The new York-bred was eligible for Thursday's restricted Naskra's Breeze, but Hills opted to go for the more lucrative spot. The Todd Pletcher Chilean-bred Host is expected to go favored in the Poker, which attracted a field of 10 for the turf.
Sixth early in the Notoriety last month, Gimme Credit thundered through the homestretch, passing more than half the field in only two furlongs. His winning time of 1:20 3/5 was strong, and perhaps, a sign of better things to come.
“I can’t tell you how many people called me after that race to compliment on his explosive move,” said Hills, who trains Gimme Credit for Hampshire Farm. “It was sort of a broken field run; he picked his way through traffic and once (Cornelio Velasquez) got him outside, he took off. Now that was a turn of foot.”
Hills preferred the Poker for Gimme Credit because of its one-mile distance.
“The shorter he goes, the more powerful his kick is,” Hills said. “It’s all about the pace. He might be most effective going a mile. Gearing him up off the layoff, the Poker was the race we were pointing for."
Gimme Credit, who owns three wins from five starts over Belmont’s turf course and is two for four at one mile, has drawn post 5 with Velasquez.
The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Carnera is graded stakes placed on the Belmont turf. A colt by Old Trieste, Carnera finished third and second, respectively, in Belmont’s Hill Prince (gr. IIIT) and Lexington last summer. This year, he is one for four, his lone victory coming over Keeneland’s Polytrack in an April 14 allowance race. Carnera is exiting a seventh-place finish in Belmont’s six-furlong Jaipur (gr. IIIT) on May 27.
McLauglin thinks Carnera will be more comfortable going eight furlongs around one turn in the Poker.
“That’s the thinking,” McLaughlin said. “He’s doing really well, a mile’s more up his ally and he should run well.”
Eugene Melnyk’s Host is the most accomplished horse in the Poker lineup. A 7-year-old, Host has spent the majority of his three-plus years in the United States competing in grade I and grade II stakes. Host became a grade I winner in October of 2005 when he took Keeneland’s Shadwell Turf Mile.
Host competed in his second straight Dubai World Cup undercard March 31 and since returning home he won Monmouth’s May 26 Elkwood.
$100,000 Poker Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 8, 4:45 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Art Master (KY), 116, Garrett K. Gomez
2. Jet Propulsion (FL), 116, Eduardo O. Nunez
3. Classic Campaign (KY), 115, Kent J. Desormeaux
4. Yate's Black Cat (KY), 113, Raul I. Rojas
5. Gimme Credit (NY), 116, Cornelio H. Velasquez
6. Leadwithyourchin (KY), 113, Shaun Bridgmohan
7. Host (CHI), 119, Christopher P. DeCarlo
8. a-Woodlander (KY), 114, Michael J. Luzzi
9. Carnera (KY), 114, Eibar Coa
10. Electric Light (KY) , 115, Jorge F. Chavez
Main Track Only
11. a-Indian War Dance (KY), 114, Michael J. Luzzi