The Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) is still five weeks away, but few would complain if the field resembled this weekend’s $350,000 Vosburgh Invitational (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
The deep and competitive six-furlong race drew a field of nine, including last year’s BC Sprint winner Big Drama, grade I winner Euroears invading from California, the on-the-verge-of-becoming-a-star Trappe Shot, and several other graded stakes winners—many who have a fondness for the Belmont main track.
The Vosburgh is the third of five grade I races at Belmont and is slated for a 3:57 p.m. EDT post.
Harold Queen’s homebred Big Drama has never raced at Belmont but seems primed for a top effort after returning from a well-deserved eight-month break with a comfortable victory in the Sept. 4 Whippleton Stakes at Calder. The 5-year-old son of Montbrook has started only twice since winning last year’s BC Sprint by 1 1/2 lengths, scoring both times. Trainer David Fawkes gave him time off after he dominated the Mr. Prospector (gr. III) in January at Gulfstream Park.
“As far as Big Drama goes I’m very confident. He’s doing super good,” said Fawkes. “If (his Whippleton effort) was too good it might have me worried, but off a layoff and the level of fitness I had him, I thought it was a perfect race. Calder was nice enough to write that race for him. He only worked five-eighths one time (beforehand). He had galloped probably 30 or 40 days at the farm before he came in. So he was fit.”
By Montbrook, Big Drama (2-1) has recorded two fast works at Calder in his preparation for the Vosburgh. He will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez for the first time. An earner of more than $2.7 million from 18 starts, the dark bay/brown horse will break from post 6.
Fawkes will also send out Donald Dizney’s Apriority, who disappointed last out in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) when fourth. The son of Grand Slam missed the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. I) at Calder in July with a foot bruise. He was runner-up in a pair of graded races prior to that.
The surprising 9-5 morning-line favorite is Mill House's Trappe Shot, who came up a nose shy to front-runner Sean Avery in the Vanderbilt. Before that he won the True North (gr. III) in June at Belmont by 8 1/2 lengths. He is 3-for-3 at Belmont.
“We’re ready to go, and we’re happy with him,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “There are some new shooters. It’s a quality race, and it’s a grade I, and you’re going to have a tough field. It’s a shame we lost the last one by a nose. We need to win a grade I because he’s a grade I horse.”
Euroears (4-1) has risen to a new level since being transferred into the care of Bob Baffert. In three starts, the 7-year-old son of Langfuhr has won the Palo Verdes Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita, finished second to the Singapore star Rocket Man in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I), and whipped top West Coast sprinters Smiling Tiger and Amazombie in the Bing Crosby (gr. I) in July at Del Mar.
“He is doing great,” Baffert said. “He’s a very fast horse, and we’re just hoping for a fast track.”
The former, who overcame sore hooves earlier this year, returned to top form in his most recent start when a close-up third in the Vanderbilt. The winner of back-to-back grade III sprints at Aqueduct this past winter posted a Beyer Speed Figure of 107 in the Vanderbilt and has trained well since then.
Caixa Eletronica turns back to six furlongs following a victory at 1 1/8 miles in a starter handicap Aug. 26 at Saratoga.
“Calibrachoa, he ran a huge race in the Vanderbilt,” Pletcher said. “He was chasing the whole way and dug in gamely inside the eighth pole. I thought he might get there. He runs hard every time and likes Belmont. We’re optimistic he’ll run well in what appears to be by far the best sprint race of the year. Whoever wins this race will probably come out and be the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup.”
The deep Vosburgh fiels also includes Force Freeze, trained by Peter Walder, who comes off a four-length victory in the Teddy Drone Stakes July 31 at Monmouth, a race in which he defeated top sprinters Jersey Town and Ravalo; Giant Ryan a winner of five straight for trainer Bisnath Parboo, including the Smile Sprint Handicap; and 3-year-old Justin Phillip, who won the Woody Stephens (gr. II) June 11 and is undefeated in both his starts at Belmont.
$350,000 Vosburgh Invitational (gr. I, Race 7, 3:57 p.m.), 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Force Freeze (KY), P Lopez, 124, P R Walder
2. Apriority (FL), A O Solis, 124, D Fawkes
3. Euroears (KY), J Castellano, 124, B Baffert
4. Calibrachoa (KY), R Maragh, 124, T A Pletcher
5. Giant Ryan (NY), C H Velasquez, 124, B Parboo
6. Big Drama (FL), R A Dominguez, 124, D Fawkes
7. Justin Phillip (KY), C S Nakatani, 122, S M Asmussen
8. Trappe Shot (FL), J R Velazquez, 124, K P McLaughlin
9. Caixa Eletronica (KY), J Lezcano, 124, T A Pletcher