Phipps Stable's grade I winner Boisterous is looking to get back on track in the $200,000 Knickerbocker Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park, a race he has won twice before, but Live Oak Plantation's Za Approval looms large off a runner-up finish behind Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) for the 1 1/8-mile turf event Oct. 12.
Boisterous, a 6-year-old son of Distorted Humor who won Belmont's July 13 Man o' War Stakes (gr. IT) in decisive fashion over 1 3/8 miles for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, has been unsuccessful in two attempts in stakes company since then. He was eighth in the Aug. 17 Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT) going 1 1/2 miles at Saratoga Race Course, then finished third in the Sept. 7 Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT) behind Hyper and Finnegans Wake after getting checked hard at the quarter pole in the 1 1/4-mile event.
With victories in the 2012 and 2011 editions of the Knickerbocker, as well as in the 2013 Monmouth Stakes (gr. IIT) and the 2011 and 2012 versions of the Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT), along with the 2012 Fort Marcy Stakes (gr. IIIT) as part of an 11-3-3 record from 27 starts for earnings of $1,324,625, Boisterous is the most accomplished runner in the field.
"He ran in the (Aug. 18) Arlington Million last year and ran fine (in the Knickerbocker). He'll be sharp enough," said McGaughey. "We'll see if he's good enough. His race in the Bowling Green was a good race. He was unlucky to lose; he came up on the rail and got stopped."
McGaughey considered running Boisterous in the Sept. 28 1 1/2-mile Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. IT) before deciding the Knickerbocker would be a better spot.
"When (jockey John Velazquez) checked him that jarred him up a little, which is why he wasn't exactly right for the Joe Hirsch," said McGaughey. "I was worried about running him a mile and a half, and if he wasn't 105% I didn't think it'd be worth taking the chance."
Javier Castellano gets the mount from post 10 aboard the six-time winner over the Belmont turf, with three main track only entrants drawn to the outside. Boisterous carries 124 pounds, as do Za Approval, Swift Warrior
, and London Lane
Za Approval, a 5-year-old Ghostzapper
gelding, is a runner on the improve who has been knocking on the door for trainer Christophe Clement in his past two outings. Prior to finishing 3 1/2 lengths behind Wise Dan's track record 1:31.75 for the mile at Woodbine, he was 3 1/4 lengths back of Obviously
in the June 29 Shoemaker Mile Stakes (gr. IT) at Del Mar
. The Knickerbocker will be his first attempt at the 1 1/8-mile distance, but the added ground could suit his closing style. Prior to his runner-up finishes, he won the Appleton Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park
and the Red Bank Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Monmouth Park
, both at a mile.
"The (distance) won't be a problem," Clement said. "He should be efficient from a mile to a mile an eighth on firm turf. If it isn't firm, he won't run."
The forecast for Elmont, N.Y. calls for 70% chance of rain on Thursday and Friday, and a 50% chance of showers on Saturday.
Joel Rosario, returning to the irons after missing time with a fractured foot, has the mount aboard Za Approval, 3-1, from the 6 hole.
James Covello and James Dolan's five-time stakes winner Swift Warrior could be of interest in this spot. The 5-year-old First Samurai
runner comes off a 1 1/4-mile victory in the Sept. 14 PTHA President's Cup Stakes going 1 1/8 miles on the turf at Parx Racing
and got back-to-back graded scores for trainer John Terranova II at the beginning of the season in the Feb. 16 Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. IIIT) and the Jan. 26 John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes (gr. IIIT). Though trained by Belmont Park-based Terranova since the spring of 2011, the 5-year-old has made only one start in the New York and has never competed at Belmont.
"He won stakes during the winter at Tampa Bay Downs
and in Texas, and last year he did win (the restricted Win Stakes) at Saratoga," Terranova said. "It just so happens that the right spots for him in terms of timing haven't been here at home. He has a few quirks, but we have them pretty well in mind now that he's 5. He seems to be in good form coming off the win last time at Parx."
Irad Ortiz will ride Swift Warrior, 8-1 on the morning line, from post 2.
Howard M. Bender's Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIT) winner London Lane also looks to get back on track for trainer Larry Murray; the Maryland-bred 6-year-old Langfuhr
gelding was sixth in the Sword Dancer and fifth in the Bowling Green.
Team Valor International's 4-year-old son of Hat Trick
, Howe Great
, could also jump up with a big performance. Now trained by Rick Mettee, he was third in the Aug. 25 Cliff Hanger Stakes (gr. IIIT) won by Summer Front
at Monmouth, and before that finished second to Silver Max
in the July 28 Oceanport Stakes (gr. IIIT) off a runner-up effort behind King Kreesa
in the July 4 Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT) at the New Jersey oval. Silver Max recently defeated Wise Dan in an off-the-turf edition of the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. I) at Keeneland
, while King Kreesa finished second to the Horse of the Year in the Fourstardave (gr. IIT) at Saratoga this summer.
St. George Farm Racing's Mr. Commons
was fourth in the Fourstardave. The 5-year-old Artie Schiller
runner counts back 10 starts to February 2012 for his last win for trainer John Shirreffs, which came in the Arcadia Stakes (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita Park
Completing the field are Mr. Amore Stable's allowance winner Exclusive Strike
for trainer Jason Servis; Jesse Iglesias and Michael Imperio's former claimer Plainview
; Merriefield Farm's Paris Vegas
, runner-up in the Bernard Baruch two starts back for trainer Tom Voss; and Wachtel Stable's Tetradrachm
, third in that race last time out for Hall of Fame horseman Bill Mott.
$200,000 Knickerbocker Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 7, approximate post 4:02 p.m. EDT), 3YOs & Up, 1 1/8 miles (turf)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Mr. Commons (KY), A.O. Solis, 119, J A Shirreffs, 6-1
2. Swift Warrior (KY), J.L. Ortiz, 124, J P Terranova, II, 8-1
3. Exclusive Strike (KY), J. Alvarado ,120, J Serbis, 12-1
4. Plainview (KY), T.L. Dunkelberger, 117, G DiPrima, 12-1
5. Howe Great (KY), C.H. Velasquez, 119, R C Mettee, 6-1
6. Za Approval (KY), J. Rosario, 124, C Clement, 3-1
7. London Lane (MD), I. Ortiz, Jr., 124, L E Murray, 20-1
8. Paris Vegas (KY), J. Rocco, Jr., 117, T H Voss, 10-1
9. Tetradrachm (KY), J. Lezcano, 117, W I Mott, 8-1
10. Boisterous (KY), J. Castellano, 124, C R McGaughey III, 7-2
Main Track Only:
11. Percussion (KY), TBA, 124, T A Pletcher, 7-5
12. a-Praetereo (KY), TBA, 118, D Jacobson, 8-5
13. a-Don Dulce (KY), TBA, 122, D Jacobson, 8-5