Thunder Touch to Get Feel of Belmont Lawn

(from Belmont Park report)
Stronach Stables' Thunder Touch has been so good on the dirt that trainer Kiaran McLaughlin hasn't been able to try his 4-year-old colt on the lawn. Thunder Touch gets his first chance Sunday in the $100,000-added Jaipur Handicap (gr. IIIT) over seven furlongs on Belmont Park grass.

And, he will have to contend the consistent Gulch Approval and recent stakes winner Old Forester.

With the exception of two races at Gulfstream Park and a race he was disqualified in, Thunder Touch has hit the board in every start. He really began to come around when he took a second-level allowance and Aqueduct's Fall Highweight (gr. III) in back-to-back starts. In his most recent outing, Thunder Touch was third behind Uncle Camie and Don Six in the Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III) May 7.

"He's been doing so well on dirt that we were kind of reluctant to try him on grass," McLaughlin said. "The way the schedule is, this is a good time to try it."

Although all of Thunder Touch's wins have been at six or 6 ½ furlongs, McLaughlin feels seven furlongs on turf will be a perfect fit.

"The distance should suit him just fine," McLaughlin said. "And if the race were to come off the turf, that would be fine as well."

Marylou Whitney's Gulch Approval hasn't won in nine months, but he could end up going off the Jaipur favorite. Gulch Approval has been very consistent in his nine races on turf and will be coming into the Jaipur off a pair of runner-up finishes.

Going a mile in the Makers Mark (gr. IIT) last month, Gulch Approval had to break from the outside 10 post and contend with the presence of Artie Schiller. The 5-year-old gelding stayed on gamely at 13-1, but wound up 2 ¼ lengths behind Artie Schiller.

Prior to that race at Keeneland, Gulch Approval was involved in a quick Canadian Turf Handicap pace and was out kicked by Old Forester, who he will have to face again in the Jaipur.

"He hasn't won in a while, but he's been in some very tough races," trainer Nick Zito said. "His last two seconds were very strong. I think he'll run well."

Live Oak Plantation's Old Forester, the 124-pound high weight Sunday, is another extremely consistent turf runner. Never worse than third in eight grass tries, the 4-year-old Forestry colt has arguably done his best running at Belmont.

In two races over Belmont grass Old Forester broke his maiden by 6 ¾ lengths, then took an entry-level allowance last fall by 7 ¼ lengths.

"Hopefully, the turf will be firm by (Sunday)," Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said. "He doesn't handle it soft."

Old Forester has been freshened since winning the Canadian Turf, working steadily at Churchill Downs, then at Belmont.

Ecclesiastic, owned by Joseph Allen, was a good third behind Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner Better Talk Now in Aqueduct's Fort Marcy (gr. IIIT) last month but must cut back in distance to seven furlongs.

Juddmonte Farms' Trade Fair could be primed for a top effort in the Jaipur. The son of Zafonic will be making his third start off a layoff for trainer Bobby Frankel. He won the Minstrel Stakes (Ire-III) going seven furlongs at the Curragh last year.

$100,000-added Jaipur Handicap (gr. IIIT), 3 & up, 7 furlongs (turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Blakelock (KY), 120, Eibar Coa
2. Ecclesiastic (KY), 118, Cornelio H. Velasquez
3. Gulch Approval (KY), 120, Javier Castellano
4. Old Forester (KY), 124, Edgar S. Prado
5. Seeking the Glory (NY), 118, Norberto Arroyo, Jr.
6. Steel Light (KY), 118, Jose A. Santos
7. No Parole (NY), 118, Jorge F. Chavez
8. Thunder Touch (KY), 120, Richard Migliore
9. Trade Fair (GB), 122, Jerry D. Bailey
main track only
10. Aggadan (MD), 122, (no rider)