Multiple graded stakes winner Data Link looks for his second victory of 2013 July 4 when he heads a field of seven turf horses going a mile in the $150,000 Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT), the Independence Day feature at Belmont Park.
Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey for Stuart S. Janney III, who teamed up earlier this year to take the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) with Orb , Data Link opened his 5-year-old campaign with a come-from-behind triumph in the Canadian Turf (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park.
The 5-year-old son of War Front tuned up for the Poker with a three-furlong move in :35.11 over Belmont’s inner turf course. At 6-5 on the morning line, he will leave from post 4 with Javier Castellano aboard.
New York-bred stalwart King Kreesa, front-running winner of the Kingston Stakes last time out, returns to open company in search of his first graded stakes victory. The 4-year-old King Cugat gelding has been close in four previous graded starts. Irad Ortiz, Jr. has the return call on King Kreesa, 4-1 on the morning line.
Drawing directly inside King Kreesa in post 5 is fellow New York-bred Lubash, most recently third in the Kingston. The 6-year-old son of Freud is 1-1-1 from three starts in 2013, having also finished second in the Dave overnight stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack and winning the Fort Marcy (gr. IIIT) May 4. Jose Lezcano will ride the Christophe Clement trainee.
Dogwood Stable’s Big Screen returns to turf for the first time in more than a year. Disqualified to second after a bumpy stretch run in the off-the-turf Jaipur Stakes June 7, the 4-year-old Speightstown colt has been effective at a mile this year with a pair of victories at the distance, including a 9 1/4-length romp at Aqueduct that earned him a lifetime-best 110 Beyer figure.
Rounding out the field are Upgrade, most recently third in the Connaught Cup (Can-II) at Woodbine; Shkspeare Shaliyah, fifth in the Three Coins Up Stakes June 14 at Belmont; and Howe Great, fourth in the Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT) at Pimlico Race Course last time out. Politicallycorrect was entered main track only.
$150,000 Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 9, approximate post 5:17 p.m. EDT), 3 YO & Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Upgrade (KY), J R Velazquez, 116, M Nihei, 10/1
2. Big Screen (KY), L Saez, 116, T Albertrani, 6/1
3. Shkspeare Shaliyah (FL), R Maragh, 116, D Shivmangal, 20/1
4. Data Link (KY), J Castellano, 123, C R McGaughey III, 6/5
5. Lubash (NY), J Lezcano, 120, C Clement, 5/1
6. King Kreesa (NY), I Ortiz Jr., 116, J C Englehart, 4/1
7. Howe Great (KY), J Rosario, 118, R C Mettee, 6/1
Main Track Only
8. Politicallycorrect (KY), J Rosario, 123, W A Ward, 8/5