stable homebred, who drew post position 3.
Bombaguia has rounded into career-best form since he was gelded this spring. Following the procedure, is 2-2-0 in five starts, including an optional claiming win on August 26 at Saratoga Race Course and a second, beaten a head, in the Grade 2 Bowling Green on September 8 at Belmont after setting the pace.
“There is no way but to be optimistic that he’s an improving horse,” said trainer John Kimmel. “Since he has been gelded, he has started to become more focused in the afternoons. He used to get kind of nervous and washy and misbehave a little bit, but he’s been a lot more focused about what he’s doing, just a better horse to be around.”
Hall of Famer Edgar Prado will ride Bombaguia, 4-1 on the morning line, from post 4.
The 3-1 morning-line second choice is Sky Blazer, who took a Belmont optional claimer by 4 ¼ lengths in May, then was sixth in the Arlington Handicap. In his most recent start, Saratoga’s Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap, he spotted the field three lengths when he leapt at the start but ran on well to report home third, beaten 2 ½ lengths.
Sky Blazer, trained by Barclay Tagg for Joyce B. Young and Gerald McManis, drew post 2 and will have the services of Cornelio Velasquez.
Five-time stakes winner Stormy Lord is based at Woodbine – which will conduct the Grade 1, 1 ½-mile Canadian International on Sunday – but will instead head south from Toronto to compete in the Knickerbocker.
“It’s 1 1/8 miles, and he likes some give in the ground,” said trainer Ian Black of the decision to send Stormy Lord to the Knickerbocker. “I thought we might get both [at Belmont].”
Stormy Lord, who has earned more than $1.1 million in his career, dictated a slow pace in the Grade 2, 1 ¼-mile Sky Classic on August 19 at Woodbine, yielding late to finish second by three-quarters of a length in his longest race to date. The Kinghaven Farms homebred ventured away from Woodbine for his most recent outing, a 2 ¾-length win from just off the pace in the 1 1/8-mile PTHA President’s Cup on September 15 at Parx Racing.
Junior Alvarado picks up the mount aboard 5-1 Stormy Lord, who drew post 6.
Completing the Knickerbocker field are Freud’s Honour, second under the wire but disqualified and placed 10th in the PTHA President’s Cup; Tune Me In, winner of the Grade 3 Oceanport and Grade 3 Cliff Hanger at Monmouth Park, and See Tobe, victorious in the Japan Racing Stakes at Laurel Park.
Ruthenia won a pair of races, including an overnight stakes, at Belmont during her 2-year-old season, and is looking to add to her resume in the Athenia. After registering a 10-1 upset in Monmouth Park’s Grade 3 Violet in May at Monmouth Park, the 4-year-old was fourth in both the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap in June at Monmouth and the Grade 2 Ballston Spa presented by Jose Cuervo on August 25 at Saratoga.
Christophe Lorieul, assistant to trainer Christophe Clement, said Ruthenia runs her best when there isn’t too much give in the ground.
“At the moment the week is good in terms of the weather forecast,” said Lorieul. “We just hope it stays that way because she’s a small filly and I don’t think she cares too much for good ground.”
Jose Lezcano has the call aboard Ruthenia, a homebred for Virginia Kraft Payson, from post 2.
Dealbata, a stakes winner in France and in the United Stakes, seeks her first win at the graded level.
Since being purchased by Martin Schwartz and imported to the United States, Dealbata has won the Mohegan Sky overnight stakes in June at Belmont and finished second in the Saratoga’s restricted De La Rose in August and Belmont’s Grade 3 Noble Damsel on September 15.
Eddie Castro is named to ride Dealbata, the 7-5 morning-line favorite. The 4-year-old Dubawi filly drew post 7.
Athenia entries also include La Cloche, Embarr, and Law of The Range, respectively sixth, seventh, and eighth in the Noble Damsel; Laughing, a Grade 3 winner who was eighth in the Grade 2 Canadian; The Underling, who dead heated for second in an optional claimer at Saratoga; Thunder Emilia, seventh in the Ballston Spa, and Martita Sangrita, winner of the Red Carpet at Penn National and second in the Omnibus at Monmouth. Arena Elvira was entered for the main track only.