Melnyk Racing Stables' Bishop Court Hill, winner of the Carter Handicap (gr. I), is the lone open stakes winner in Saturday's $100,000 Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III) at Belmont Park.
Only five horses have been entered in the six-furlong event, but there is no shortage of speed in the line-up.
Although Bishop Court Hill, Pisgah and Tiger could all be mixing it up early, it seems as though the winner is likely in that group.
Bishop Court Hill was resolute in his last start going seven furlongs at Aqueduct when he made the lead and held off Sir Greeley in the Carter beneath jockey Jose Santos for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Despite being a grade I winner, the 6-year-old will not have it easy in the Bold Ruler. Santos gained a lot of respect for Tiger when that gelding scampered clear to win by 7 ¼ lengths in a sparkling 1:08 2/5 for six furlongs.
"Tiger was very impressive, but he ran against a different kind of horse last time," said Santos, who will stick with the likely favorite. "Sometimes class kills speed and Bishop Court Hill is definitely the class of the race."
As the starting high weight, Bishop Court Hill carries 119 pounds and will have to give away between five and seven pounds to his rivals. There is a chance the Bold Ruler will be run over a wet track with heavy rain forecast for Thursday night and Friday, but that would not be a concern for the gelding's connections as the Carter was run over sloppy going.
In three starts this year, Susan and John Moore's Tiger owns two solid victories. His lone loss was a runner-up finish to Anew on the inner track, a surface that trainer Jimmy Jerkens suspects the son of Storm Boot
does not like all that much because of its cuppy nature.
"He's had tendon trouble," Jerkens said. "We've been real lucky this time around for some reason."
Tavner Dunlap's Pisgah may turn out to be the speed of the speeds. The 5-year-old set the pace in an April 25 allowance at Delaware, running a half-mile in :43 4/5 on his way to a new track record time of 1:07 4/5 for six furlongs.
Since he has won three of his last four starts, trainer Scott Lake thinks Pisgah has improved mentally to be a more reliable racehorse.
"It's always been a battle to get his head right," Lake said. "He's always been a nut. We gelded him a year and a half ago and that seemed to help a little."$100,000 Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III), 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Bishop Court Hill (KY), 119, Jose A. Santos
2. Pisgah (KY), 114, Roberto Alvarado, Jr.
3. Tiger (KY), 113, Eibar Coa
4. Papua (NY), 112, Fernando Jara
5. Dark Cheetah (PA), 112, Edgar S. Prado