Too Much Bling returns to action for the first time since his powerful nine-length victory in Aqueduct's Bay Shore (gr. III) two months ago, facing eight rivals in the $250,000 Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup (gr. II) at Belmont Park Saturday.
Formerly the Riva Ridge, the seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds was renamed to honor the late Hall of Fame trainer who won five consecutive Belmont Stakes (gr. I) from 1982 to 1986. This is the 20th anniversary of what many believe will be a record forever unmatched.
Too Much Bling's return to New York for trainer Bob Baffert is a rematch of sorts with Songster, who ran a distant second in the Bay Shore but won Pimlico's Hirsch Jacobs on Preakness Day by 10 lengths.
Too Much Bling enters the Woody Stephens perfect in three starts in 2006 after winning the San Miguel, San Vicente (gr. II), and Bay Shore. He tracked Songster early on in the sloppy Bay Shore before he took control of the party.
"He's been training great," Baffert said. "He used to run off in his races, but he's matured and (jockey Garrett Gomez) has really gotten him to relax. He's a fast son of a gun."
The Ohio-bred Too Much Bling breaks from the rail and carries 123 pounds.
It's worth noting that Songster had never raced on an off-track prior to that race and did not fire his best shot that rainy day at the Big A.
"He didn't like the track that day," trainer Tom Albertrani said. "The first thing (jockey Edgar Prado) said was that he didn't handle the track that day. I felt he was better going into the Hirsch Jacobs than he was going into the Bay Shore. He looks like he's doing well, and we'll hope for the best."
Trainer Todd Pletcher decided to give the Woody Stephens a try with Keyed Entry after the colt breezed a half mile Tuesday in :48 1/5. Keyed Entry won the 7 ½-furlong Hutcheson (gr. 11) over the winter, then tried unsuccessfully to stretch out around two turns. Keyed Entry is undefeated in three starts at 7 ½ furlongs and under and is winless in three starts beyond a mile. He was last of 20 in his last start, the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
"Keyed Entry has done well," Pletcher said. "We've lightened up his training and have just freshened him up a bit."4250,000 Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II, Race 8, 4:30 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Too Much Bling (OH), 123, Garrett Gomez
2. Likely (FL), 123, Julien Leparoux
3. Noonmark (KY), 115, Shaun Bridgmohan
4. Fabulous Strike (PA), 119, Harry Vega
5. Keyed Entry (KY), 123, John Velazquez
6. Doc Cheney (KY), 115, Channing Hill
7. Dontfearthereaper (KY), 115, Victor Espinoza
8. Saint Daimon (FL), 119, Jean-Luc Samyn
9. Songster (FL), 123, Edgar Prado