(edited press release)
New York-breds thunder into the spotlight Sunday at Belmont Park with another renewal of the New York Stallion Stakes.
Comprising the bill is the second running of the $75,000 Spectacular Bid Division for three-year-olds and its filly counterpart, the Cupecoy’s Joy. Both races will be contested at one mile over Belmont Park’s main track.
Eight colts and geldings have been entered in the Spectacular Bid, which has an approximate post time of 4:45 p.m. (EST). That number would have surely been smaller had the unbeaten Bustin Stones entered the race, but the son of City Zip is sitting out the Spectacular Bid in favor of the June 9 Woody Stephens (gr. III) for three-year-olds at seven furlongs.
As of June 1, trainer Gary Contessa was Belmont Park’s leading trainer by two victories over Kiaran McLaughlin, 14-12. Sunday, Contessa sends out a Solid Strike and Stunt Man in the Spectacular Bid.
Stunt Man, owned in part by Winning Move Stable, appears the stronger of the two Contessa horses. A gelding by Western Expression, Stunt Man is one for three off the claim for Contessa, earning his lone win April 25 at Aqueduct in an entry-level allowance. Stunt Man has only raced once during the current Belmont meet, a fourth-place finish behind Bustin Stones in the May 9 Screenland. Contessa believes his horse could have capped the exacta that day.
“Stunt Man’s going to run well,” said Contessa, who tops the New York trainer standings for the year with 74 wins. “I thought he had a bit of a premature move in the Screenland through some really fast fractions. He could have been second with a better trip. I think he’ll run even better in this spot. He looks like a nice claim for us.”
Solid Strike, a son of Precise End, broke his maiden impressively at first asking here last July. Since then, however, he has lost six straight races. He has also become a nightmare in the starting gate.
“He’s turned into a problem child,” Contessa said. “He’s just a mental case in the gate. He pretty much breaks slow every time.”
Contessa sent Solid Strike to Saratoga to train after the colt finished last of seven in the April 22 Times Square at Aqueduct. While upstate, Solid Strike worked closely with renowned starter Bob Duncan, who is well known for his horsemanship and patience with tough horses.
“Bob told me he’s doing well,” Contessa said. “Going a mile in a race like this, he doesn’t have to break as quick. Even if he breaks a hair slow, he’ll be all right at a mile.”
This is a pivotal race in regards to Solid Strike’s summer campaign.
“We’ll see if he can run with these New York-breds or he’s going to the claimers,” Contessa said.
Bonnie Wooster’s Smash ‘Em Sammy, who chased Bustin Stones to no avail in the Times Square and Screenland, may give Contessa’s entry their toughest test. By Rizzi, Smash ‘Em Sammy’s last victory came in Aqueduct’s Fabersham back in January.
As for the Cupecoy’s Joy, Contessa will need a big race from his City in the Clouds, who needs to improve to take down the likes of Smokin Sarah, Laurentide Ice, Twistaway and Regal Playtime. By Good and Tough, City in the Clouds owns a win, a pair of seconds and a third from nine career starts. She is going from turf to dirt after finishing an even sixth in a Belmont allowance race May 16.
“That turf race will be a great springboard back to the dirt,” Contessa said. “Usually, my horses run well on the dirt coming from a turf race. I think the turf gives them a little extra stamina.”
City in the Clouds fired her best effort ever on April 22, a day she finished second to the unbeaten and ultra-impressive Mighty Eros in the Park Avenue. Mighty Eros was not entered back in the Cupecoy’s Joy.
“I was as happy as anyone to hear Mighty Eros wasn’t going to run,” Contessa said. “Going a mile, my filly can make the lead, which I don’t think is a bad thing.”
Camelia Casby’s Laurentide Ice won a division of the New York Stallion Series last November in the Fifth Avenue. She was also beaten narrowly in last fall’s Joseph Gimma and Maid of the Mist, two races that are run at Belmont Park.
Now three, Laurentide Ice enters the Cupecoy’s Joy off a third-place finish in an optional claimer and sixth-place finish in the Park Avenue. She starts for trainer Mark Hennig and obviously owns a good amount of class.
Sovereign Stable’s Twistaway fell a half length short of defeating Laurentide Ice in last November’s Fifth Avenue and should be sitting on a huge effort as she makes her second start of the year for trainer John Terranova. In hindsight, the Park Avenue was a brutal spot to make a seasonal debut for Twistaway because Mighty Eros ran so well.
Spectacular Bid Division of the NY Stallion Stakes, 1 mile, 3 year old colts
1. Good Prospect, John Velazquez, 120
2. Solid Strike, Channing Hill, 116
3. Stunt Man, Alan Garcia, 118
4. Smash ‘Em Sammy, Eibar Coa, 122
5. Texas Elegance, Javier Castellano, 116
6. Estimator, Cornelio Velasquez, 116
7. Dr. V’s Magic, Kent Desormeaux, 116
8. Rodando, Jean-Luc Samyn, 116
Cupecoy’s Joy Division of the NY Stallion Stakes, 1 mile, 3 year old fillies
1. City in the Clouds, Alan Garcia, 116
2. Smokin Sarah, Cornelio Velasquez, 116
3. Laurentide Ice, Kent Desormeaux, 122
4. Zip of Fools, Mike Luzzi, 118
5. Twistaway, Garrett Gomez, 116
6. Regal Playtime, Eibar Coa, 116
7. Western Sweep, Edgar Prado, 118