True North Sprint Shapes Up as a Scramble

Saturday's six-furlong True North Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park is best described as a scramble, with contenders--or at least horses with the ability to the outcome--positioned in every stall.

The $200,000 event is slated as race six on the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) program. The race drew a field of 12 runners with a combined 70 career victories.

The highweights at 117 pounds are Hobeau Farm's Smokume, (by Smoke Glacken), who's one-for-one this year with a sharp victory in the May 14 Decathlon Stakes at six furlongs at Monmouth Park; Gary and Mary West's Mass Media (by Touch Gold), winner of last year's Sport Page Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct who'll race with blinkers off; and IEAH, Robbins, Iavarone, Devlin, and Colangelo's Willy o'the Valley (by Will's Way), who was claimed for $100,000 at Keeneland in April and quickly returned dividends with a win in the May 21 Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap at six furlongs at Pimlico Race Course.

Though the Belmont Stakes undercard includes the $200,000 Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, one 3-year-old, Dogwood Stable's Vicarage, opted for the True North. In his last start April 30, Vicarage faltered late in the one-mile Derby Trial Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs but set a solid pace on the lead for more than six furlongs.

Vicarage (by Vicar) is one-for-one at Belmont, having broken his maiden in his career debut last summer in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight test. Also undefeated at Belmont is Mass Media, who won an allowance test and a small stakes last year at the New York track.

Aldie Germania Farms' Abbondanza (by Alphabet Soup), winner of a Pimlico allowance test on a sloppy track May 20 in his first start of the year, also was entered in a June 9 allowance test at Pimlico as the 7-5 morning-line favorite. He wasn't among the early scratches off the program.

Post time for the True North is set for 3:12 p.m. EDT. Here's the field, in post-position order, with jockeys, trainers, and weights:

1 Sing Me Back Home Norberto Arroyo Jr. Brad Wallace 112 pounds
2 With Distinction Gary Stevens D. Wayne Lukas 115
3 Abbondanza Eibar Coa Tim Tullock Jr. 116
4 Voodoo Javier Castellano James Jerkens 113
5 Vicarage John Velazquez Todd Pletcher 111
6 Smokume Chantal Sutherland Allen Jerkens 117
7 Woke Up Dreamin Mike Smith Bob Baffert 116
8 Always Noble Jeremy Rose Tim Ritchey 113
9 Mass Media Jose Santos Bobby Frankel 117
10 Aggadan Cornelio Velasquez Juan Rodriguez 115
11 Willy o'the Valley Edgar Prado Juan Rodriguez 117
12 Key Deputy Jerry Bailey Bill Mott 113

The True North is the first race in the $1-million guaranteed pick six sequence.