In his final analysis of the Belmont Stakes, The Blood-Horse's Steve Haskin went out on a limb and explained "Why Point Given Should Dominate." He was exactly right.
Sunday at Churchill Downs
Making his turf racing debut Saturday while equipped with blinkers for the first time, Joseph Lacombe and Frank and Jane Lyon's Indygo Shiner earned a neck-length victory in the $282,500 Jefferson Cup (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs.
Corey Nakatani stole the 100th running of the $400,000 Manhattan (gr. IT) on the Belmont Park turf course Saturday, giving 7-1 outsider Forbidden Apple a textbook ride on the front end and defeating favored King Cugat by a diminishing three-parts of a length. Stablemates Tijiyr and Sumitas finished third and fourth, respectively, while last year's Eclipse Award-winning turf female, Perfect Sting, wound up sixth.
In near wire-to-wire fashion,.Put It Back scored his fifth consecutive victory in the Riva Ridge Stakes (gr. II) that was part of the Belmont Stakes undercard. Favored Flame Thrower finished second by a neck, then was taken off the track in a van with a compression bandage on his left front leg.
The successful team of trainer Elliott Walden and rider Pat Day teamed up with the 6-year-old mare License Fee to capture the $175,000 Grade III Just A Game Breeders' Cup Handicap over a mile on the Belmont Park turf. License Fee was sent off as the slight 2-1 favorite in the field of 12. Owned by WinStar Farm, License Fee won for the 16th time in 42 lifetime starts. She has earned nearly $1.2 million in her career.
Bucking a daylong speed bias, John Rotella's Say Florida Sandy rallied from off a torrid pace to capture the $150,000 Grade II True North Handicap on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
The June 16 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. II) may have picked up two more starters when the connections of Da Devil and Connected declared their horses will likely be entered in the 1 1/8-mile Churchill Downs event.
Eugene and Laura Melnyk announced that they have committed $1 million toward the construction of a child care center at Belmont Park to care primarily for the children of backstretch employees. Groundbreaking is scheduled for this November, with the facility to be completed in six-to-nine months.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien, who recently swept both the Irish One Thousand (Ire-I) and Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I), completed another classic double at Epsom Saturday when Galileo gave him his first Vodafone Epsom Derby (Eng-I) victory. Galileo's win also completed a classic sweep for sire Sadler's Wells, who also sired Friday's Epsom Oaks (Eng-I) winner, the O'Brien-trained Imagine.
Continuing a week-long trend of perfect weather, Belmont Day dawned sunny with a pleasing, refreshing breeze. Forecasts call for the afternoon to remain sunny with a high of 82. The main track will be fast. New York Racing Association officials, citing a stronger Belmont Stakes field and nicer weather, were anticipating an attendance figure that improves on last year's on-site gathering of 67,000.
Bienamado, freshened since his victory in the April 14 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita and unbeaten in three grass stakes at Hollywood Park, will carry high weight of 124 pounds in the grade I, $350,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap at 1 1/4 miles on turf.
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