More than 70 top New York-breds will gather for the seven stakes on New York Showcase Day Oct. 20, celebrating the best of the Empire State at Belmont Park.
The centerpiece of the card, which features 10 races restricted to horses bred in New York, is the 36th running of the $250,000 Empire Classic for 3-year-olds and up. A field of nine, including the 3-year-old filly Haldane, will contest the 1 1/8-mile event in which 5-year-old Lunar Victory is the 8-5 favorite to pick up his fifth win in six 2012 starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
The Empire Classic is race nine, with an approximate post time of 5:13 p.m. EDT, and will be telecast on MSG+ from 4-6 p.m.
"He's coming into the race good," Mott said of Lunar Victory, a son of Speightstown who came to Mott late last year from England. The Juddmonte Farms runner had one victory in eight starts for trainer John Gosden.
Lunar Victory finished second over a sloppy Aqueduct Racetrack in his American debut, then reeled off five straight victories, including the Evan Shipman in July at Saratoga Race Course, before stumbling at the start and finishing second in the Promenade All overnight stakes Sept. 23 at Belmont.
Junior Alvarado is back aboard Lunar Victory, who drew post 9, as Mott saddles his first Empire Classic starter since Sophisticated Man finished sixth in the 1999 edition.
The second choice at 9-5 is Saratoga Snacks, owned by Bill Parcells' August Dawn Farm and carrying a four-race win streak into the Empire Classic with Ramon Dominguez in the irons.
"He's got himself together," trainer Gary Sciacca said of the 3-year-old Tale of the Cat colt. "He's a big, good-looking horse... he's hitting everything right. He's going to be tough. He's going to bring a good race."
Trainer Dominic Galluscio, who won back-to-back editions of the Empire Classic in 2006 and 2007 with full brothers Organizer and Dr. V's Magic, returns with their full sister, Haldane, and Johannesburg Smile, third in last year's running.
"Johannesburg Smile always tries very hard," Galluscio said of the 5-year-old son of Johannesburg, who carries the colors of Francis Paolangeli."We've been giving him time off over the winter and he's staying good and sound. Hopefully he'll run well this year, and maybe we'll be there next year, too."
Haldane, a daughter of Raffie's Majesty out of the Summer Squall mare Treasure Always, will be making her stakes debut in the Empire Classic and enters the race with a record of 2-0-1 from four starts.
"Her full brothers won the race, so she gets the 1 1/8 miles," said Galluscio. "She has two wins lifetime, but I think she's going to come with a good race."
With Cornelio Velasquez aboard, Johannesburg Smile drew post 2 at 12-1 on the morning line, while Haldane, 30-1, will leave from post 4 under C. C. Lopez.