Belmont Park will host a pair of Grade 3 turf stakes Saturday, with Grade 2 winner Boisterous returning for a title defense in the $150,000 Knickerbocker and multiple stakes queen Dealbata highlighting the field in the $150,000 Athenia. Both events are scheduled for the inner turf.
Boisterous recorded a half-length score as the even-money favorite in last year's Knickerbocker and should be a solid choice against seven rivals on Saturday. A fast-finishing third in the Grade 1 Manhattan three starts back, the Shug McGaughey-trained horse will cut back to 1 1/8 miles following a disappointing ninth in the Grade 1 Arlington Million. The five-year-old is a four-time winner on Belmont's turf, including the Grade 3 Fort Marcy earlier this season, and will retain the services of Jose Lezcano.
Tune Me In will enter on the upswing for trainer Bruce Alexander, registering wins in the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger and Grade 3 Oceanport Stakes at Monmouth Park in his last two outings, and the five-year-old gelding should be forwardly-placed with new jockey Rajiv Maragh. Bombaguia has never been better for trainer John Kimmel, posting a head second in the Grade 3 Bowling Green last out in his stakes bow, and the four-year-old gelding does his best running on or near the front end. He will keep Edgar Prado in the saddle.
Canadian-based Stormy Lord invades at the top of his game for trainer Ian Black. A close second in the Grade 2 Sky Classic two back, the five-year-old gelding exits a 2 3/4-length score in the PTHA President's Cup at Parx Racing. Junior Alvarado picks up the mount. The remaining contestants are Grade 2 Bernard Baruch third-placer Sky Blazer; PTHA President's Cup runner-up Freud's Honor; recent Laurel Park stakes winner See Tobe; and French stakes scorer Barocci, an allowance/optional claiming winner over the course.
Dealbata was a stakes winner in France before being sent to Chad Brown in the United States this year. She opened her four-year-old campaign with a victory in the June 16 Mohegan Sky, scoring easily as the favorite at Belmont, and followed it with a close second in the De La Rose Stakes at Saratoga. The chestnut exits a fast-finishing second in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel on September 15 and won't face the most intimidating group of rivals Saturday with new rider Eddie Castro.
A total of 10 fillies and mares, including a main-track only runner, are set for the 1 1/16-mile Athenia. Ruthenia is a two-time winner at Belmont and captured the Grade 3 Violet Stakes at Monmouth Park three starts back for Christophe Clement. She will attempt to improve upon a fourth in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa most recently with Lezcano. Other contestants include Grade 3 winner Laughing; multiple stakes heroine Martita Sangrita; and speedy stakes queen Thundering Emilia.